Tom returned from the contractor meeting up north. He delivered a tube containing the plot survey and a single box of photos and mementos. I am on the search for Coco Palms hotel receipts and promo material from 1976 with a plan to build a shadow box.
Jewels enfolded as I peeled back manila envelops: wedding black and whites from their honeymoon, amazingly I can see the same shoreline in sepia tones from October 23, 1958, a cheeky image of a cousin, pictures with Santa of Sue and I. The first child syndrome is classically true no matter the generation. When the piles are separated, Sue's towers over mine. This is just one box of many so I fear not; but, time will certainly balance that later anyway. I found prayer cards from my Uncle Sylvester who never returned back from the war: a handsome man who's family was too young and precious to loose a Father. There are treasures from when Mom worked for the garment industry, a half a dozen group shots celebrating some retirement or induction. My eyes cornered in on Nana exclusively until I realized Mom was also in the crowd. It clicked to finally connect this is where they met. Nana would make the most amazing Christmas sweets: chocolate logs, pecan fingers, peanut squares, and the thinnest sugar cookies which called for Oleo, a recipe I later coveted when I searched through Mom's kitchen cabinets decades later. Coffee tins lined the steps to her attic, offering perfect cooling for storage. One of her 7-Layer Bars would actually be part of my dating ritual with Tom when I placed one on his desk every morning during our first holiday season.
Envelops also contained cards. It was great to see a few Mom and Dad exchanged as a young couple for anniversaries, Valentines, birthdays. Or the ones they gave to each other but signed by Sue and I. Their handwriting is strong, crisp; alive at that moment. It makes me feel just a bit closer to them today. But of all the boxes Tom could have selected, it was this one, like a lightening bolt reminding me of why I cannot let this story go. In a box labeled 1981 were cards from her old boyfriends, loving notes on how much they were appreciated for their kindness and generosity. One is even signed as "your favorite son". Upon my sister's death I would discover horrible truths about how they stole from her, enabled her path of destruction into addiction. I would ultimately fight one for rights to my parents' personal property as I violently contested her will to stop the abuse from continuing in her death.
My sister died on December 16, 2016 after a life long battle with alcohol and mental health issues. It has taken three years to allow time to balance the truths that surrounded our lives as a family and possess sufficient grace to tell her story, our story. Like so many pennies from heaven, these cards were another sign; yes Oprah I do see them, that her life, our family deserves more then the cruelty of her ending.
This blog is my commitment to tell our family's story through the mirrors of memories: beautiful, painful, personal, grand, insignificant. It is a story of forgiveness, redemption, honor, love. They are all gone now and thus I alone can tell the story. I am the sole survivor.