The box sits on a shelf. I know each content—items with stories to tell. I move it from place to place, each time saying, “I need to open this box.” I move it to my office. It sits on my desk. Taunting me. OPEN ME it screams. I just whisper, “Not today.” I am sick of looking at the box. Perhaps I’ll just throw it away. But I know, I know to the core of my being that I must open the box. Saturday arrives and I’m working on cleaning my office which has devolved into a storage unit. I move box after box of books into the hallway. It’s time to let this stuff go. I pick up the box. I look at it. Take a breath and walk to the other room. I return and pick up the box, scissors in hand. It is time…
I take another deep breath. I touch the belt that makes me cringe as I finger the worn leather. I put it aside. I pick up his belt buckles, the one with eagles. I didn’t realize he had so many. I open the little black box. I suck in my breath. I remember the day. My sister and I stopped at the truck stop in Pendleton where we stopped every year on our way to and from Portland. It cost us a lot of money to buy him that belt buckle. I still remember his eyes when he opened the gift from his daughters. He proudly wore that belt buckle. I shut the box and put it aside. I can’t decide if I’m going to keep it or not. I go through the stack of papers. In the midst of ramblings about freedom and government and his ex-wife (my momma) I find the treasure—my grandmother’s poetry. Each paper written in her own pen…the beautiful cursive I remember. I put it on the counter. These I will keep.
I’m reminded of Jesus’s words in Matthew, “But the servant who had received one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.” My father was talented. He started college with a dream of being an architect. He quit before graduating and I’m not sure why because he never told me. I remember when I was young watching him sit at his drafting table. Large architectural paper held in place at the top and bottom. He was drawing his dream home. He told me one day we’d have a piece of property in the hills of Idaho and he’d build this house. “This is your room.” he’d show me. “This here, this is your momma’s sewing room.” I’d look at him and ask where the piano went. And he’d show me the space he’d design to hold the piano.
I loved my father’s dreams and for the longest time I believed in them. But as I grew and we moved from rental to rental I began to understand my father was just a dreamer. Pretty soon I quit believing in his dream. I began to dream of the day I’d have a home of my own where my children would have their own room. A dream that came true thanks to my husband. I find his drawings of the house. This I will keep. And someday, I will give it to an architect to create architectural plans. I will never build his house, but I will have his dream…once upon a time it was mine too.
I come to last item in the box. I know this one will be the hardest to deal with. It is smaller than I remember. I don’t know whether to smile or cry. It is worn; pages are falling apart. I open it. He loved Isaiah. His favorite scripture was Isaiah 40:31. I can quote it by heart. “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” I turn the pages. Revelations. The pages are worn thin and notes cover both margins. I sigh. The teaching of an apopolyptic cult line his bible. I want to burn it…but that seems so wrong. I put it aside. I don’t know what to do with it.
I decide to give his belt buckles to the thrift store. I toss all his drawings and clippings and useless government conspiracy notes in the recycling bin. I touch the belt. I can hear him snap that thing before it hit my little body time after time. This, this is going into the garbage.
I tell the husband I’m going to throw away his bible. He tells me no. I decide that if he wants to keep that thing he can. So now my father’s bible sits in the husband’s office along with his own father’s bible. I just let it go.
I realize, after I opened the box, that the weight of my father’s crime no longer has me trapped. It’s as if the man who sits in a jail cell in the desert no longer exists. The man who abused me, who sold my soul to play a piano, who left me hungry and homeless a few times. That man is dead. And the memories I have left of him are the ones I will keep in my box of memories.