My father died ten years ago. I miss him every day. I also forget about him more often than I want. His memory is fading and I hate that.
I’ve tried to hold on to things about him that are important to me.
I have the hard hat he wore when he started rough necking in the oilfield. I have a pair of cowboy boots he wore when he was a rig manager, running a million dollar drilling rig, drilling oil wells for rich folk in Houston. I have a drill bit he gave me from his drilling rig.
Most important, in my desk there’s a big envelope. A paper clip holds the flap closed. To you, to most others, it’s just an overstuffed manila envelope with a simple note on the front “This is important to me.”
It’s full of birthday cards. From my Dad to me. I cherish them with my heart.
You see, my Dad gave me a birthday card every year. Not a Hallmark card, not something fancy. Not a two dollar card, not even a dollar card. He didn’t like to spend money. He’d go down to the Dollar Store and buy one of those two for a dollar cards. He learned he could buy just one for a half dollar. That was a good deal for him.
He quit school in the eighth grade, so writing was hard for him.
He misspelled words and sometimes he turned the letters around. He didn’t write much, but he tried.
I didn’t mean to keep the birthday cars. Not back then. They were just cards from Dad in those early days. Then again, I could not throw them away. They were from his heart, from father to son. Over time, they just sort of stacked up. I put them in an envelope. The envelope got one card thicker every year until 2009.
Some days I pull a handful of them out, spread them across the desk. Then, I really miss my Dad. They close with “Love, Dad,” “I love you, Lamar..” One says “Happy Birthday, Your Dad.” Another says “Son, I love you.” They are from him. They hold words he wrote, in his fractured cursive handwriting. All more valuable than gold.
They mean the world to me.
Going through some of his papers after he died, I found some bank notes, where he borrowed money and signed at the bottom. No, he didn’t love his banker and, for sure, they were not birthday cards. I know that.
But, I remember the bank notes I’ve signed, the thirty year mortgage, the three year car note. Money to fix an emergency. I remember the thoughts that moment before I put pen to paper and made a commitment and a promise. Sincere. Purposeful. Serious.
My Dad did the same, every time he bought a half dollar birthday card, opened it, read it and thought about what it said. He took it home. He added his words and penned his name at the bottom.
He promised me he loved me. He put it in writing.
Yes, this is important to me. Miss you Dad.
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