Musings of a Dinosaur

A Family Doctor in solo private practice; I may be going the way of the dinosaur, but I'm not dead yet.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Dear DenverDaughter,

Your father and I have been together now for eight and a half years. As you know, we have been trying to work our way through the accumulated detritus of the past. Thanks in part to the huge shipment we sent you, we've finally gotten rid of the garage-sized storage locker, though the last few boxes wound up in our living room. Now I'm going through them one last time, ruthlessly culling, even as I take care to preserve the important stuff.

What counts as important? Photos. Several albums have found their way into boxes that will remain on readily accessible shelves. Pictures aren't going anywhere.

I also came across the sign-in book from your grandfather's funeral in 1965. As you know, he died when your dad was 15, so neither of us ever met him. Still, as I leafed through it, I was impressed to see page after page after page of signatures of friends and relatives. Clearly, he was loved. I slipped the book alongside the one from your grandmother. It's not going anywhere.

Then I came across a small bag, silver-and-white striped, containing several things:
  • Six unopened, unused boxes of "Thanks for your expressions of sympathy" cards.
  • An unused, unburnt shiva candle
  • Three large manila envelopes stuffed to overflowing
  • A silver-and-white striped box holding another book from another funeral, this one from 2001.
As you know, it was for your mother. That book isn't going anywhere.

As for those overstuffed manila envelopes, they held all the cards and letters sent to you and your father after she died. When I saw what they were, I stopped what I was doing and went to find your father. I sat down facing him, took his hands, and asked simply, "Do you want to keep the cards from the funeral?" He sighed heavily as he considered. Finally he said, "Nine years is enough. They can go."

I pulled those stacks of cards and letters out of the envelopes and held them in my hand. There were a lot of them. They formed a stack at least six inches high:

I spread them out over the kitchen table. They covered it easily, several layers deep:

You have told me in no uncertain terms that you are not sentimental; that you have no use for stacks of old papers and cards filled with cliched platitudes. Neither does your father. Never fear: they have not been put into the mail to you. They have been duly discarded, as requested. Their purpose has been served. Hopefully, they brought you comfort at the time.

But know that each piece of paper, each bit of card stock, each tattered envelope, represents someone who loved your mother; someone who thought well enough of her to set pen to paper and stamp to envelope just to let you know that. Know that there were so many of them, they covered a kitchen table; spread out, they would easily have covered a banquet table.

Your mother was loved. By you; by your father; and by many more other people than you probably realized. The cards may have been discarded, but that love will always live on. And I now have the unfathomable good fortune to be the subsequent recipient of your father's love. Know that I will spend the rest of my days trying to be worthy of that, and to love him back with every fiber of my being. I'm not going anywhere.

If you are ever moved to doubt, just enlarge that picture of all those cards spread across the kitchen table, and know that you are loved too.

All my love, always.


At Wed Nov 25, 07:26:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OH, *sniff*. what a lovely note.

At Wed Nov 25, 12:19:00 PM, Anonymous JurisDoctor said...

She is very lucky to have you. The note is perfect.

At Wed Nov 25, 02:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How wonderful to have such tangible evidence of someone's impact.

At Thu Nov 26, 06:38:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The cards - Go fish them out of the bin and keep them somewhere safe. Unless she already has children, she hasn't even begun to realise what her mother meant to her, and one day she might ask you if you still have them ...

My mother died, and I have an album of all those letters. I get it out, now and again, at unpredictable times, but I would never, ever throw it away.


At Sat Nov 28, 03:12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

DS here,

Those who regularly read Dr Dino know I rarely comment, however I thought it appropriate to acknowledge this post and share a few of my feelings.

December has been a difficult month at times over the years. One of my parents and my beloved first wife both passed away during the December, eroding some of joy and happiness usually associated with this time of year. December 28, 2009 will mark the ninth year since I was last able to say good night to my spouse of 25+ years. No card or letter, regardless of how sincere or meaningful, will every replace my memories of her and our life together.

With that said, the process of disposing of the many items in the storage locker and now watching as Dr. D worked her way through box upon box of old financial records, pictures and family memorabilia has been difficult. Every item, however trivial or stupid, had meaning. It represented pieces of my life, and my memories -- both good and bad. Seeing the memorial books for my Dad and late wife reminded me of the love and respect they earned; I would like to think it was a result of their association with many friends and peers, and was not solely a reflection of their passing at early ages.

I am thankful for the time and understanding Dr. D has afforded me and DenverDaughter over the past eight and half years. She has been generous with her time, allowing us to reflect on our past but, at the same time, has helped us both move forward.

Lastly, in a world where many lament their inability to find one acceptable mate, I have had the luxury of knowing and being married to two extraordinary women.

At Sat Nov 28, 11:46:00 PM, Anonymous JenniferB said...

Wow -- two lovely tributes. One to the first mother, and now a lovely one to you. You are all truly blessed with each others love.

At Mon Nov 30, 02:52:00 PM, Blogger Amanda said...

you really should make these posts with a warning that we'll need a box of tissues or something. How very lovely.

At Mon Nov 30, 04:18:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Lastly, in a world where many lament their inability to find one acceptable mate, I have had the luxury of knowing and being married to two extraordinary women."

Where, oh where, have I heard that before? :)

Dr. Dino: do you even want to fathom the similarities between your DS and some crotchety old guy you've known for decades?


Kensington MD

At Tue Dec 01, 10:51:00 PM, Blogger StorytellERdoc said...

What a fantastic post. Thoroughly enjoyed the heartfelt and realness to it. Good for you for sharing such kind words with a step-child. I will be following.

At Fri Dec 04, 04:42:00 PM, Blogger Dk's Wife said...

Very touching!


Post a Comment

<< Home