Monday, April 20, 2009

The Red Cross Bandages

I think part of the reason the concept of cleaning up our father's house is so overwhelming is that my brother and I are confronted with two mind-boggling concepts. One is grasping the truly monumental task ahead, and the other is the idea that we finally get to peek into those shelves and drawers, enter into those closets, and investigate under the beds and wardrobes of rooms or areas of the house that we had been forbidden to enter, touch, change, clean-up or move around in any way.

The bedroom is a case in point. As children we were allowed to enter my father's bedroom, after knocking and hearing the command "come-in," only on Sunday mornings when we were also allowed to get into his bed. We got to cuddle as he read the Wall Street Journal. I guess, in retrospect, it was this weekly ritual of affection that spawned my love of wordy print newspapers. But at all other times, we were not allowed to enter the bedroom. My father had been not only extremely possessive about his numerous private spaces, documents, photo albums, and personal belongings. He also had been extremely possessive about his untouched piles of 10 year-old junk mail, unread physics journals long obsolete, and his 37 pairs of old worn-out shoes. Sorting out the trivial from the treasures is something that neither my brother nor I want to delegate to a clean-up crew. Maybe this little story will explain why.


  1. AnonymousMay 01, 2009

    WOW Mom I really proud of you, i think you've done a great job doing this blog!!!!
    i love you very much
    xoxo janina

  2. AnonymousMay 01, 2009

    Karen, This is SO beautifully done! It is so well thought out and gives a short, but in depth, glimpse into who your parents were and what they were about. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I want to share this with a few people I know, including my writer Janice, who lives up there in San Francisco. Love, Hugs and Kisses, Susan

  3. AnonymousMay 02, 2009

    Karen, that was amazing! I hope you have time to do more blogs. I love you! - Shira

  4. AnonymousMay 02, 2009


    Congratulations on a wonderful job! I've never even read a blog before, let alone write comments in one, but I was very moved by the writing. Thanks from a technically-challenged Aunt Ilona.

  5. David SchatzMay 02, 2009

    Ms. Engel,
    Once again you show us your rare ability to weave a new story from old ingredients. The story about your parents, their long distance romance, their letters, your mother's red cross jacket hanging for years in your father's closet, is moving and touching. You have quite a gift.

  6. AnonymousMay 03, 2009

    Hi Karen, you are so fortunate that your father saved everything! sure, tons of things to sort through, but the history he has been able to keep alive for you and for you to share is really touching and wonderful. i am totally impressed with your excellent research and presentation!!
    thank you for sharing this with me and for reinforcing my tendencies to not want to purge! a huge hug, betsey

  7. AnonymousMay 06, 2009

    Hi Karen,I was deeply moved by your blog. It is so special, so perfectly made with your familiar voice and the wonderful music by Bach. I had to do similar work clearing my father´s flat although he is still alive but he cannot communicate. It was very hard to read through his life but it showed me so much about his personality and helped me to understand things. Hopefully we will start to write letters again and print photos on paper so that future generations will understand our motivations. Thank you for this presentation ! Huge hug Sigrid

  8. AnonymousMay 13, 2009

    Dear Karen,
    Cool story, great pictures, perfect music.
    Eli & Sharmon

  9. AnonymousMay 14, 2009

    karen, now i can imagine how stressy but even "grass-rooty" this all is to you all. and for me its like listening to the old tapes: just great!!!
    h+k reini

  10. GEORGE CHEROFFJuly 20, 2014