I have a new toy from Amazon -- a new shredder. My parents never threw anything away. I have tax returns that are decades old; EOBs (insurance papers) for medical procedures that were performed on people 10s of years ago on people long dead. Bank statements that are approaching 25 and 35 years old.
I don't want to just toss these things in the garbage -- for more than one reason. It is indeed a security risk. Just because these people are dead doesn't mean that their identity can't be stolen. Anything with numbers on it should be shredded.
But there is also a finality to shredding. It can't be undone. In these bank statements, I am finding things that are vaguely disturbing -- repeated donations to charities I find not always on the up and up; evidence of purchases that were not particularly wise; checks to people that I wonder about -- who was this person and why this amount? But, perversely enough, I'm more disturbed at my LACK of emotion about these expenditures. What is past, is past. What is done, is done. All is forgotten; all is forgiven; there is nothing left but the shredding.
And yet, I am finding it disturbing enough that I'm dreaming. I've dreamed about my parents signatures; their names. I find myself staring at that oh so familiar handwriting for long minutes. I dreamt of their signatures being erased and by my hand. I dreamt that I am erasing my parents. I wonder if that is so -- and I wonder if I am erasing them or their power over me (still, at my age!) The second dream is different; I'm not erasing them, I'm taking my embroidery thread snips and snipping away the threads that are holding their signatures down, so that their names can float away free. In this shredding, I am finding a sort of forgiveness -- and absolution.
Grief can do funny things to us. There is the deep irrationality of fresh grief -- the grief that caused me to cry out, "Oh! He's going to be so cold! I didn't give him a blanket!" as they lowered my father's body into the ground. I can still feel that emotion 12 years later. It's irrational. It's the same grief that caused my sister to rescue my mother's toothbrush from the trashcan seconds after I had thrown it there. Maybe it was too soon to go through her possessions -- it was a scant day or two after the funeral. I threw it in the trash and she cried out a long sighing, "No!" and scooped it up before either of us had time for rational thought. This type of grief is a reflex, it's a flash, it's a moment of deep overwhelming emotion.
The grief I experience now is deeper, softer; the edges are rounded. It's more rational. As rational as seeing how a shredder can deal forgiveness to handsful of old sin. It's gentle and dressed in gray and will be a companion for a long time.