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[Comments] (8) Giving Up: I haven't written about this because I was hoping it would have a happier ending. Back in May, after my mother died, we kids divided up her things for our inheritance (actually we did this before she died, with her badgering us to take more stuff). I shipped my things USPS to my address in New York. The low-value things like Tupperware and sheets and books I packed into cardboard boxes or fruit crates. The high-value things -- the compact OED, the scrapbooks my mother made for me, the French oven, the pitcher, the bedside lamp I had when I was young -- I packed into durable plastic tubs and mailed with insurance.

Most of the low-value stuff arrived within a week. The high-value stuff and two-thirds of the books disappeared off the face of the earth. I didn't buy tracking on the packages, so I can't track them from the USPS web site, but the post office has a way of tracking insured packages. They show the packages being accepted into the Bakersfield post office on May 17 and 19. That's it. My inheritance is gone.

As with any disaster I'm always revisiting what I could have done to avoid it. The most obvious thing is that I should have written my address directly on the plastic tubs. That way, no matter what happened I would eventually get the tubs along with whatever was in them at the time. The other obvious thing I should have done is not used USPS. I spent about $200 on postage, and it was only that low thanks to my liberal use of media mail. But the stuff I cared enough to insure -- especially the scrapbooks -- I should have cared enough to send UPS or FedEx.

After much badgering and form-filling and asking people here and in Bakersfield to check the back room, I've given up. After much more badgering and form-filling, today I got the post office to accept my insurance claims. In a few weeks they'll either find my packages or send me some money orders. I didn't buy a lot of insurance: just enough to (I thought) make the post office take my valuable packages seriously. But at least I'll get some closure.

When someone you love dies, the things they leave behind can keep your memories of them alive if you incorporate them into your own life. For a long time the only thing I had of my father's was one of his shirts, which is why I was so happy to find his postcards. Right now it looks like the tangible reminders of my mother's life are just more things that are gone forever.


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