My dad passed in 2000.
He lingered on in a kind of a funk for so long, and got a little… well… uncharitable toward the end. When we finally talked him into hospice, he was so thankful for their kindness and really enjoyed his time there.
After he passed I was charged with cleaning out the house where he had lived for nearly 50 years. It was an adventure.
Lots of small boxes were packed with stuff we had to save, but also had to move out before we could clean it up for sale. We did the best we could in the time we had, but a lot of stuff ended up in messy boxes.
I was cleaning up the office today while awaiting a client, and in the back of a set of shelves I found a small, heavy, messy box. Better go through it, I thought and dug into the middle.
Out came my dad’s wallet.
It got very still in the office. No one saw inside my dad’s wallet.
It was his sacrosanct place of forbidden entry and all who tried to peer inside were sure to be struck with some sort of heinous pain that would inexorably lead to death.
Or so we were told.
We were always in awe of dad’s wallet when we were kids and we were told to NEVER even think about thinking about getting into it… EVER.
After a while, it was simply the way it was and we never thought about it again.
But here it was… right here in my hand.
I carefully opened it to get a glimpse of what mysteries it held.
It held none.
But it gave me a glimpse into my dad I hadn’t known – or at least hadn’t seen too often.
Dad wasn’t the warmest, most gentle man, although I found his bluntness and off handed wit to be pretty interesting as I grew older. Behind that quiet anger was indeed a loving and caring man… but he must have felt that it would be somehow less ‘manly’ to show it.
My dad had my mom’s drivers license tucked into the front flap so he could see it every time he opened the wallet. She had passed about three years earlier, and he had taken it hard.
On the outside he took it hard… I can only imagine how hard it was for him inside.
He also had two old black and white photographs of her that had been in his wallet since the day they were married. I had seen these images before in my mom’s scrapbook, but I didn’t know he had them in his wallet too.
I highly suspect my mom did not know they were there either.
At this point in life my folks were… combative… heh, and there didn’t seem to be much between them toward the end of their lives.
I know now that there was.
Also included were photographs of each of his grandchildren… three to four deep.
My dad also still carried his draft card, his social security card, a certificate from flight school (1948 – he was a crop duster for few years after the Army) and his military ID.
Nothing too fancy… no mysteries revealed.
But I now have a couple of tiny photographs of my mom in my wallet.
And I made sure my photograph of the wife was up to date and intact.
I am a photographer… and I have so few photographs of the people who mean the most to me. Starting today, I will change that. Starting today I want to carry photographs that have that much meaning to me. Starting today I want to make photographs that an 85 year old man would want to carry in his wallet for his entire life.
My dad used those photographs to remind him of something. Those photographs in his wallet are most assuredly the most important photographs to him that ever existed.
He kept them safe. He kept them secret.
In his wallet.
And hey… mom was indeed a looker, eh?