The Illusion is Kinder
“My husband died in 2009 of a heart attack.
He was a widower when I married him. I found a letter written by his first wife, before she died of cancer, telling him how upset she was with him and how he wasn’t being supportive and how if she wasn’t so sick that she would consider a divorce.
Their son (who became my son) was 3 when his mom died and 12 when his dad died. I destroyed that letter. I honestly think he never, ever needed to see that letter- I’d much rather he’s left with the illusion that his parents had a perfect, if tragic, marriage”
A Mother’s Deadly Secret
“After my mother was killed by her ex-husband, I was one of the people tasked with packing our house. He stalked her and would break into the house often. My mother never told anyone this. As a result, when we were taking things down, like pictures and such, we would find things hidden behind them.
Items such as checkbooks to bank accounts hidden from him, or even worse, notebooks full of dates and accounts of events where he would engage her (she had a restraining order on him). Usually these engagements, according to the notebook, were awful. Things like tires being slashed, her being followed and him coming up and berating her.
The thing is though, she kept it all secret from the family. What makes it so hard is if she would have told everyone of these things, she might still be here today.”
A Secret Life That No One Knew About
“When my Grandpa died, we found a bunch of stuff that no one knew existed.
Some of it was just photos of him while he served as a captain in the Navy during WWII, posing with topless Polynesian women. Not so bad.
Some of it was an extensive library of Betamax adult films (at least 20 tapes). Grandma said, I swear to god, ‘I always wondered why he kept that Betamax. We only owned one movie.’ Smut, grandma, that’s why.
And one of the things we found was the deed to a house we didn’t know anything about. When my parents went to this house, they found a woman we’d never met, who was living there, thanks to ‘grandpa’s kindness.’ We also found that he’d been paying not only the mortgage but also depositing about $5k per month into this woman’s bank account. She was his mistress and was literally less than half his age (he was in his late 70’s, she was 32). Grandma refused to believe it and to her dying day swore we made it all up (and fabricated the bank statements, property deed, etc.).
But it was real, and it was stunning.
Look, I knew my grandpa was kind of a horrible person. The one time he had come to visit us (instead of us visiting them), I had been like 10 years old, and he had told us, ‘I’ll come back when he’s playing football in high school.’ I never played football and he never came back. My mom has many stories of him being a punk to her and my aunt. We think he beat my grandma, but we’re not certain and she never said either way (which is why we think he did… that’s not the sort of thing you remain ambiguous about when it never happened). I often describe him as ‘a man’s man and a ladies’ man, but not a good man.’
So finding the pictures of him with topless natives was kinda funny. That’s the sort of thing we expected to find. The smut was gross, but not wholly out of character. But the mistress was gross and sad and disappointing and disgusting and tragic all at once. This woman did not know that Grandpa was married or had kids or grandkids. She thought she was helping some rich old guy feel less alone. She lost her house and her income on the same day, and she is going to have to live the rest of her life thinking she ruined someone’s family. She didn’t ruin it, not really, but no one involved was nice to her, and even though I was pretty young at the time, I do sort of regret how my parents treated her.
I really want to like my grandpa. I want to remember him fondly. After the obituary went out, we got more than 200 letters in the mail from veterans who had served with him during the war, and all of them basically said, ‘Your grandpa saved my life.’ He was a legitimate hero to these men.
I wish he’d been a hero to me, too.”
A Lonely And Sad End
“My grandmother passed after a blood clot incident. She had several conditions that no doubt led up to this. For example, her medical team decided not to treat her cancer because they figured she would die before it would spread.
My father, uncle, and my sisters were left to clean out her things from her apartment. She had a lot of old, expired food. Like ketchup that had gone completely black. We found things from when she was well and social, like her quilting and handmade soaps, which were beautiful. She has a quilt that had the names of all of our family, but the names were sewn in the individual’s handwriting style.
However, one day it was just my dad and me going through her bedside table. We found her journal. Toward the end, all of the entries were about how lonely she was, how she only got to see her grandchildren twice a year, and how her own children never saw her unless they needed something. She said she wanted to die. My dad threw it away so his brother would never have to see it.”
Her Sister’s Words Stabbed Deep
“My sister died a few years ago and it was the result of substance abuse. Our childhood was not good and substances were her coping mechanism. I felt both destroyed and a little bit relieved when she died because I felt terrible watching when she struggled so hard sometimes.
I found so much odd stuff and notes when she died and I kept things for her kids but one note eats at me here and there. I destroyed it so her kids would never see it. I get weepy whenever I think about it, including now. She was elaborating about the things she failed at in life due to her damage and her substance abuse. She was describing to her kids what she loved about them and how badly she wanted to be a better mom and make things different for them.
When she was talking about her daughter and sort of to her, she said she always wanted her to be safe because she never felt safe when we were young. She said she still didn’t feel safe and that even the word ‘safe’ looked strange to her.”
“I lived in my Uncle’s house for awhile after he died and found pieces of his suicide note that no one knew about hidden everywhere, in his books, in his desk, under his mattress. A novel-length diatribe of madness. I was kind of starting my own slip into mental illness at the time so it also seemed like a terrible omen of my own future.”
Her Mother’s Words Broke Her
“After my grandmother passed away, I was helping clear her flat. She said she was 87 when she died, but we had suspicions that she was older. She had grown up in Nazi Germany and crossed the Berlin Wall as a Russian spy and then turned herself over. We had a lot of questions that she never answered.
Then I found a cupboard full of notebooks. They were detailed diaries and it gave a lot of answers. My mom was heartbroken though when she found the date of her birth. It only said ‘It was born today.’ And then a week later, it said, ‘It has been named by my mother-in-law.'”
An Unsatisfied Life
“This is actually the first time I’ve actually told anyone about this.
My mom and I had to clean out my aunt’s room. She died at 52.
She never married. No kids. Had weight issues. She treated my brother and I like her own. We were all really close.
We found an unmarked book on her nightstand. Ended up being a journal. The first page said, ‘I hate the way I look. I hate that I’m not married. I hate that I don’t have kids.’
We closed it and tossed it. I’m guessing it was one of those weird self-help plans where you write your thoughts out. Didn’t make it any easier; You have no idea how much I wish I never saw that book.”
A Life of Lies
“My dad’s grandmother was a huge hoarder. When she died, he had to go clear out the house, which was no easy task. My dad always tells us about how you couldn’t even see the walls of the house because of the amount of stuff she had lying around, and how she looked so tiny walking around in the little hallways she managed to make in between all kinds of objects.
After several days of trying to clear out the house, my dad finally made it to her bedroom. It was completely filled with all kinds of things, ranging from like 20 kinds of brooms to several harps she had bought during her long trips to Europe. He found all kinds of surprising stuff, but the one that ended up being the craziest one was a letter.
He found it in her bedside table, and it caught his attention because of the wax seal and what was written on the envelope: ‘To be opened by my daughter, only after my death.’ My dad called his mom immediately since she was his grandmother’s only daughter. After getting her permission, he opened the envelope and found a letter and a birth certificate.
In the letter, his grandmother explained how she was never able to have children, and how ashamed she and her husband always felt (big Catholics, beginning of 20th century Mexico). She always wanted to have a child, so they decided to take a very long trip through Europe, from which they would come back with a baby. This baby was my dad’s mom, who always looked a bit different from her family (as white as it can be, bluest eyes you’ve ever seen). They found her in an orphanage run by some nuns in the north of France and immediately fell in love with her. Adoption was a big taboo at the time, so no one ever knew about it. The story they told was that she had gotten pregnant during their trip and had given birth to the baby in Europe. They brought her back to Mexico and registered her as a newborn, even though she was already several years old.
My grandmother lived all her life thinking she was her parent’s biological daughter. At 45, through a letter, she found out that she was adopted, that she was actually older than what she always thought, and that she was actually French, not Mexican.
My dad had to tell her all of this through the phone, while trying to understand a birth certificate written in French. My grandma eventually ended up hiring a private investigator and finding her family in France, but that’s another story.”
He Couldn’t Read It
“Many years ago, I got the call that my father was in bad shape. I called my only brother and we both flew back home to be there. About a day later, he passed while in the hospital.
Me and my wife, and my brother and his wife went to his house (which was pretty far out in the rural countryside) to take care of things. While my brother and I were going through the meticulously organized paperwork in his office, our wives were cleaning up his bedroom.
We heard a shriek and went running to see what happened.
It was the loaded weapon he kept under his pillow. They found it when they were stripping the bedsheets. I don’t think either one of them had ever handled or fired a weapon ever in their lives.
Me or my brother (I can’t recall now which one of us) emptied it and put it in his safe.
We also found the letter he had written to our mother after she passed many years before. My brother read it, and it was one of the few things that moved him to tears. I could not bear to read it. Nearly twenty years have passed, and I have still not read that letter.
Our father was raised to be the strong, silent type, and he was always rather quiet with his emotions. So whatever feelings caused him to write a letter to our deceased mother, his dead wife, had to be deep, and strong”
“This one threw me for a doozy.
After my grandma passed, my mom was the designated estate sibling. I went with her to help clean the house out. Now, I grew up EXTREMELY close to my grandma. We did everything with her, called her almost everyday and would literally stay entire summers at her house. Her house was also MASSIVE. She had six kids and my grandpa was the town psychiatrist, so he had an office/ business in the house.
So I’m zipping through closets on the 4th floor, and I find a box with tons of letters in it- not unusual for my grandma. This woman saved birthday cards and correspondences from her childhood. We are taking things home to sort them carload by carload and this box went in the last load of the night.
That night, my mom and I went through the box and found hilarious, sweet letters from my grandma to her twin brother who was in Italy during WWII, letters about her kids being born to her folks in Chicago, and then, a manila envelope.
In this manila envelope were correspondences between my grandfather and her, after their first child was born. From what we could piece together, and what was just blatantly said, a story unraveled:
My grandma was writing from Chicago to my grandpa back in Pennsylvania. She told him she wasn’t sure if she was coming home to him again. He basically pleaded with her for the first three letters, then in the last letter, discernibly angry and threatened her that if she didn’t come home with his child, she would be sorry. The final letter was my grandma describing a horrifying story that was obvious my grandpa knew about. During his psych residency, they were living in the doctors’ housing and my grandpa had a party. One of his fellow doctors spiked my grandma’s drink with some pill they were studying, which knocked her out.
My grandma speaks about how all she can remember is feeling terrified, paralyzed and seeing the yellow curtains in the room and then waking up hours later, with no panties on and feeling terrified. My grandpa’s colleague had dosed and assaulted my grandma in her own home, and apparently, this man was my grandfather’s advisor. She suspected that not only did my grandpa KNOW what was happening, but that their first child was indeed a product of this assault.
It was intense.”
A Thief And No One Knew
“After my grandfather died in ’72, someone went through the books at the church where he had worked for decades. Turns out, he had been embezzling from the church for years, and my grandmother was left holding the bag. How she handled it, I don’t know.
Before, he had been a high school football coach in another state. He was fired from that job for stealing money that was meant for the kids’ uniforms. What a classy guy!”
What Wasn’t Found
“My brother committed suicide last year, going through his stuff was awful. He didn’t leave a note or anything, but he was an aspiring musician and we found his song lyrics. I never would have guessed he was in such a dark place to write those kinds of things.
I was up all that night with those words stuck in my head, he seemed so excited to die, so hopeless for everything else but he always hid it from us. Later on, I went back in his room by myself just to take it all in, I found a somewhat hidden notebook with even more, including something he’d written about feeling sorry for how this would affect my sister and somewhat blaming my Mom for how he felt. I debated for hours if I should tear out that page or not because I knew it would hurt my mom terribly just to see what he thought of her when she saw him in such a good light, as such a sweet and loving son.
What really hurt the most though was after seeing what he wrote about my sister I looked for something, anything he might have written about me or left for me. There was nothing, I searched for so long because I just wanted some kind of last words to hold on to, something to show he thought of me but never found anything.”
This is Revolting, But Money!
“My Dad was the only living relative in this state for my great uncle who was a hoarder. We found so many things in that 700 sq. ft house. It was awful.
We can start with the McDonald’s bag with french fries from 1976 (had the receipt in the bag, that’s why we knew the date), rubbers that expired in the 80s, hidden in books, VHS adult movies, a non-working toilet filled with feces – he had no running water for at least 10 years and he had covered the toilet with a trash bag and duct tape, milk jugs filled with urine (we are talking about 30+), dead raccoons, dead mice, cockroaches, and a ton of collectible items from flea markets.
In case you’re wondering why we even bothered, there was almost $100,000 worth of a coin and bill collection, random money stuffed everywhere, random money orders not made out to anyone, and a ton of other miscellaneous things that were worth big money. So, hazmat suits and all, we all braved the disgustingness and cleared out the house and garage.”
In Another Life, Perhaps This Would Have Worked
“I work in a retirement community. When someone passes and has no family, a company comes in about a week later and indiscriminately throws everything in the trash. Since I have a master key, I try to slip into these vacant units and rescue significant items before this happens. I’m not a materialist and definitely not a looter… everything I take gets donated to local charities, the church the person belonged to, the historical society, etc.
I’ve found some pretty interesting stuff. Coin and stamp collections, substances and paraphernalia, adult toys, adult movie collections, military service records (the most notable being from Nazi Germany), weapons and explosives, you name it, I’ve seen it. Elderly folks have lived lives no less adventurous than those of us who aren’t to that point yet.
But the first time I read a diary was heartbreaking, and I’ll never do it again. I never grew ‘attached’ to any of the residents, as I’m something of an introverted loner, but Mary was my favorite person living there. She would always manage to find me when I was working and strike up a conversation rife with dirty jokes, she’d offer me a drink when I came by to change her lightbulbs or smoke alarm batteries, and although I do small favors in my spare time for the people living here – changing walker bearings, for instance – she would offer to take me out for a meal as a thank you unlike everyone else. Mary seemed to be the liveliest of all the residents and it blew my mind that she was single (retirement community residents often hook up or otherwise pair off).
Mary’s diary was actually a series of a dozen books, documenting her life all the way from her early 20s up through the day before she died. She had pictures of herself throughout the years – including nudes – within the pages. The pictures of Mary in her prime remain the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. Her writing was powerful. Moving. And as she aged, her articulation improved and stirred something within my soul.
As I read her diary, I felt an eerie closeness to her… much like myself, Mary was introverted and something of a loner, yet spent her whole life pining to find her soul mate. She wrote hundreds of sorrowful, romantic poems which frequently brought tears to my eyes. There were detailed accounts of her Femdom lifestyle and kinky interests, lamentations about how culture predisposed strong women to a life of struggle, and up until her 50s the constant hope that she’d find a man willing to submit fully to her leadership. On her 52nd birthday, she gave up that hope and resigned to being alone for the rest of her life.
Her heart just wasn’t in it after that. She started skipping weeks in her diary. Even entire months. Mary’s writing warped from a beautiful portrait of her life to a cold obligation. It hurt to see that change; where something she loved had continued solely out of habit.
But like a tree in the spring, that passion bloomed again in the last two years of her life. She wrote thousands of words about a much younger man who was attractive, kind, smart, funny, and both confident and shy at the same time. How that combination of traits reignited a fire within her that had been snuffed out decades ago. The desires she expressed in her writing at this point makes me blush even just thinking about it now. She never named him… but the breath of vigor returning to her writing coincided with the month I began working here.
I still don’t know how I feel about it. Flattered… incredibly sad… lonely… angry at the cruelty of time’s twisted little games. Mary was the woman of my dreams who just happened to be born 50 years too early, and I never even knew such an amazing human being existed until she was already gone. I’m glad that I was able to bring a bit of sunshine into her life toward the end, but if I’d have known she fancied me so I feel like there could have been more.”
A Horrible Secret Kept
“I had a cousin who committed suicide at 12 years old. He was only 12. Ugh!. This was a kid that was always a bit of a loner and kind of a bookworm but also seemed smarter than other kids and was very mature for his age. Always very polite but quiet and would spend more time watching than participating in anything. There certainly didn’t seem like there was anything that would cause him to end how own life. His family seemed close and normal. Maybe a bit more religious than some but I don’t recall them being over the top with it. It did turn out that he was bullied quite a bit at school. I guess it was because he never fought back, wasn’t very big and had no close friends that would stand up for him. It was the time before the whole anti-bullying movement had gotten anywhere so I’m not sure if his parents or anyone else would ever know how bad it was.
About 3 months after his death, both his parents started to suggest to my parents that I should be the one to go through his room. I was 18 at the time and since my cousin and I weren’t that close, I guess his parents thought I would have an easier time with it.
When I look back at it, I am VERY glad I was the one who did it but I also wish I hadn’t gone anywhere near his room. His parents were religious and I suspect that they not only wanted to avoid the pain of going through his stuff but wanted to avoid finding anything that would taint their view of their angelic, well-behaved child. (smut. I am talking about smut here)
I agreed to do it.
I started separating all his stuff. Clothes, toys, books, keepsakes that I thought his parents might want to save, etc. As I got deeper into his closet I suspected (hoped?) I might actually find a smut stash and sure enough, there in the back under a bunch of old books in the bottom of a box I found a smaller, flatter box that was magazine sized. SCORE!
Not so much. There was no smut. There was, however, lots of loose papers, a sketchbook, and some Polaroids. This was in the 90’s so there was no such thing as internet smut for a family of religious people that didn’t own a computer. Nor were digital cameras a thing. But there were instant cameras and my cousin had one.
I started to go through the papers which were all drawings and sketches. I think at first my mind wasn’t processing what I was looking at. It took me a bit before I realized what my cousin had been drawing. It was all drawings of torture and grisly murder scenes. Some detailed some just gory. Nasty, nasty stuff. Boys, girls, adults, babies, animals, it was all there. Poorly drawn but still horrific to see. I flipped through the sketchbook and it was more of the same. Sometimes there was occult-like stuff but not very often. I do remember a few pages all in a row that had the words, ‘Am I the devil?’ written in it over and over.
At this point, I did NOT want to look a the photos but I did anyway. My cousin had apparently escalated beyond just drawing pictures. The photos were of cats, birds and who knows what else that had been tortured and killed. Horrible, horrible images that I wish I could unsee. I am almost in tears again just thinking about it and this was over 20 years ago.
Anyway, I packed up the box and left with it before talking to or seeing anyone in the house. I found a dumpster behind a grocery store and tossed it in. In hindsight I probably should have burned it all but oh well.
I never told his parents or anyone else about it. It wasn’t out of any sense of decency. I just wanted to forget about what I had seen or at least pretend I hadn’t found it for my own sake. So I let everyone continue to think it was the bullying that pushed him over the edge. It may well have been but I wonder if part of it was because he saw what he was becoming and decided to stop himself before things got worse.”
This Secret Lasted More Than 50 Years!
“I found out my grandmother was an unwed mother when I found her real marriage certificate.
She lied about the year she got married, saying she and my grandfather got married a year earlier than they actually did.
We have no pictures of my grandparent’s wedding in a church, just one picture of my grandmother and grandfather in family members living room ‘after’ the ceremony and a picture of a small cake.
My grandmother said the film got exposed and she had no pictures.
She also had a pink wedding dress, which I thought was strange but she said her sister bought it for her.
Turns out there was no church wedding because she wasn’t allowed to be married in the church and she wasn’t allowed to wear white…
She was from a small town and her family sent her away to a friends farm a few hours away for her pregnancy and birth and then had a quickie wedding in someone’s living room when my grandfather returned from the Air Force on leave.
She kept the secret from everyone. I think only her brother-in-law would have known and he didn’t tell a soul, even when we threw my grandparents a 50th-anniversary party on what would have actually been their 49th.
I was cleaning out her closet when I found the ‘When I die’ binder she made of all her important paperwork and realized the dates didn’t match up to her binder and how I had been filling forms out…then I did the math and realized why. My mom and her siblings were shocked.”
It Crushed Me
“My Grandmother passed away from lung cancer when I was 19. She knew she had it, but didn’t tell anybody because my cousin who was 21 was diagnosed with cancer as well and she didn’t want to overwhelm us.
I was there when my mom and my aunt were cleaning out her room. They found an old will she had written, and they called me over. ‘You should read this.’
About halfway through, she mentioned me. She said that I am a bright star and how much she loved my daily phone calls to her, how happy those phone calls made her, how much she loved me.
I knew this will was old because I called her every evening from about the age of 12 to 13. You know how it goes, you get so busy with life and new friends that menial things get forgotten.
I cannot tell you how much that hurt. To think of her possibly sitting by the phone, wondering why I didn’t call, and after days of no calls how that must have made her feel. Although I was still close with her, that hurt me so much and made me feel like the biggest piece of garbage on this planet. Whenever I think about it, the guilt just weighs me down.”
The Jumbled Thoughts Of The Aging
“My grandmother died of complications from a stroke, but my father and I visited often. Grandma meant a lot to my dad and he took her shopping often. Toward the tail end of high school, he became more busy with work and I gladly took up the mantle of driving 20 minutes on the I-5 to take her grocery shopping (and go see a movie or grab a burger at In ‘N Out).
When she passed, we both cleaned out the condo she was living in (paid for by my father and mother). It was a pretty solemn duty and we found a lot of things we wish we wouldn’t have, and we were quickly stuffing things in garbage bags. We both had the idea that we didn’t want the other person to see what we had found, but we ended up talking about it because it messed with us emotionally.
On my part, I remember finding tons and tons of unopened things I had bought at the grocery store for her, many of the things were her favorite foods. She only had emptied her fridge, but still, that wasn’t done very often. Months before her stroke, she wasn’t eating right, or perhaps at all. She had spoken about not wanting to come to Christmas and Thanksgiving but I always picked her up to spend time with the family, kind of against her will. I guess she kind of knew it was her time.
We have many framed ‘portraits’ of things that she has sewn, like a fire engine (my father was a firefighter). When I cleaned the closet, I found a slew of abandoned sewing projects, many of them with grievous errors apparently hidden in shame or disgust. I suppose it’s worth mentioning that my grandmother is 100% Japanese and never wanted to be a burden on our family – she was anything but though. She was like a second mother to me since my mother and father were a full-time nurse/firefighter couple.
There are two other things I wish I hadn’t found. First, her record book of finances. It dated back to when my father was a child. I was amazed by the meticulous bookkeeping/accounting for 70 years with beautiful penmanship and dismayed by the sloppy, illegible mess of the last few years.
And last, ever since I was a child, she cut out the word jumble out of each daily newspaper. For years, she solved them as if they were a trivial matter, and she was proud of me when I would wake up and solve it before breakfast was over. I still do the word jumble every morning and my mother calls me almost daily for the answer to a word because I solve the whole jumble in a manner of seconds after 20 years of doing it. But what I found was a manilla envelope on the kitchen counter with a couple years worth of jumbles, and I wish I hadn’t opened it. Many of the puzzles didn’t have a single word solved, and the easy ones that had been solved had the same sloppy handwriting as the ledger I found. At the very least, my grandmother had been suffering terribly from arthritis, but stoically carried on waiting for the end to come.
I still remember the third to last time I took her grocery shopping and she told me I was born in Chicago – except I wasn’t. That’s my father, but I agreed anyway and she had a moment of clarity and we had a few moments of silence because I knew she was embarrassed.
In the end, I was reminded time inexorably collects its dues from us, and I feel an impending sense of dread as my parents pass their mid-sixties”
She Was Sure He’d Been Unfaithful
“My father-in-law was the most straight-laced and capable person I’ve ever known. Great leader (was on the police force), excellent golfer, could build anything, and honest to a fault.
A few weeks after his death, my mother-in-law asked us to come over to get our opinion on something. She sounded really rattled. When we arrived she said she finally found the courage to go through her husbands things, and showed us these little slips of paper with women’s names on them and what looked like phone numbers.
Everyone got really quiet and uncomfortable. This was so unexpected and out of character.
Then my wife laughed, snatched up the pieces of paper, and took them into his office. She rummaged around in his filing cabinet before finally letting out a triumphant ‘aha!’ and started pulling out his bank records.
Turns out the women’s names were anagrams for banks where his various accounts were held, and the numbers were accounts and PIN numbers for his debit cards. He taught my wife little tricks like this growing up, so she knew it was code for something straightaway.
My poor mother-in-law sat on that for a week before asking for our help.”
How Horrifying And Left With So Many Questions
“I live in the South. I come from a long line of very poor, southern white people.
After my paternal grandmother died, it took us about 4 months for anyone to be up to cleaning out her house. My grandma was an organized pack rat.
I came across the old family Bible. One of those big deals where they record births and deaths and it was like finding some huge treasure because she NEVER let us touch it or look through it, she kept it packed away. I was looking through it, absorbing the names of her family because while the woman loved to talk about her family (her husband and four boys), she never talked about her extended family. She never talked about her parents or siblings or childhood. Nothing. Even my dad knew very little about her family before she married.
So I was flipping through the Bible and tucked between some pages was what looked like a bill of sale or receipt of some kind. Upon closer inspection, I realized that it was a bill of sale/receipt. For my grandmother. Her father had sold her to my grandfather’s brother. Sold her! I don’t even remember for how much, I was just in a state of shock. I knew that she had been taken in to help care for my grandfather’s dying wife, but I had no idea she was sold. I mean, I just don’t know. This happened probably in the 30’s, early 40’s in the rural South, but still.
Recently, my grandmother’s baby sister (who is now 86) got in contact with my dad. A brief rundown of the story is that their mother died when my great aunt was just a baby, and there were at least four kids. I’m sure their father had no idea what to do with two small girls. She told my dad that her father gave her to her maternal grandparents and my grandmother came to Mississippi.
The weird thing is, she says that no one, not even her grandparents, would talk about her mother. She said as a kid, her grandmother would take her to the cemetery where she (her grandmother) would tend to her own parents Graves and another unmarked one. She said her grandmother refused to tell her whose grave it was and she didn’t find out until years later from one of her brothers that it was their mother’s grave. She says the only story she’s ever been given about how her mother died was that she tripped walking up the porch steps and hit her head.
I’m wondering if something a little more nefarious happened. If it was just an accidental death, why would her grave be unmarked? Also, there are no court records or death certificates to look at as there was a fire in that county’s courthouse and it destroyed all their records in the early 50’s. I’m wondering if that’s why their father got rid of my grandmother, maybe she knew something. She was old enough to stay home and care for her little sister and the home. Maybe that’s why she never talked about her family.
Back to the receipt. It changed how I felt about my grandfather and his family- I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about it.”
He Was a Good Father, With A Bad Problem
“My father was a successful businessman who was originally from Detroit. He grew up in a dangerous and low-income neighborhood, but he was able to get into a good school and complete an engineering degree. Eventually he owned his own machine shop and things were going well. After 2008’s crash, the stress got to him.
Shortly after I left for college, my mother forced my father to check in to rehab for his crippling drinking problem. He made it a few weeks sober but relapsed. This happened two more times, and he was behaving violently and drinking and driving frequently. My mother divorced him and he holed up in an apartment for a few months before ultimately drinking himself to death.
I cleaned out his apartment and found significant amounts of his rehab literature. I was happier not knowing details, but I did not want to throw out any paperwork that was significant for settling the estate. While combing through, I found a worksheet where he wrote a timeline of his relationship with substances. I found out that he smoked speed a few times as a 13-year-old boy, he started smoking grass at age 11, and by the time he was 14, he was smoking daily and drinking on weekends.
I was stunned; it certainly explained a lot, but I was much happier not knowing. I can’t imagine growing up in an environment where parents would be oblivious or apathetic to that. Despite his insanities, I’m grateful that he found a way to raise me in an environment that was more healthy and structured than the only one he knew.”
“After my uncle hung himself in his garage, my brother and I found a book on knot tying on top of a stack of books. It was an extremely dark moment.
When my grandfather died, we found three live grenades in his closet, hundreds and hundreds of weapons, and a crate of C-4 in the garage. Although I don’t think he was trying to hide any of that stuff”
They Did Their Best
“My flatmate committed suicide and we had the most amazing funeral for her, it fitted her. We were relieved with the start of closure.
Few weeks later, sorting her stuff I came across a journal with a plan of how she wanted her funeral.
We got none of it right”