by Marlie Griffin
In May 1988 my father died of a heart attack. Because I hadn’t seen him or spoken with him in a while, his sudden death was even more of a blow. I was left to wonder if he had known how much I loved him, or if he had continued to love me.
The only possession I had that belonged to him was a handkerchief with his initials. I asked relatives for pictures, anything from his life, and received a few very kind responses — some old photos from a cousin and stories from my uncles. Still, I had little to remind me of the funny, loving man who was my dad.
Just after Thanksgiving 2005, I received an email message from a small college in Ohio I attended in 1975. Rather than give my address away to a man from my home town who was trying to get in touch with me, they agreed to forward the message. Here’s what it said:
“I am trying to locate a 1975 alumnus of Otterbein College. I have encountered a small cache of personal mementos of her father’s that I would like to provide to her if she’s interested in having them. Could you please forward her this message and give her my email address?”
Reading the message, I burst into tears. How could someone have something that belonged to my father so many years after he had died? What was it? I replied immediately and began checking my computer every hour hoping for a reply. It came three days later.
“My name is David. Quite a few years ago I attended an auction for unclaimed goods at a storage facility. A file cabinet I purchased had a fair amount of stuff in it; the auctioneer said just throw the contents in the trash. Most of it was clearly not of much value. One of the files, however, had more personal stuff in it which I could not see simply discarding. I also noted an envelope with a return address. I thought I’d just hold the contents and attempt to find the sender (you). I tried to find you, but failed. So the stuff got squirreled away and forgotten about. I recently rediscovered it when I was cleaning out my own junk, and wondered again about locating someone who might want to have it.”
Today, a box arrived containing my father’s navy papers, pictures of him, pictures of me, my sisters, my family, father’s day cards and a newspaper clipping from 1969 that my father had saved, about how time can slip through our fingers and we can lose things that matter to us.
How many people would have kept the contents of a file cabinet all those years? How many people would have insisted on sending them at their own expense? Thank you, David, for caring — and for letting me know that through it all, Dad loved me.