Tuesday, November 18, 2008

You Just Never Know

We go through life thinking, either, we know how things are, or being clever enough to realize we'll discover as we go along. I'm not always happy with the knowledge gained from some experiences. But, as I see it, another piece to the puzzle is still a piece. So, I keep moving along...

Today, I'm thinking of Dad's wallet. The source of economic stability. "Daddy, I need some money for the field trip." Out came the wallet. "Pop, do you think I can go to the movies with my friends?" Wallet, out. "Daddy, I am beginning to look at colleges..." The wallet couldn't hold that much, but still, Dad was there to help.

Maybe the best lessons were the times when the wallet didn't come to the rescue. When, "No," was the answer. Or, as Dad generally phrased his descent, "Not today." Learning that you won't always get what you want is a hard, but necessary, life lesson.

The wallet was my opportunity to learn the importance of honor and respect for other people's property. "Go and get my wallet," was the command I'd hear. I'd fetch it, bring it to Dad who opened it and dispensed the cash. Unless I was instructed, "Go and get the money out of my wallet," I never touched Dad's Wallet. Never snooped through its mysteries.

I'm not sure how he sat in a spot beyond my natural kid-curiosity; he simply did. My grandmother didn't enjoy the same privilege. I was often in her jewelry box, or riffling through the contents on her kidney-shaped dressing table. Ponds cold cream and jeweled hat pins were simply too hard to resist. But, somewhere I learned that I couldn't just take something because it caught my fancy. I had to ask the owner before I helped myself. I'm sure Dad and family must have instilled those things in me, but I can't tell you how. It's just always been there. Thankfully.

How often Dad opened that black leather wallet probably built my foundation of being a generous spirit. If you need it, I have it and you ask, it's yours. That was how Jimmy saw the world, too. He was not a man who said, "I love you," but making sure you had what was needed was his way of putting love into action.

The true miracle of Dad's generosity is that I had no idea how often there wasn't much in his wallet. When it might have been totally empty. I never knew that. And, not knowing means I did not grow up fearfully- what a gift. My world was kept on an even keel. Thank you, Pop! Also, thank you for recognizing when I was old enough to hear the truth about our financial situation when it wasn't very good. Those times when our discussions guided me through the lessons of learning how to manage money and expectations.

Although it modified as I grew and gained life experience, I hold a galvanized image of my father. Meaning, I have my idea of who Dad was as, Jimmy, the man. Often, how we see our parents is quite different from the way others might see them. I know my father was far from perfect, but he was a superior parent. I know that some people may have thought Jimmy was a real S.O.B. Some may think him a saint. Depends on who you are and what your experiences with him totaled. Regardless, I know how I see my father.

We hold our images of our important people, but we very rarely get to peer through the window that provides their view of us. It's hard to know how others see us. You can ask, but that doesn't give first-hand experience. Most of the time, their words are all we have to go on. Knowing how others see you might be as important to the equation as how you see them. Just a thought.

So, back to Dad's Wallet. Turns out the same leather that paid for experiences in my life, also held the secret of how my father saw me. My importance in his life story. After Daddy died, I had the sad job of going through his belongings and handling his affairs. I held some chores back; I guess to be more emotionally ready. P.S.- you're never ready...

Dad's Wallet was one of the last things I tackled. More because I couldn't get over the notion that I was snooping which made me uncomfortable. I took a breath and started in. There was some cash in there; not much. Tucked in another part, a neatly folded $2 bill. A social security card, although he told me NEVER carry my social security card in my wallet for safety reasons... Good advice!

A dry cleaning ticket. A credit card. And, then...a small black & white photo of a cherubic little baby; the very first photo of me. Several color photos of a sad-eyed grade school child as she changed through years of growth. My high school year book picture. A creased and folded letter I sent years ago from camp. A small envelope with a lock of chestnut colored hair- In spidery writing on the outside, simply- "Holly."

Dad's Wallet yielded one final payment- the true view of how Jimmy saw Holly. His unsaid, "I love you," stowed in leather. Imagine experiencing that I was as important to him as he is to me. All those pieces of me closely carried daily in his pocket. You just never know, do you? But sometimes, if truly blessed, you get a glimpse.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka Jimmy Dietor's Kid


Eileen said...

Holly ... what a dear, dear piece of writing. Jimmy is smiling and is still just as proud of his little girl. With all of the blogs/articles on the economic woes of the day, this piece about personal financial responsibility and the example of receiving those lessons with love is the most important thing I've read in quite some time. I wish I could have met Jimmy, but seeing him through your eyes is a gift.

melissa said...

I know a little of what you must feel:
I have a letter my dad wrote to me on my 12th birthday. At the time, I think I was a little deflated that my "present" wasn't a toy in brightly colored paper. But in the time since, I realize that I've read that letter at least once a year, if not more. The envelope (labeled simply, "Melissa") is all wrinkled and the paper is creased and faded, but somehow brightly colored with my dad's memories and hopes for me. It's one of the few posessions I can always locate without hesitation.

From one daddy's girl to another, I'm glad you found something like that from yours. Take care of my daddy for me...

Anonymous said...

OK, you made me cry. What a touching story about your memory of your dad. I have two quotes for you today:

Sometimes the poorest man leaves his children the richest inheritance. and...

“He didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”

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