By Taylor Smith
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.
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 folder that was left in a sea of other forgotten folders somewhere in a closet.
But here it was.
Here you were.
Uninvited and undeniably commanding the center of my attention in a matter of seconds,
in a way that no one else could.
I slid my finger under the envelope’s opening, holding my breath.
When I tipped the envelope down, a red folder slid into my lap.
Open it, Taylor. Come on. Just do it.
But it’s not that easy.
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.
But I did it.
The first piece of paper from the 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. It made my heart swell with pride. It was like I was watching him walk across the stage to receive an award for accomplishments no one knew about. Secret’s out now, Dad. You were a champion.
This mysterious folder business was off to a good start. I was breathing, at least. But who knew what else was buried in the pile. Maybe it would be best to just stop here.
Fear, shut it.
I closed my eyes and 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.
But reading her words allowed me to learn more about my nana – and her relationship to her son — 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.”
Dad, I’m so glad that you were loved by your mom – that she thought the world of you. Because you deserved that, Dad. You really did. Maybe the way she loved you is how you learned to love me. I’m so thankful for nana. I wish I could have told her that myself.
The next few things in the folder 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 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 knew 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 can’t remember that many details. It’s frustrating. So much so, that sometimes I let doubt creep in and sabotage my beliefs of our loving family.[/caption]
The letters I was holding would either confirm those doubts or dispel them. I hoped 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.
It’s just that…
Mom. Dad. You two are ridiculous! This is so, SO you. Farts and romance and love-you-forevers in one sentimental card. This explains a lot. A lot about you two, our family, and why I am the way I am.
The rest of the cards were the same kind of thing:
And yes, more farts.
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 laughed so hard,
so hard it was like I was watching videos of stand-up comedy. The good kind.
This folder was the most beautiful gift. Better than all the presents I received at Christmas during my childhood.
I learned a lot about my dad —
about things 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 your 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 your love.
Editor’s note: Taylor was a features intern at The Oregonian a couple years ago, working out of the Hillsboro office, so I got to know her as a fellow writer. She is unquestionably the most upbeat person I know. Her back story is pretty extraordinary so I invited her to share it in a guest blog last year. If you missed it then, read it here: “Meet my mom.”
Tomorrow: “Be careful what you wish for” by Raymond Cabellero