I’m very close to finishing up with my dad’s room. Today, I finished the closet, except for some shirts. I already donated about 30 pairs of pants, or as my dad would say, trousers. After wrapping several years of receipts and tax records in paper bags and duct tape and lugging them to the trash, I finally went to reach up to the top closet shelf. There were more tax records to wrap, a picture of some general or colonel he must have served under, and finally a large padded envelope. What could it be? Something important, I imagined.
Inside the envelope was a thin red book with the Marine Corps emblem. Opening the book, I discovered it was a folder with my dad’s certificate of retirement after 20 years in the Corps and a photos of him with 17 other retirees in khaki uniforms. My dad was clearly the handsomest. But they made a mistake on the date! The certificate says he retired in 1979. But he retired in June of 1969 right after I finished 6th grade. Oh, well.
I carried the red folder in the chair I keep in my dad’s room, my grief chair, where I go to feeling my feelings, and cried. I’m not sure if it was the significance of the retirement certificate or that I hadn’t cried in a while and have been working intensely on this room for a few days. Then Doodle came in, tail wagging and a concerned look in her big brown eyes. She can be a sweet dog sometimes.
I took a breath and decided to talk to my parents:
“I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate you more when you were alive. All the challenges and struggles you went through. Your strength. Your courage. Your faith. Thank you for passing that on to me. If you can, guide me, help me to pass that on to my children, even though they are grown.”
My parents responded:
You’ve done a good job. We are proud of you. Just keep setting a good example. Love them. Don’t be afraid to tell them, “Jesus loves you.” He does love them, and he loves you, too.
Talking to my parents helped. Their message helped. Crying helped.
My father’s retirement must have been a big deal. Definitely a relief, but maybe a little scary. Like my retirement. If I’d gotten a retirement certificate, I would’ve hung it on the wall. Or at least the refrigerator.
My father is the person who told me when I was 12 years old, “Nothing is impossible.” His words made an impression. But now, I realize that his life made even more of an impression. Even after his 20 years of military service, my parents faced and overcame big challenges. They want me to clarify that they couldn’t have done it without Jesus.
I still have a little more of Dad’s desk to clean out. No telling what I’ll find there. He saved everything. There’s a cigar box full of shoe laces. And I will never have to buy paper clips again. Here are some things I’ve found in and around my dad’s desk. You never know when you might need some carbon paper.
Later I spent a couple of hours making a collage from one of Mom’s old angel calendars. It was an intensely fun diversion. I think the hands are interesting.
Tomorrow, I switch gears and get some yellow paint samples for the kitchen!