I recently had the pleasure of not only reading but meeting the author Plum Johnson of the book “They Left Us Everything.” Plum uses humour, wit and honesty to portray why family history is important to understand your past and how to move forward with your family dynamics. What is really cool is the story is about selling the family home which is located locally at Trafalgar overlooking Lake Ontario in Oakville. It was a 23 room home that hadn’t been touched in over 60 years and full of history, antiques and other treasures yet to be discovered!
Plum and her 3 brothers cared for their parents for almost 20 years. First her Father with Alzheimers and then her difficult 93 year old Mother. This created conflicted feelings of guilt and resentment for not being more understanding and kinder. Plum felt like she had lost 20 years of her life, felt selfish and ashamed but also learned through the process that when you are getting close to the end and feel your time is running out, you lose the niceties and your filter!
During clearing out the family home, they found over 2,000 letters written by Plums’ Mother, Father, Grandmother and friends. That was the inheritance and the true gift. It wasn’t about the possessions but learning about her parents lives and how they lived. Now it is adult to adult and learning why they behaved they way they did. Like her Mother’s Mom being an absentee parent which explained why her mother was so possessive over Plum. Had she had known, their relationship would have been different.
She talks about the strong support system between the siblings and their get togethers where they discussed their parents care. They could laugh or cry about things through the illnesses. The rule was no spouses allowed because to took them back to an original time & kept everyone on the same page.
There was a lot of helpful learning in this book. 1- when dealing with an Alzheimer’s person, don’t argue, just go along with whatever they say. It was a real gift to see the soft vulnerable side of her parents 2- The whole downsizing can be a daunting task but actually it was a profound journey rather than a burden 3- Leave your things for your children. Don’t sort it out or throw stuff away before you go, especially your diary. It is a beautiful experience for your children to learn about your life 4- Show interest in your family history, speak to your elders as they are a wealth of info because with computers, there won’t be those letters to learn from, take videos and write in diaries 5- Be kinder to person going through the illness, we will all be there someday!
Colleen Saunders is a 20 year veteran in the mortgage industry, serving Oakville, Burlington, Mississauga, and Toronto and offering all mortgage related services such as 2nd mortgages, private mortgages and more.