As many of you know I am the responsible person for my Grandmother with Alzheimer's disease. She turned 88 on Sunday and we had clown cones with her. She loves chocolate ice cream and asked about the baby and generally had a very nice time. Such a difference from last year, when she was strong enough that we took her out for hamburgers and root beer floats. I always want to make it a nice birthday since I am painfully aware it could be her last with us. Caring for her in her later years has been hard, choosing the right assisted living and then memory care facilities, watching the Alzheimer's steal so much from her, watching her body deteriorate with the ravages of time. However it has also been the greatest gift I could ever give her and I am proud and honored to be able to do all the things I do for her.
My Grandmother was a bit of a hoarder. She liked to shop, at dollar stores and the like, and HATED to throw anything away. I have literally spent years getting rid of what to her were treasures and what to most of us was junk. She also collected nurse figurines, dolls and stuffed animals. She has probably 800-1000. She loved photographs and always got doubles, or triples of any roll of film she had developed. She then would get dozens of reprints of favorites. The vast majority of these pictures are not captioned. None are organized, they are just in box after box in my garage with the nurse collection. I have spent the last year slowly sorting her pictures, throwing away the myriad of duplicates, throwing away hopelessly damaged pictures, ones where I could not identify a single person as a family member and finally hundreds of pictures of flowers, snow storms, the same crab apple tree flowering year after year. It was hard and sad at first and by the end I just wanted it DONE. Two weeks ago I thought I was at the finish line, I had sorted all the boxes of pictures and organized them into one storage box. The box was then subdivided into folders of who was the main subject of the picture. I felt so accomplished. I knew there will still likely doubles or triples in there, but I could enlist the folder's person to help sort and it was manageable. Then we finally had our doll sale.
We have been trying to have a yard sale to sell some of the nurse collection for the past year, but something had always come up. Finally this Saturday we did it. We did not sell that many items, but we sold some and were able to consolidate the collection from 15 boxes down to 10. It was nice to see people enjoying looking through the nurses and laughing at the funny ones and genuinely having fun with them. My Grandmother loved them so, looking for them, buying them and then decorating every room of her house with them. Over the years they have become more of a burden to me and I have stopped seeing the joy in them. I got some of that back Saturday. Except when we were getting the boxes of nurses out to put on display in the driveway I discovered, to my great horror, that 3 of the boxes I thought had nurses had more pictures in them! I felt so deflated, the never ending project was seriously never ending.
For any of you with older relatives with boxes and boxes of pictures here are my suggestions: sit down with your older person and start to sort the pictures while they are alive and not senile. I should have started this with my Grandmother when she could remember more, now I am on my own and it is really hard. Suggestion number two: caption and sort all the pictures you are taking so that no one has to do this for you in 50 or 60 years. Be selective about what you keep, even though with todays digital pictures you have like a million on your hard drive, none of us needs 300 pictures of our cat, or photos of every snow storm to hit our town, or pictures of every flower that ever bloomed in our garden. Pictures of family, especially kids and babies are the exception, but still CAPTION them!
Two more boxes to go through, then really organizing the photos in them..... Bear maybe in college before I am done with this project.