Thursday, June 1, 2006

ONE Good Thing, Week 11--The Gift

Since this installment of "Ten Good Things" is being churned out three days late, I’m going to break with my usual model this week, and only write about one good thing. The best thing.

It’s funny, the things that suddenly become important when a loved one dies. When we were dismantling my parents’ household seven years ago after my dad passed away (my mother went into Assisted Living when Dad died) I couldn’t let go of things that smelled like Dad. Dad stopped smoking a pipe when I was a little girl, yet somehow, his oldest, most treasured personal objects—the ones he kept in his top drawer—held on to that smell for decades. So, too, did the old briefcase. Though slightly musty from years spent in the bottom of a closet, it retained that hint of metal and leather, pipe tobacco, and hand oil that will always be the scent of Dad to me.

I treasure that ratty old briefcase, that relic, that antique. Stiff tan leather, it’s more of a satchel than what we think of as a briefcase nowadays. It has a lock (for which the key is long lost) and buckled leather straps on either side, one of which has been shortened by age and abuse. It has Dad’s name discreetly engraved in gold lettering above the lock. I think he received the case as a gift upon his graduation from the University of Oregon in 1942.

It’s just the right size to hold Café de la Rue’s menu signs. And I need that part of my dad to be part of my business. I hate that he never got to see me reach out and grab hold of this handful of personal challenge and success; small and unambitious as it may seem to the casual observer, it has been a monumental step for me. I like to think that Dad would have been proud. So I keep that briefcase. I take it to every event. I even call it, simply, "Dad."

This past weekend, "Dad" was packed up with everything else and trucked over to our event at the coast. As always, our lodging consisted of a couple of campsites in one of Oregon’s lovely State Parks along Highway 101. And because it is spring in Oregon, and because it is the coast at any time of year, it rained 70% of the time. Friday night, after a long day and a couple of glasses of wine, my sister and I attempted to gather all the things we needed to take to "work" on Saturday morning. I had the briefcase in my hand, intending to take it over and put it in her car for the morning. Then, in my fifty-something menopause-addled way, I got distracted, set the briefcase down on the picnic table, and rushed off to grab something else.

We packed the cooler, the supplies we had picked up at the store that day, the ice… Checked them off the list, dusted off our hands, and went to sit by the campfire with dinner in our laps and more wine at our elbows. Yawned and stretched at about 10 pm, and hit the hay early (for me…)

It had rained all night the night before. If you have ever been inside a camp trailer when it’s raining, you will understand why I was groggy from lack of real sleep. It’s like trying to sleep in a shoebox under a constant pelting of raw rice. Too loud to be white noise, but not loud enough to keep you really awake. You spend the night in a state of perpetual half-sleep. But Saturday morning, I awoke well-rested and refreshed. It had not rained a drop all night. I climbed out of bed, opened the door to let the dog out. And then I saw it.

Sitting on the picnic table, out there exposed to rain, wind, hail—any element the Almighty might have chosen to throw at it—sat Dad’s briefcase. And, inside it, my ink-jet printed menu signs, all ready for the event we would be commencing at 7:30 that morning. All of which would have been completely ruined had the weather decided to reprise its Thursday night performance.

I clucked my tongue at my cluelessness, offhandedly thanked Providence for smiling upon me so unexpectedly, picked up the briefcase and brought it into the trailer to be packed with the rest of the stuff I had staged by the door to go with us to the event.

Fifteen minutes later, it started to rain. And it rained all day. That’s when the hair on the back of my neck stood up, and I had the distinct impression that a Power somewhere just beyond my ability to comprehend, the Power I so often doubt, had bestowed upon me a most special, tender, and thoughtful gift.


  1. ally123130585918June 1, 2006 at 1:36 AM

    That was a lovely "One Best Thing" to write about ~ Dad surely was smiling on you that night ~  Ally

  2. Those little, every day miracles are the ones that always get to me the most.  Beautiful event, beautifully told.

  3. Beautifully written.

  4.     I'm glad that your work was spared, and that the powers that be decided to give you a big break.
         I know what you mean about the smells that you relate to your Dad.  Last year, when my good friend passed away, I took a bunch of his clothes home to sort through for the Goodwill.  When I got home and opened my trunk, the scent of this man hit me in the face, and it was like being with him once again.  
        I'm glad you have your Father's briefcase.  It's like having a part of him helping you along in this new enterprise you are about to undertake.  Tina

  5. A winderful entry about several best things!