For the last few weeks, I've been feeling nostalgic for those months before my father passed away. I know, it's crazy. Still my mind seems to wander back there when I least expect it. Sometimes it feels like a sucker punch, other times, a simple remembrance, not sad or painful, of something that I connect with Dad.
Today it started with a post on my friend Wholly Jeanne's blog and this picture:
|Picture by Wholly Jeanne, http://thebarefootheart.com/|
It reminded me of the green file box, probably pilfered from the Navy 50 years ago (does that make it an antique or evidence in a court of law?) that sat among the other geegaws on my father's desk. The box was a holdover, actually, from my mother's very organized Christmas habits. It housed the names and addresses of the people she sent cards to every year.
By the time I moved back home, Mother's brain damage had robbed her of this holiday chore along with most others that required reading or writing. Dad took it over and added his own organizational style. It was a toss-up which would have been easier to read, mom's aphasia-zapped lettering or Dad's handwriting that even Navajo code talkers would have had trouble deciphering. Dad took over buying the cards ( usually a snow covered house with a wreath on the door or mailbox, Old Glory waving from the flagpole in the yard, and a redbird sitting on a picket fence.) addressing them, writing notes to friends, including checks for his children, and posting them. The process began in September when he ordered the cards from the NRA. As soon as the Thanksgiving turkey became soup, Dad would spend the time between breakfast, crossword puzzle and lunch working on the cards. The green box sat open and empty. Its once indexed addresses, lay in a jumble near Dad's Cross pen and toothpicks. Last year's address labels were on the floor close to, but not in, the trash can. As he completed each card, Dad would add the current year's date to the blue-lined card as a way of keeping track.
Near the end, the number of cards dwindled along with Dad's energy level. Dad passed away a month after Christmas. The cards had all been mailed, but the half-used box and thank you gift from the NRA - a bullet shaped flashlight- remained where he left them. It took a few weeks before I could muster the
If I close my eyes I can conjure up a vision of the area that had become my father's sanctuary in his last year. Many seldom used items on the desk were treasures from a by-gone era. The brass stamp holder, the Naval Academy clock that no longer worked even though we'd taken it to the repair shop several times, the family tree frame containing grade school pictures of his daughters, the bullets he had the wisdom to remove from the gun he kept locked in his closet, his wedding ring hanging from a gold chain, his pen knife, envelopes, wadded up tissues, checkbooks, a half-used roll of Rolaids, mints that were no longer minty and the green tin box.
Eventually I made my way to the desk. I tossed most of its contents with wild abandon. Some things I put aside as keepsakes. I can remember holding the file box in my hands and wondering, toss or keep. Turns out I tossed the addresses but kept the box. I found it today at the bottom of a drawer covered with stuff my children will one day have to decide whether to toss or keep. As I look at it and hold it, I find there is no emotion attached to it. It's a box, right? Yet the sight of Jeanne's box hooked the memory of it and pulled it to the forefront of my brain.
While speaking with a grief coach last week I had a light bulb moment. Memories, she said, are not just stored in our heads or our hearts. They remain in our bones, our muscles. It often occurs, she told me, that after a chiropractic adjustment, people will have an emotional meltdown because stored energy/memory had been released. I think that must be why we can be transported back to a different time and place when we hear a song from our high school days or smell an old lover's cologne. Like a green tin box filled with blank index cards, memories are tucked away waiting to return with us to another time and place.
Where do you store your memories?