Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wordful Wednesday - I am the Keeper of Things

This is a photograph of a corner of my living room.  As some of you know, my grandfather recently passed away.  His birthday is in a couple of weeks - he would have been 94!!  He lived a long and full life and I miss him, and my grandmother (who passed away nearly 2 years ago) every day.

Now that they are both gone, the family did what families need to do, and we went through their belongings making sure that important items and furniture went to those in the family who wanted or needed items.  We then had an estate sale for the rest of the things.  It wasn't easy, seeing my grandparents belongings carried away out the front and back doors of the house. 

What made that a trifle bit easier to bear was the knowledge that some of those items went to people who needed them so badly - one person was gathering items for her neighbor, whose house had just burned down.  Another was a young couple that had just moved to the area and had no furniture at all.  Another was a petite elderly lady, who was so grateful for the chair to put in the bathtub because her husband needed help bathing.

And now after that, I have my pile of boxes and items.  As the family genealogist and historian, I was the default whenever a pile of papers was found.  They always save it for Leah and I am so happy for that!  (You don't know how easy it is for my Mom to throw things out.  She would probably have tossed me and my sister long ago except that we're hard to catch!!  Well, ok, maybe she have just tossed me, I was the really annoying teenager and probably deserved to be out on the curb - my sister was the smart one!)

It's hard though, looking at this corner.  I dutifully brought everything home and packed it neatly in boxes and stowed it away here in this corner where I don't see it every day.  When we are gone, we leave behind all the detritus of life - receipts for things you don't own anymore, rubber bands, spare glasses.  And someone has to come in and decide what is important and what isn't.  When we're alive, we think it's all important.  I have a fabulous collection of plastic bags I use to take out the kitty litter.  Do I need 8,000 plastic bags?  Well, I guess I'm planning ahead in case tomorrow the world suddenly stops manufacturing them and after all, I need some way to get the kitty litter out of the house.  Did I mention I use recyclable bags and paper bags only now?  I don't even bring new plastic bags into the house and yet the piles of them never seem go down down.

I'd be mortified if something suddenly happened to me and my family came into my house and had to make decisions about what to keep and what to toss.  I'd probably have to haunt one of them if they threw something vital out, like my important collection of wheat-back pennies in the console of my car.  There's at least 5 of them there, and a 1976 quarter too.  I just know my mom would gather it up and put it in a regular coin jar or something!!!  And someone would just SPEND it WITHOUT knowing!

So yes, my point here really is actually that yes, as a genealogist I do have a very high-level view about life and death.  I see my families where children have died as babies, I see my families where a spouse passed away while still young, I see families that never had children and I fret for them, wondering who took care of them when they were old, even though they died more than 100 years ago.  I know death happens, it has happened for always, and it will keep happening.

But it is hard when it's so close and personal, and you actually have custody of someone else's belongings.  I feel a responsibility for all those papers I carefully packed away.  And yet I hesitate to look at them because, well, they aren't mine.

A while back, my Grandfather allowed me to take a box of old letters to scan.  When I went through them, there was one that was from my Grandfather to my Grandmother.  He was away on a business trip, this was back in the early 1960s.  He wrote stuff for the whole family and then he wrote in the letter that the rest of it was for "Mom" only to read.

So you know what I did of course?  I folded it up and put it back in the envelope.  Maybe one day I will read it, maybe never.  I'll have to figure that one out.

Taking a peek into someone's life when they lived 200 years ago is fascinating.  The distance in time makes it so interesting.  Taking a peek into my grandparent's life, when they aren't here to frame the discussion for me, well, that's harder.   

In the meantime, this stuff will sit for a bit in my living room, getting accustomed to its' new custodian.  When it's ready, it will welcome me in.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Obituary of William A. Domelle (1918 - 2012)

Last Tuesday my grandfather passed away.  He was just over a month shy of his 94th birthday.  I am grateful to have had the opportunity to visit with him in the past couple of weeks, his health declined very rapidly at the end, and he was able to pass away peacefully, in his own home.

I can't say enough for the good that hospice workers do.  It must be so hard to walk into a house where you've been told to go, and you don't know what you are walking into what with worried and stressed relatives.  Hospice workers are people who embody how we all should be acting towards one another.

My grandfather was born on a farm in northwest Indiana.  He always called it "flat, flat, flat" when I asked him about it.  His parents were immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire (specifically from the western part of what is now modern-day Romania) and he remembered them speaking in German to each other when they didn't want the kids to know what they were saying.  :-)

He was super intelligent - the type of person that would say, okay, I'm going to build a house now for my family - and he did!  He learned what he needed to and just did it.  Nothing stopped him.  In the early 1980s, he decided he wanted to learn computers, and he did, in his spare time!  In the last week, I saw receipts and letters and manuals for computers I'd never heard of from the 80s.  He was exchanging letters with people discussing nitty-gritty details about computing that I couldn't even begin to understand.

He was one of the hardest working people I will ever know.

He spent his life doing carpentry and construction, and once he retired from that, he got terrible arthritis.  He never complained though.  And he always ate whatever you put in front of him.  We asked once about that, like my mom would ask him what his preference was for dinner and such and he would never really give her the preference.  He always said that if someone was going to go through the trouble of making food for him to eat, then he was going to eat it.  It is a good philosophy and one which makes me feel I owe my mother an apology for being a picky eater as a child!

I miss you Grandpa, and I love you!


Below is the text of his obituary:

MILLERSBURG - William A. Domelle, 93, passed away Tuesday at his home.

Born in Newton County, Indiana, on September 16, 1918, son of the late William and Elizabeth Obendorfer Domelle.  He met his future wife, Anna G. Mix, in 1938, and they married in 1942. They lived in Millersburg for the past 30 years.

He was a retired self employed carpenter.

He was pre-deceased by his wife of 68 years, Anna, 2010, and a son Stephen, 1998.

Surviving are his two loving daughters, Deborah Kleylein, Philadelphia and Rebecca Lucas, Lykens; 9 grandchildren; numerous great grandchildren; one brother Peter, Indiana.

Services will be held at the convenience of the family.