Posted in Aging process, Christmas, Grandmother, Holidays, Introspection

Letting Go by Ginger Keller Gannaway

 

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Geraldine Latour Keller

As Dad shuffled out of his 122-year-old home, he went back to his bedroom to take down the large wooden-framed portrait of his daughter, Kelly Ann. Kelly died on September 25, 2004, and he sobbed while he unsteadily carried the picture towards the front door. I met him there and took the picture, wrapped it in a Christmas angel blanket and stacked it atop the miscellaneous mess crammed into Dad’s Pontiac Vibe. After he painfully plopped himself in the passenger seat he remembered Momma. “I forgot Gerry,” he said as he started to struggle to get up out of the car. I stopped him with, “I got it. I got it. The big photo on the hall table, right?” He nodded sadly as I hurried back into the lonely house to retrieve the black and white photo we had blown-up to display at Momma’s memorial in 2014. These were Dad’s farewell actions before I pulled shut the heavy front door of Grandma’s house. (Even though my parents had lived there since 1972, 420 S. 2nd St. would always be “Grandma’s house.”)
In Annie Hall Woody Allen says, “A relationship is like a shark. It has to keep moving or it dies.” Does the simile work for life in general? We keep moving on or we die, either literally or figuratively. And a big part of moving on is learning to let go: of places, of things, of people. The week before Christmas my sister Gayle, our close friend Mark, and I started cleaning up and clearing our Grandma’s house. We organized items in piles: Trash; Goodwill; KEEP; Leave for the house. (My cousin Chiquita had bought the house and she let us leave all the stuff we did not want to take! Merci beaucoup, Chickie!) Gayle kept quoting the book about decluttering: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up , “Does it give you joy? No? So throw it.” Mark would sometimes argue over the value of an item. “This old kitchen clock is wonderful! It would remind your dad of his home. Take it.”
Since we had limited space in Dad’s car, I had to make tough decisions. I wanted Momma’s china and Mama Joe’s pie safe. Period. But then a portable hair dryer from the 1960’s and a stack of old 45’s would remind me of the freedom and freshness of being 12 years old. I caught myself putting a tube of lipstick from my momma’s winter coat in my own pocket and setting aside the dented aluminum bun warmer Momma used a lot. I opened stiff books and touched the handwritten dedication from a dead relative to a dead friend.img_3494
Later my brother Emile arrived and he made piles of old things for his three children and five grandchildren. Then someone thought of gift-wrapping unique or sentimental items to put under the Christmas tree: a tarnished tennis trophy, a pair of iron wolf book ends, a biography of Carl Sandburg. The gift tags read “from Grandma’s house” or “from Eunice” or “from Mr. Snowball.”
From December 17 to the last day of 2016, we were slowly saying good-bye to Grandma’s house, to Momma and Kelly’s memories, and to our own childhoods. We let go of stacks and even rooms of furniture, clothes, knick-knacks, and even some treasures. However, each of us took the items we needed to hold on tightly to ( two audio cassettes of an interview with Grandma, a Latour coffee cup Uncle P.J. gave Momma, Kelly’s copy of Walden.)
I let go of almost 60 years of objects from that home even as I squirreled away an LP here or a cast iron skillet there. I know that the things I took are just things, but they hold powerful memories of parties and suppers and stories and games and bad times and good times. Dad and I did not finally drive off in the Vibe until I ran back in for my final treasure from Grandma’s house: the extra-large Bulova kitchen clock from the 1940’s. Time to let go and move on down the road.img_3492

Author:

My 3 grown sons rule my world as my husband of 31 years rules my heart. I love reading, writing, watching movies, and listening to music. I believe connections and balance will give me contentment in this complex, hurried world.

40 thoughts on “Letting Go by Ginger Keller Gannaway

  1. What a wonderful story! I hope all goes well with your dad. By the way, your writing is extraordinary. You have the gift.

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  2. Hey Ginger. I remember visiting that huge old home of yours in Eunice years ago. It must have been great for the four of you growing up there. So many fun stories could be told, I’m sure. My mom is 85 now and living in a retirement home in Tupelo. I’m going there to visit her next week.

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  3. Ginger… What a wonderful story… Always loved all you Kellers so much! I can only hope that your dad is comforted in this chapter of his life! My prayer is that God blesses you all!

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  4. What an awesome story! I can honestly say it’s an honor to have a little pleasure to say I had a share of cleaning Granma’s house. In 1984 I work for your parents and also had the pleasure of caring for Ms Stella Parrot, making sure the phone didn’t ring during Mr Reginald’s nap time, going to the city club watching Jessica and the other kids swim while Mrs Jerry play tennis and even going pick up lunch at Ruby’s. While working for the Keller’s I was blessed to receive a scholarship to LPN school by meeting the ladies of a club ands serving them coffee and tea in the fine china. In those few years my story can go and on but I must say it was with joy spending time with the Keller’s.
    Thanks

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    1. Melanie!! I remember you so well! First, congratulations on your LPN scholarship way back when!! Your note brought tears to my eyes. Sweet, sweet Stella and swimming & playing tennis at the country club and being quiet during Daddy’s naps! All those memories come flooding back to me. I will read your sweet words to Daddy and pass them on to Emile, Gayle, and JESSICA (who now has 3 boys of her own!!!) Thank you ever so much for taking the time to reach out to us.
      Where are you now?

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      1. I’m now living in Youngsville for 2 year now. I went back to college seven years ago and be became an RN. Before leaving Eunice I was able to be Mr Reginald’s nurse and it was so good that he remembered me. I did go over and visited with them when Mrs Jerry was wheelchair bound. I love them dearly as mentor’s in my life. I was one blessed girl to have them in my life. I was always included as part of the family. I can still mimic Ms Stella’s voice yelling ” Melanie, where are you?” Many days when I had to clean upstairs I would bring Stella with me cuz I was frightened and her favorite words ” oh, there’s nothing to be afraid of upstairs!!!😂😂 Are days when I would be on the quite scene porch ironing Mr Reg shirts but always invited in to have lunch with them no matter what I was doing at that time. Oh, what great memories. Thanks for allowing me to share my little memories! Love ya’ll❤️❤️❤️

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      2. Melanie,

        RN!! Way to Go!! You got me and Daddy crying as we read your words!
        Stella was so brave; I’m still afraid of going upstairs!!!
        I loved reading your memories! Thank you!!

        Ginger and Mr. Reg.

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    1. So you are an early, early riser like me, Colleen. Thanks for the kind feedback. (They can take the girl out of Eunice, but they’ll never take Eunice out of the girl, right?)

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  5. Beatifully written and so true. I played a lot of tennis with your Dad back in the 80s and 90s. He was tough but I learned a lot from him. Can I ask where is he going to be? “Stretch”

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  6. Hey dear friend Ginger!!! This is an awesome tribute to your family legacy!!! I love it and I understand the internal struggle of letting go so we can move on. It’s not easy but it’s so necessary. God bless you with more happy memories as you care for your aging dad. He is so blessed to have you! I love you and so enjoyed our little mini class reunion this past year. 💕💕💕💕

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    1. Danielle, thanks for your support and understanding! As someone said, “Getting old is hard…but it beats the alternative!” I had a blast “shopping” with you at our reunion. Let’s not wait so long to reconnect!

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  7. Everytime I ran it to your sweet dad he always reminded me of my husband who passed away(Doug Frey) He always called him dynamite ! Bragging on how dynamite comes in small packages. Reminiscing on Doug’s peewee football years! He coached Doug & many boys. Blessed my heart for him to recall precious memories that I so need to hear about my sweet man and share with our children. Blessing to you and your dad! May you make precious memories in these days!

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  8. Ginger,
    Thanks for sharing! I have so many fond memories of that house, Kelly, your mom and dad, the movie theatre’s, your house in the country, the slot machine… the list goes on and on. Your family just randomly pops into my mind so often – because I had so many great times growing up with Kelly. Miss her and praying for your sweet dad.

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    1. Carla, thanks so for your kind words. All those memories (especially of Kelly) make me cry, yet also give me comfort! You and Kelly and the rest of ya’lls gang were something else!

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  9. Such a great narrative, Ginger! Hard thinking of letting go of parts of our Eunice past as our parents age and leave us. Your post brightened my day. Players Theatre really bonded me with the Kellers and those were days that I miss and will long remember.

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  10. I loved meeting up with you mom at Walmarts. She amazed me. By the fact that she remembered me. But I think she always remembered my mom first. Such caring and kind parents. As I read your story Ginger. , I felt a lump growing in my throat. My mom died in the hospital, so my sisters and I walked into the empty house having to remove the contents. Yes its hard trying to decide what items we want for memories. But so comforting having all the memories in our thoughts and hearts. I think of your family often. For each of you are part of my memories.

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  11. Ginger,
    Awesome story. Made me feel like I was cleaning out my childhood home. Saving the things that held special memories for me. You are an excellent writer. WOW!!! My dad speaks so fondly of your dad. Then there is Emile, sweet Emile, always has been one of my favorite people.

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  12. Very nice Ginger. Sorry to see your dad moving out.
    Did y’all happen to find any old photos of the Liberty in the house? A friend who works at the Jean Lafitte museum here in Eunice is looking for some.

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    1. Chiquita bought Grandma’s house and she will go through all the stuff we left, including some Liberty theater things.I will pass your inquiry on to Cousin Chickie!

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  13. Thank you for your beautiful article. My mother is 92 and I know that one day we will have an experience similar to yours’. I hope that we can move forward with as much Grace as your family. Your mother was always so sweet and your father always asked about my brother, Alan, when I’d see he and Mrs. Gerry at Nick’s.

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    1. Ginny,
      I so appreciate your kind words. Good luck with your Momma. These times have been both tough and rewarding. I will tell Daddy about your email. (You are so right about our sweet lil Momma Gerry!)

      Ginger

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  14. Wow, Ginger, you’re a great writer! I was disappointed when I got to the end. I wanted to read more. It reminded me of when I had to clean out my parents’ home after they both died. It’s not a pleasant chore! Praying for you and yours!

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    1. Thanks so, so much for your kind words. As our parents get old and then pass away, we go through so many memories (both happy & sad). I so appreciate the prayers!

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  15. Ginger,

    Your piece is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing this. I’ve reconnected with Gayle this past fall and now feel reconnected with you.

    Hope you, your dad, and your family are all well! Love, Susan Stagg Simon

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    1. Susan,

      Thanks for your well wishes! I think your visit with Gayle was a highlight of her holiday. Staying connected with others we care about is key to our contentment. I’ll pass on your sweet words to Dad, and I hope your dad and all your family are doing well also.
      Love,
      Ginger

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      1. Hi Ginger: the Jean Lafitte Museum here in Eunice is looking for old pictures of the Liberty. Do you have any? Perhaps from when you moved your dad out?
        Thanks,
        Karlie

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      2. Hey Cousin Karlie!

        We do have some Liberty stuff, but you need to contact Chiquita. We left the Liberty stuff in Grandma Keller’s house which Chickie now owns. Her phone number is 337-962-1806.

        Cousin Ginger

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