Jul 26 2021
Memories of lives well lived
She spent all day and every night with him in the hospital that summer of 1991, only going home to shower and change after I arrived to be with him in the mornings.
And she stayed with him at every dialysis treatment for 3½ years until he got his transplant. That gave them another six years together and allowed my parents to celebrate 55 years of marriage. But then my mother spent 19 years alone in the home they built together, before moving to assisted living.
I was able to spend those early COVID days in March and April of 2020, when the Senate was closed and members quarantined, working from my childhood home. In the evenings, I slowly began the process of going through the home they had shared for so many decades.
My parents saved everything, and their home contained a lifetime of memories. Mom kept every letter Dad wrote to her during World War II. Each began with “Hello Darling,” and ended with “Yours always, Jerry.”
My parents met as my mom and her girlfriends, still in high school, walked across the University of Nebraska campus to her home on Claremont Street in North Bottoms. They stopped to visit with some college boys, one of whom was my dad, who had started college at age 16. As they left, one young man called out and asked for her phone number. “21813!” she yelled back. My dad – “the quiet one,” as she says – called her the next day.
I found so much saved from Dad’s 44-year career at the Department of Roads I could write a department history. Maps, plans, budgets, the 1989 study series, every AASHTO meeting since the early 1950s, photos of construction projects in progress, and many of his speeches. I have his transit, plumb line and slide rule.
Many in my generation have experienced this process – the process of sorting, cleaning and getting one’s parents’ home ready for the sale. It can be depressing. It can be overwhelming. It can be almost too much to bear.
But for me, it was a gift and a privilege to see and feel my childhood again, and to better understand my parents by the treasures they kept. And while going through everything was hard at times, I am so glad they saved their treasures for me to discover.
Read the full piece here.