If you met me for the first time, I’m fairly certain that three things would transpire.
First, early into our encounter, I most likely would ask, “Please tell me your story.” Everyone has a story that’s unique and interesting and never have I been a disappointed listener.
Second, I’m sure that I’d offer several (or more) bits of unsolicited advice. It’s not that I think I’m all-knowing, but instead, I have this incredible desire to make the world a better place and for some reason, I think that sharing ideas helps to further that goal.
Lastly, you’ll quickly figure out that I’m a huge sentimentalist. I have been this way forever; indeed, for more than a decade, I paid good money to store plastic bins of delightful artifacts from my two (now adult) daughters’ childhoods, along with banker boxes and bins of things from my former life as a man. (Explanatory note: I transitioned from male to female in 2009 at age fifty-two.)
I have always held the past dear to my heart. Case in point: that camo-green cloth-covered three-ring binder from seventh grade in 1970 on which I wrote, “Make Love Not War!” on the front flap? Oh yeah, I’m keeping that. Forever.
And the crayon stick figure drawings that my daughters did in kindergarten with crude letters spelling out “Dad, I love you” will never, ever, be tossed.
Which now brings us to a bit of sentimentalist heresy.
Within the last month, I have moved 33 miles from a downtown Minneapolis condo to a house in rural Victoria where I have a yard for a golden retriever puppy. The move prompted me to go through everything that had been in storage.
As I opened boxes and bins in my new house, I thought of not burdening my daughters when I am gone. Along with the inevitable hassle of dealing with end-of-life arrangements, life insurance stuff, and probate crap, I don’t want them to have to go through things that mean nothing to them. Thus, I began culling. For a sentimentalist like me, it was darn difficult.
Still, I’m pragmatic if nothing else and, well, clearly some things had to go.
At this point, please understand that for 32 years (dating back to high school), I was deeply in love with my daughters’ mother, Lydia. Unfortunately, my transitioning to female wasn’t part of her plan, or mine, and things ultimately fell apart.
Consequently, as I culled, I came across a couple bins worth of notecards and mementos from Lydia that spanned three decades of a grand love affair; god, she always let me know with written words that I was special and that our love mattered more than anything else.
I spent several hours reading the notecards and remembering what it was like to be loved unconditionally. Lydia’s heartfelt words, reminders of what I had lost — a love that I am certain I will never again have — tore at me.
For a short while, a familiar sadness revisited me.
But now, so long after I left Lydia to be me — Ellie, a woman — the words no longer bind like they once did. The notecards had simply become trash, as brutally cold as that may sound.
With that realization, I filled two Hefty garbage bags with Lydia’s cards and tossed them.
Yet — and please don’t let anyone know this — I still kept a dozen of Lydia’s notes. Trash or not, there are some of her loving words that I just can’t possibly force myself to throw away.
Someday, when I am on my deathbed taking my final breaths, I will need those words bouncing in my brain.