- Posted June 6, 2014 by
Vero Beach, Florida
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
The Trunk My Father Left for Me: A Father's Day Tribute
On Father’s Day weekend my brothers and I will intern my Dad’s ashes in an Ohio valley. Airplanes will swirl and descend to the nearby airport. In the quiet lush of blooming forsythia we will reflect and pay our last respects. As I prepare, I can’t help but think about his memory chest. What was he trying to tell me? And why did it take me 15 years to open it?
My late Father was a man of few emotions. Through the years I have always questioned where he came from – but never where he landed. However, that connection between those two points, was a disconnect in our relationship. So when he delivered a battered trunk from California to my Vero Beach home, I knew he really wanted me to have it.
This wasn’t just any old trunk. It was four feet long and three feet wide. It appeared to have survived a World War. It smelled creepy. I also wondered if something was dead inside. It took everything to manage my gratitude and say, “Gee, thanks Dad!”
On the outside there was a simple handwritten note that said, “Baby clothing.” I knew that beautiful script well. It was the influence of my grandmother, Vera Carr, who had been a renowned and feared educator in Northwestern, Ohio. She was a cold woman who had been temporarily abandoned by her own mother at an early age. That emotional scar left a damaging trail on my Dad’s life. I don’t think it was until he was almost 64, the time that he gave me the trunk, that he connected the dots to emotional fulfilment with his own children.
Looking back I realize that the trunk was not about my Dad. It was his effort to heal my heart. At the time, my husband and I were childless. My father wanted to fix our desperate search for a resolution to our failed family planning. He also wanted to put a Band-Aid on my hurt from losing my mother, his first wife, who had just passed away in our home.
I think in Dad’s dysfunctional way, he thought giving me his baby clothing was helpful. I am not sure what was more concerning - the look on my husband’s face or Dad’s need for an affirmation.
The trunk sat tucked away until yesterday, June 1, 2014.
Now you might ask, “What took you so long?” But you really need to understand the back story. My grandmother was a hoarder. When she died the contents of her small home on South Harrison Street filled two buildings at the William’s County fairgrounds. It took two auctioneers 48 hours to move all of her wares.
As a child I remember her house as something like a modern day Hogwarts Castle. It was dark and musty. Every inch was piled high with old stuff. Even the books were filled with money and evidence of deceased relatives. There were spiders and cobwebs. I always dreaded spending the night. There was no question that Grandma’s life had been impacted by the Depression.
They say you never loose someone all at once. Their scents and their markings fade a little as each month and day passes. In the same way I questioned where my Dad often came from – I wanted him back. I wanted to connect with the gruff and grumpy old man that could have been Walter Matthau’s doppelganger.
So in the quiet of my home, I took a deep breath and unlatched the hatch. As if green smoke was released, so was my guilt. My son clamored with great excitement. He pulled out on old wooden board with pegs, titled, “Have You?” It was a checklist that determined if you were a “Gold Star” child. There were other treasures, his Boy Scout uniform and coveted Eagle Scout award. And yes, there were tons of baby clothing.
It was as if a great tomb had been opened. But somewhere in the midst of it, I was reminded of one great truth. My Dad had done his best. Despite the fact he drove me crazy, he loved me, and he wanted me to know it. Giving me that trunk was a tender way of expressing his love. It just took me a while to forget where he came from and appreciate where he landed – in my heart.