This morning, we started cleaning out my dad's apartment. I haven't been there since the last time I saw him.
The finality of his death hit me the second I walked in the door. It hit me when I touched his slippers by the bed, when I saw the recliner chair I'd bought for him last year and his bottles of medication, when we opened the fridge and there was the jarred fruit he liked to eat for breakfast, when I held his eyeglasses in my hand. Until today, I hadn't felt that kind of pain from his death, the kind that makes your chest hurt and feel a little suffocated.
There is a lot of stuff to dig through. I mean, a LOT. There were countless new shirts, still in their cellophane packaging; never-used belts and socks; new shoes still in their boxes. If ever there was anyone fully prepared for Armageddon, it was my dad. Donating it all to charity is going to feel really good, so we can enable the masses to dress stylishly for Armageddon.
My dad kept every single birthday and Father's Day card from me and my sister; we often gave him ones with car themes, because of his beloved Volvo. I also found all the postcards and letters we sent from college and trips. Once, I visited him at his office (he was an accountant); as we were leaving, I snuck back and left a "Hi, Daddy!" love note on his chair for him to find in the morning. He kept that, too, and on it he wrote the date.
Because there is always laughter, we laughed. Like when we discovered Dad's collection of plastic bread bag clasps in a kitchen cupboard, a bunch dating back to when bread was under a buck a loaf.
If he were around, I would have mercilessly teased him about them.
We unearthed all sorts of lists, like this 1975 packing list for a trip. Right on top: pipes and tobacco. My dad was into health food (note the millet, sesame seeds, soy granules, and sunflower seeds) but for years, he smoked a pipe. I never liked the smell of it when it was lit but I adored the scent wafting from the open bins of tobacco in the store where he bought his supply.
Sure enough, I found his collection of pipes. And a 45 record of Rhinestone Cowboy, a song he loved. Photos of him in his single days on a cruise—the S.S. Nassau—looking handsome and happy, surrounded by ladies. "At least I hope it was when he was single," I joked to my mom.
The clothes in his closets and the ones hanging on his bedroom door were the hardest to deal with. His winter windbreaker still had his scent. We couldn't bear to go through them this time around, but there will be many more trips.
I took home Dad's 1934 Singer sewing machine that sat in his foyer, right by the front door. Also, one of his shirts, a red plaid one he loved. I'm wearing it right now, and remembering.