Feelin' A Tad Guilty

I love old family photos and history and believe they should be treated as sacred frozen moments in time. My brothers don't quite feel the same way.

My older brother is finally getting back together with his second wife; they have been separated for about a year. He sold his home and they eventually will find their own place instead of her living in the 'first wife's' home.

He asked me to come over and look through some of his stuff to see if I wanted anything. There was a box of old photos albums (general dates 1920) , books and family bibles (some dated as far back as 1900 as well as some written in Norwegian), photographic dry plates (dates of 1910), and negatives of every picture his first wife had taken since they met. She was very organized and they were dated, titled and placed neatly in little boxes.

I don't think my brother had really gone through the box lately and maybe didn't even know they were in there. He just wanted me to take the whole box. That night I looked through the entire box like it was a treasure hunt. I love the musty smell they all have, I love the feel of the old paper in the books, and I touch each photo of those that I know. I really feel I must have had a previous life in the 20's because I am so drawn to that time.

When I came upon his and his ex's life all neatly tied up in the small negative boxes, I read through the titles; wedding, vacations, first birthday of their only child, and then that same child's graduation.

I then slowly took each box and quietly dumped them in the garbage. With each emptying of a box I felt a twinge of guilt but still felt justified in doing so.

His wife of 26 years left him about eight years ago. He found out she was having an affair and she just left, up and left. We found out in a one sentence email. The son was in college in another city so it wasn't like there was a little one in the house anymore. But it still devastated my brother and he was quite depressed for a long time. She has never reached out to any of us, even my mom, her mother-in-law to explain anything.

My brother and his ex still see each other occasionally and most recently just a few weeks ago when their child got married. I know he could have gotten in touch with her to tell her about the negatives--if I had told him they were there. But I didn't, I just dumped them.

I'm a mom, she's a mom. I would want to know if someone had my whole history in a box. But then again, she left and didn't take them and I guess they didn't seem that important to her to even inquire about them.

So finito, it's done, they're gone.

I do feel a tad guilty though just from the standpoint of one who loves family history. Too bad others don't always feel the same way.


It is hard to know what to do with old pictures like that. I think you probably saved your brother some pain. Imagine the memories those would have brought back, the hurt and loss he would have felt again. Pictures are important, but sometimes moving on is more important. You were a caring sister...
Grumpy said…
If it's any consolation, I think you did the right thing. Why save reminders of painful memories?
MR. CHAP said…
I agree with grumpy. Had you not thrown them away, someone would have...no big deal, right?

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