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Letters: The Box Dad Left for Me

Desiree Cooper

Millie Jefferson

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'Your Neat'
(John Moe)
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Desiree Cooper: Last week, we brought a story from John Moe about moving and what that means for his emotional baggage -- including an 80-pound box filled with remnants of his past.

Nicole Rabaud listens to us on WUNC in Durham, N.C. Her dad died six years ago, and she has two of his boxes left. They concern the divorce between her mom and dad. She said John's story was a call to action for her. Nicole, Welcome to Weekend America.

Nicole Rabaud: Oh, thank you, Desiree.

So Nicole, what kinds of things are in the boxes?

There are blueprints for renovation, there were love notes post-divorce, there were affidavits from my dad's family that he had everyone sign saying that my mom was unfit. There's old grade reports and drawings I did. Everything I was did was heavily scrutinized... And it's odd, because my recollection is that I felt very invisible during that time. I am sort of bracing myself, because there are other things I am not sure if I'm going to encounter. I seem to remember that I went through a psychological examination and I seem to remember there was an accusation of incest... that was part of it. So I don't know if I am going to run into that. Then I don't know what I am going to do at that point -- maybe I don't want to read it, but then maybe I do. I just don't know.

Has anything surprised you in the box?

I keep finding little dried violets, little dried flowers in there. I don't know what they mean, if they were from something sentimental. Certainly, I think the fact that there were love notes post-divorce is sort of an interesting thing to ponder. Clearly, they were in love still, in some way -- so that's a surprise. And then to play it out in my mind: "Well, how would that be?" I wonder if, to a certain extent, they were flirting with each other and they would inevitably feel that rejection afresh -- and that's why I always saw that constant burning anger.

How long do you think it will take you to get to the bottom of the boxes?

Well, I think I have the stomach for another week or two. The key is, I have to take breaks. There are times when I feel like my stomach gets all knotted up.

What is that knot in your stomach?

I get tense when I read certain documents, and it rekindles feelings I didn't want to have again. Or it turns on its head -- something I didn't think about my dad, I didn't think of him in this way.

Can you give me an example of something you have come across that turned your idea of your dad topsy-turvy?

I think that affidavit that he had everyone in the family sign about my mom not fitting in and not being a fit mother. I always thought that the divorce was just between my mom and dad and the rest of the family was keeping quiet about it, but they actually did get pulled in in a variety of ways.

Your dad actually packed these boxes for you to have when he was gone. And now he's gone, and you've gone through the boxes, what do you want to tell your dad about the gift that he's left you?

I don't think I would say thank you, unfortunately. Its somewhere in the middle -- I'm not grateful, but I'm not resentful either.

Well, Nicole I want to wish you luck on unpacking those boxes.

Thank you Desiree, it was really a pleasure talking to you.

  • Music Bridge:
    Artist: ROM
    CD: Rom (Wimm)
More stories from our Letters series


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  • By Amber Schneider

    From Buffalo, NY, 05/18/2008

    this is a good website about america

    By Nicole Rabaud

    From Durham, NC, 04/27/2008

    Would it be possible to remove the link to my blog from the site? While I'm honored to have been included, my blog had been semi-anonymous until now (first names only). Now, when I google my name, my blog pops up right away. I would like to preserve my privacy from the background checks of potential employers.

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