I got a call from you today.
Well, sort of.
“Hi, Taylor. I came across a file of your dad’s. Looks like it contains some personal things. I thought you might like to have it.”
“What? I mean, yes. Yes. I would like to have it. I would love have it, actually.”
“Great. I’m glad I was able to track you down, Taylor. I hope all is well.”
Dad, that is so your style,
coming in right outta the middle of nowhere,
all of your 78-inches somehow stuffed into this bulky, white envelope, which my fingers gripped so tight my knuckles turned white.
I wasn’t expecting you to arrive this way.
I mean, I think about you every day, but I didn’t think I’d be sitting on my living room floor, holding onto what I could only assume were
pieces of you,
in some forgotten file folder that was left in a sea of other forgotten file folders somewhere in a closet.
But here it was.
Here you where.
Uninvited and undeniably commanding the center of my attention in a matter of seconds
in a way that no one else could.
When I slid my finger under the envelope’s opening, I was holding my breath.
And I’m pretty sure I still wasn’t breathing when I tipped the envelope down and a red folder slid into my lap.
Open it, Taylor. Come on. Just do it.
But it’s not that easy, you see.
Because it wasn’t just a matter of opening a folder that contained some of my dad’s things –
Opening this folder also meant opening up part of my soul,
the deep, hidden part that craves just one more day,
one more hour
to create a last precious father-daughter memory.
And that’s a really raw place to tear open.
So it’s really not that easy.
But I did it.
The first piece of paper was a letter circa early 2000.
The letterhead stated Arkansas Swimming Hall of Fame.
“Dear Arthur, as you know, because of your outstanding contribution to the sport of swimming in the state of Arkansas, you have been inducted into the Arkansas Swimming Hall of Fame.”
Whoa. Hold up. Dad, this is a BIG DEAL. Why didn’t you tell me about this??
The letter went on to talk about my dad’s swimming career, most of which I already knew, but when it was there, printed on this formal letter, it made my eyes go wide, my heart swell with pride.
Dad, you were the dark horse, the unheard of swimmer who somehow conquered it all. You were nationally ranked, a five-time All American. You were a champion.
You were so much more than a swimmer, Dad, but I am so proud that you didn’t let your inexperience in the swimming world hold you back. You did it. You worked so hard and you made your mark.
So this mysterious folder business was off to a good start. But who knew what else was buried in the pile.
Mechanically, I reached for the next thing in the stack- a card “For a Son Who’s Loved So Much.”
It was a “just because” card from my dad’s mom, who I called my nana.
Nana and I weren’t super close. We never really had the opportunity to be, living more than a thousand miles apart. To tell you the truth, I always thought that I would never be able to relate to her – a sophisticated Southern woman and me, a prank-loving, spontaneous-dancing free-spirit child.
But reading her words allowed me to learn more about my nana –and her relationship to her son, my dad- than I had ever known.
“Words cannot express my love for you – it grows every year, if that is even possible. How I cherish the loving memories of your childhood (rosy red cheeks that looked as good as apples)… You are my Guardian Angel.”
Wow, Dad. You and nana must have been really close. I know I didn’t know her very well, but she really loved you. I’m so glad that you were so loved by your mom – that she thought the world of you. Because you so deserved that, Dad. You really did.
The next few things were business documents that didn’t mean much to me,
but behind those pages were what I had been hoping for, yet not hoping for,
the really personal stuff.
The stack of cards that I was holding in my hands wasn’t just my dad,
it was my mom, too – letters she had written him from their nearly 15 years of marriage.
I know my mom and dad loved each other, but when you’re a little kid, you don’t really pay attention or pick up on the lovey-dovey stuff.
Now that I’m older, I’ve been trying to remember how exactly my parents showed that they loved one another. As much as I rack my brain, I just can’t remember that many details, which is so frustrating. So much so, that sometimes I let doubt creep in and sabotage my thoughts of my loving family.
These letters, I was beginning to realize, would either confirm those doubts or dispel them. I was hoping for the latter.
Here it goes. Card one.
“The other day, I was in an elevator, when all of a sudden, somewhere between the 11th and 12th floors, something made me think of you. I could picture you in my mind, plain as day, with that look that you get… Then, as quickly as it came…
(I opened the card)
That’s when the tears started falling.
Not because I was sad, however,
Mom. Dad. You two are ridiculous! This is so, SO you. Farts and romance and love-you-forevers in one sentimental card. Oh, this explains a lot. A lot about you two, our family, and why I am the way I am. You two, seriously. You’re the best.
The rest of the cards were rather the same kind of thing,
Farts and even something about dining together without clothes on.
This was love.
This was the love of my parents.
It was them in all their quirky, hilarious, you-can’t-write-this-stuff kinda love.
I was laughing so hard,
so hard it was like I was watching videos of stand-up comedy. The good kind.
I tell you, this folder was the most beautiful gift.
I learned a lot about my dad,
about some things that he was too humble to share,
about him as a son and as a husband,
a man who was deeply loved, deeply passionate, and all together, deeply deep.
Yup. That was my dad. One deep dude.
I finished reading the cards and closed the folder, only wishing that there had been just a few more cards, a few more keepsakes or napkin-scribbled notes that could bring more of him back to me.
When you lose someone you love, there are
days when you’re heart is heavy,
days when you just need a good cry, or scream,
days when you are angry at their not being there,
days when your memories of them bring you this amazing warmth,
days when you shout thanksgiving praise that you even got to know them at all.
Then there are days like this one,
when you receive the blessing of a mysterious file folder, filled with things you never would have asked for -had a genie granted you five wishes- and you find yourself rolling on the floor, laughing, thinking that
I have the best parents ever. Thank you, God. And Mom and Dad, thank you for this moment, too. I will always remember it. I will always remember you guys.
Hi Taylor: I remember the call from your Mother when she first met your Dad. It went something like “Gina, I found my Dabo and yes, he is tall”. She visited my husband and I every year on her birthday and she adored Dabo and we used to look for a Dabo for her. My husband, Dabo is 6’6″ and we used to alway check out the tall guys looking for her Dabo. So the call was wonderful and funny. She said, “He could be the one”, and of course he was.
Love to you always,
Gina, your message brought the biggest smile to my face :o) I love hearing stories like this. I crave them! Hmm, the more I learn, the more I think I sound very much like my mom 🙂 Hugs to you, Gina!
Taylor, this is the most profound love story I have read in a long time. Its beauty lies in the delight and wonder you got swept up in, as you relived those years through the pages of your parents. It made me see my marriage with eyes of gratitude and wonder. Your dad’s gifts to you are remarkable. Your gift of words and connectivity are God’s gifts to us, your readers and other friends. Thank you. You made my day.
Taylor, my father left my mother when I was 5 years old and never came back into my life. He passed away one year before I’found’ him again through Veteran’s Admin records. I reconnected with his family and received many many letters, photos and cards, some WWII medals, etc. They are like the ‘dry bones’ of his person hood, that God has fleshed out for me over the years. I know how important that has been for me. I’m rejoicing with you that you received the same opportunity. You are blessed!
Taylor, I LOVE the way you write!