This weekend, my family, and some of my aunt's family, gathered at my grandparents' house. In years past, this would have been a typical Easter activity. We're a close group, and we often got together for the major holidays. This year, however, was not like the old times. Instead of celebrating together, we were looking through my grandparents' belongings, taking what we want before we sell the remaining items and the house.
Since Grandpa passed away in December and Grandma moved into a nursing home, there's no reason to keep the house, and that includes 80+ years of accumulated stuff in the lives of Bill and Cleo. My mom and her sisters already took what they wanted, and now it is my cousins' and my turn. So Saturday afternoon, I found some nice mementos from their house, including an accordion, some china, some games, and other odds and ends.
At the time, it was a little sad, but I kind of just saw it as the thing we were doing. I've known it was coming for several weeks, so Saturday was just the day. We boxed up everything, wrapping the fragile stuff, and loaded it up in the car. Done.
And now I'm back in La Crosse, looking through what I took and thinking of what I'll do with it and where I'll put it all. And I'm bawling my eyes out. It's now hitting me that I took pieces of my grandparents' lives from the place where they lived with them, and left other pieces behind forever. Some of the items that made their house their home are now in my home because Grandpa and Grandma aren't home to enjoy them anymore.
Life is obviously not permanent. I understand the cycle, and I've accepted the fact that my grandparents won't live forever. But before now, the concept of impermanence and separation through death was all too easily seen in sepia tones of long-gone ancestors and the experiences of the older generations. Even after Grandpa died, it seemed distant and unreal. Heck, even on Saturday, it didn't seem entirely real.
But now, with my grandparents' things sitting in boxes and on my table, I am hit with the fullness of what's happened. In full, vivid color I am living with the reality that my family has irrevocably changed. The home I grew up visiting will soon just be another person's house. And the fragmented remains of Bill and Cleo's lives will sit all across the midwest in the lives of their impermanent descendants.