Shredding The Papers Of My Late Father’s Life

After my father died from lung cancer three months ago, I went up to Sacramento County to clean out his trailer home before putting it into storage. Seven boxes of nick-knacks, dishes and paperwork was brought back to Silicon Valley. I very much wanted to put the boxes into my storage unit to avoid dealing with the papers of my father’s life. But something important might lie somewhere in this mess. I finally went through all the boxes and found some surprises.

When my father retired at the age of 59-1/2-years-old in 1995, he expected to die soon thereafter as his older brothers keeled over after turning sixty. Death didn’t claim him for another 17 years, outliving my mother by eight years after she died from breast cancer in 2004. Needless to say, he kept every piece of paper that Kaiser Permanente ever sent him. Some of this paperwork was downright scary: bills, test results and whatever “disease of the month” you’re likely to get as a senior citizen.

My father kept his adult children in the dark about all the medical treatments he was getting for his various forms of cancer. We might have done something if we had known what was going on. Some of his routine procedures weren’t that routine or minor as he claimed. I came across a picture that showed an oval-shaped piece of skin flap removed from the side of his face to scrape out the skin cancer. The surgeon did such a great job at putting the skin flap back in that there was no scarring to make it visible. That picture went straight into the shredder.

A thick folder documented a neighbor lady stealing a box of checks out of his mailbox in 2006. Despite informing Wells Fargo Bank that his checks were stolen, the bank paid out a half-dozen checks written to various local businesses. A pizza parlor even made a photocopy of the forged check and the woman’s driver license, which the bill collector sent as proof that my father owed the money. No clue as to whatever happened to the woman. My father spent six months fighting off bill collectors.

I wasn’t surprised that Wells Fargo let this nonsense happen. After I got the death certificate in late May, I closed out my father’s accounts before the end of the month. The pension fund claimed that I had an unauthorized payment and wanted the money paid back. I sent a copy of the bank statement that proved that no transactions took place after the accounts were closed. The pension fund insisted that I have the money since the bank told them that the deposit went through. I think the bank kept the money. This issue is still unresolved.

The most surprising item was a state identification card for my mother. She had never learned how to drive after plowing her father’s Caddie into a telephone pole on her first driving lesson. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, even my mother had to be street legal.