Through the sadness of going through Mom and Dad’s belongings and grieving the losses we’ve had, there are flashes of mirth here and there. We discovered a small notebook that Mom had started as a ‘Round Robin’ letter among her siblings. She filled out the first page with all the siblings’ addresses, the next page was birthdays and wedding anniversaries. She introduced the idea with a letter about what she hoped the notebook would do - connect them over the distances since they couldn’t get together very often. She wrote a newsy missive filled with photos and sent it to her oldest brother with the hope that his spouse wouldn’t let the notebook sit around but take him in hand and keep it moving. It was a success.
It’s over twenty years old and it’s been fun to read the letters and look at the pictures. So many people are gone now, but they live again in their writing. The last letter is from Dad. I was reading it in my office when I started howling with laughter. Dad was writing about his kids and I thought his viewpoint was interesting. Then he got to me.
“Donna is the artisan in the family and is always preparing for one art show or another. She has a very impressive collection of ribbons and awards over the years from many locations. Several years ago I purchased one of her paintings that I really liked. Some time later she entered it in a show and won and award. (Sort of true. He purchased the piece off my easel but I had told him I’d already entered it in a show and would have to get it back since it had been accepted.) Now she would like to buy it back (we’re departing from reality here, but his creative skills are kicking in) but in light of the recent increase in works of art I have been forced to raise the price so much she can’t swing it. I keep telling her it’s a lesson in free enterprise. I don’t think she really minds but then I am very careful not to let her serve me any strong tasting meals.”
I miss him and he’s not even gone, yet. But this part, his wicked wit and storytelling, is gone forever. Except in old letters.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.