Mom’s Life In A Box

My mother passed away almost 10 years ago, and it was time to finish what we started a few years back: getting rid of the paperwork mountain she collected over the years.

My mother did not own a shredder, or a computer, or a belief system that allowed her to part with any piece of paper that might matter. She was outrageously meticulous in her record keeping; I have to give her that accolade. Statements from banks, credit card companies, Medicare and insurance companies were filed by month and year, and every one of them had receipts, proof of services rendered, cancelled checks, and anything else she needed to ensure what the statement said she spent was what she actually spent. And if it did not match, there was a not to call someone: “CS” for customer service, “DR” for doctor’s office, “B” for bank and so on.

Every piece of paper clipped or stapled to another piece of paper was lined up, right side up, in size order. She wasn’t doing this for tax purposes, really. She was only working part-time and on Social Security, so it wasn’t an issue of tax deductions, since she wasn’t earning enough to pay taxes in the first place. Her mind was incredibly orderly almost to the end and physical pain overwhelmed her. She only used a ledger-style checkbook; the better to track her income and expenses. It’s stunning that we have 70 pounds of paper in a clear plastic box to bring to the next community shredding event; she had no need to save all those documents once she finished reconciling them. But I marvel at the precision, and that her version of a numbers game, along with doing crossword puzzles in ink, going to theater and movies every week and dining with friends regularly kept her sharp as long as it did. She was living proof that challenging the brain every day keeps it going.

Miss you, Mom. Wish you were still here. Ten years is a long time.

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