Last week I revisited a shard from a past life.
My dad retired when I was almost finished high school and bought a business in bankruptcy. My freshman year in college I found myself many weekends on a bus headed from Greensboro to Charlotte to help Dad become familiar with the small newspaper and the components that made it run.
A year later my brother graduated prep school in NJ and our family moved back south. That summer before Jon and I went to college our whole family threw ourselves into strengthening this company. We had nothing to lose so we had a blast. Our first office was in a dingy, tiny store-front place with grey-brown plywood-paneled walls, a couple of dusty desks and chairs. One weekend as I sat comfortably in a wing chair at home reading a good book Dad casually tossed a typesetting manual in my lap saying, “Read this. Monday you’re our typesetter.”
Dad moved us right away to a much nicer, well-lit space across from a military recruiting office. Mom, our accounting executive, loved the stories the sergeant regaled her with of potential recruits and their puffed up prowess. Even though the office was larger than the former one I remember one strange afternoon Dad interviewed an insurance salesman. I guess he got tired of all the little pitchers and their big ears listening in because at one point he paused saying, “Here, let’s talk in here,” and he and the gentleman moved into a small closet. Very strange.
Anyway, move forward 30 years. Dad is 95, still running this business up to the day he passed away. My brother and I kept it on until we realized without Dad this was simply too much for us. He had built the little limping business into a solid, strong company and it needed someone far more experienced than I to manage it, so a buyer happened along (who Dad had known and respected inasmuch as Dad, himself a force to be reckoned with, could respect anyone) and the business was sold.
The financial records and sales information have languished in a cold, remote storage facility for eight years. A month or so ago I decided the time had come to go through whatever we had there and decide what to do. Our accountants assured me that we were well past the legal requirement for maintenance of tax documents and records and it could all be disposed of.
So I stood in that enormous warehouse looking at my smallish pile of 12-14 banker’s boxes where I had hastily written the contents on each box. Recalling so much of what Dad had taught me, things I had learned about people and working with them, things I learned about myself, deadlines that stretched into many hours waiting for the last pages of a court calendar, discrepancies resolved, and the year I tearfully realized if I wanted to maintain a healthy relationship with my father I would have to find employment elsewhere. Thus I became a librarian, eventually, after walking through many doors and closing many others.
I distilled what remained into one box which I brought home with me. Nowhere near big enough to hold my memories and certainly not enough to contain the largeness of my father, all he knew and all he did. But somehow I can’t quite let go of it all.
Not just yet.