If you have not already done it, you will. Sifting through the remains of a deceased parent's life can be alternatively uplifting and melancholy. There are the flora and fauna of a life well lived: the family photos - some dating back multiple generations; there is the correspondence of courtship (I know, no one wants to go here but your folks had the same thoughts you do); a sprinkling of awards, citations, and work-related commendations; and, evidence of personality traits kids tend to overlook for being too close to the person.
For instance, my father never threw away any type of paper document. Never. Anything. Not the 1985 calendar from some charity to which he contributed. Not the car insurance bill from August 1994. Not travel itineraries from years ago. Not his meanderings about which stocks might be worth buying. Nothing. I'm reasonably sure stock in the company that owns Glad went up as keepers were separated from trash.
Of course, because nature demands a certain balance, there is the flotsam and jetsam, too, such as a book called "The 36-hour Day". Which is a family guide to dealing with memory issues that can afflict the aging. Which affect my mother. Which my father kept to himself. Which adds a degree of difficulty to caring for an older parent. Which would have been good to know ahead of time.
The discovery brought a series of previous events that, at the time, seemed odd into clear focus. A bit of digging revealed a diagnosis dating back at least 5 years. Maybe keeping it to himself was Old World on dad's part; conditions of mental deterioration are hardly the stuff of dinner party conversation. In fact, they are barely discussed at all in comparison to physical ailments. Everyone knew dad had cancer; no one knew a thing about mom.
It's a bit ironic if you think about it. A generation ago, words like "cancer" and "divorce" were spoken in hushed tones, as though volume correlated to severity. Today, "alzheimer's" and "dementia" get similar treatment, though I am regularly surprised when the subject does come up by the reach of both conditions and by the common themes that permeate those who have had a family member fall under the spell of either.
I'll get into more detail on that in subsequent posts though, to date, I have been confused for my brother and for at least one person outside the family, there are regular discussions about how the house really is the house and not a "home", and various other things that, at times, defy description. The concept of the 36-hour day is beginning to make sense. Good thing I'm only a graduate student.