My adventure into this Addie Hoyt story began with an ending: My father’s.
Friday morning at 2:35 am, after sitting at his bedside for some time, my father breathed his last. In the solemn quietude of that darkened room, I walked over to my husband, sleeping on the nearby couch, and tried to wake him gently.
“I think he’s passed,” I whispered.
My husband sprang up, dashed into the bedroom and felt for a pulse.
“We should call the nurse,” he said.
It was Friday, June 10, 2011.
Three days later, I was back at the assisted living facility, cleaning it out. I was supposed to meet someone there who’d take on the task of getting everything out of the tiny apartment. He was instructed to remove every item and take it to Goodwill or to the trash.
Mr. Clean-up Guy was two hours late.
While I waited for him to show up, I grabbed the super-sized black trash bags I’d brought and started sorting through the massive pile of stuff. I came upon two books of old photo albums. I flipped open one of them and saw a horse wearing a doily.
“What is this?” I thought to myself.
I didn’t know if he’d found it on a trash pile somewhere or had purchased it somewhere – or worse – maybe it belonged to his second wife’s family.
Overwhelmed with the monumental task before me, I couldn’t deal with it all.
I threw the albums into one of those big trash bags.
A few minutes went by and I got to thinking about those two albums. I couldn’t stand it. I retrieved them.
And then after looking at them a second time, I threw them out again.
And then I cried.
Why was nothing going right? Where was Mr. Clean-up guy? Why couldn’t God give me a break? I’d just learned that I was going to be the one delivering the eulogy at my father’s funeral. I was the one organizing the funeral. I was the one who’d sat with him those last two weeks, helping him make the transition from this world to the next. And now I was the one who was cleaning this debris-laden apartment. I felt very alone. And I didn’t have the emotional energy to deal with my father’s crazy collection of paperwork, ephemera and photo albums.
I cried some more. And then I called a friend, Lisa Gould, and asked for her help.
“I’m melting,” I told her. “I’m losing it. Please come sit with me and hold my hand.”
Lisa appeared at the door within 15 minutes and gave me one of the greatest hugs of all time and said, “It’s okay, Honey. You’re not alone.”
She stayed there with me for three hours. I’d like to say she helped me clean out the place but that’s not true. Lisa did all the cleaning while I sat on the couch and fought the temptation to curl up in a corner in the fetal position and make soft whimpering noises.
In the end, I tossed those photo albums into a maroon pillow case. I had not come prepared to take anything home, so those pillow cases were the best I could do. And later that evening when I arrived home, that maroon pillow case got tossed on the floor of my hallway until I had the emotional energy to deal with it.
My father’s funeral was Monday, June 20th. Once that was behind me, I felt ready to push on with life.
On Friday, June 24th, I scanned a few photos from the album and sent them to David Spriggs and asked, “How do I find out who these people are?”
There was one lone clue on the back of the first photo. It said,
Addie Hoyt and Enoch
On their wedding day
I assumed Fargo was the location.
David wrote back a few hours later and said, “Fargo is not the location. It’s the last name. Your aunt lived in a small city in Wisconsin…”
And that’s how this adventure began.
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