I found your wallet, dad. It had been hiding in the box of your things I’ve been carrying around all these years and never opened. I recently decided it was time to find out anything and everything I could about your life and doing so meant opening the box. I finally felt strong enough to find out who you were, where you had been and what you had left behind.
I trembled as I opened the remains of your belongings- both nervous and excited to see what I might find. The smell hit me strong and while I can’t say for sure after 20 years, I think it was somehow the smell of you. I sat there staring at the contents of your life and found myself wondering if this is how it always goes. Does everyone’s legacy just become remains in box when they’re gone? I’m sorry that’s where I left you, dad, but I’m grateful that your things have followed me everywhere I’ve gone.
There was the pillow that you had when were home sick. I vividly remember crying into that pillow a multitude of times before it got tucked away. I pulled it out of the box and held it close to me – remembering that you had rested your head on this pillow many times. There was the remote control car that we bought you. I know how much you loved driving it and how much happiness it brought you. I wish for just one moment I could see your smile and hear your laughter as you ran into the back of everyone’s ankles.
The box also contained your yearbooks and I smiled as I perused through the pages reading comments from everyone who clearly adored you. There were some of your plaid shirts, papers from your time in the military and shoe box full of the things that were sitting next to your bed when you passed away. My heart raced faster as I opened it to find out what was inside. Suddenly, I realized I had finally found what you wanted me to find- your wallet.
It was old and distressed and I wondered if that came from the years it spent in the box or all the time it spent with you. Your driver’s license picture hit me like a train. It was taken just 7 short months before your death and I could see in your eyes how tired you were of fighting. I’m sorry that you had to fight so long. There’s an old list of phone numbers on a sheet of notebook paper and I smiled wondering what you might think of having all those numbers stored in a phone. There were work cards, insurance cards and medical cards. It all seemed like the bare necessities- until I found the hiding picture insert.
It was damaged and worn and I knew you had carried it with you for a long time. As I opened it up, I could see the picture from my first Christmas and I immediately began to sob. I continued through and my eyes flooded with more and more tears as I turned the pages. They were all me. Page after page, picture after picture – it was like a slide show of watching me grow right there in your wallet. I couldn’t help but cry thinking about all the times you must have gotten these pictures out to show everyone how proud you were of your little girl.
I know you loved a lot of people, dad. You had enough love inside of you to make this entire world go round. But I’m so blessed to have been the one that you carried closest to you all the time. I’m grateful to know that you’re still watching me all these years later and hope that you’re just as proud of me as you were then. Being your daughter is the greatest privilege of my life and I’m so glad to have been reminded that being my dad was yours. I love you forever, daddy.