One of the lovely things about my dad was he collected packets of articles for people he cared about. He lived to file articles. There are still dozens of large boxes of them to sort through since he died, and it will be a long term project to go through the raw feed of material he meant to separate out into particular piles, but I have in my possession about fifteen packets just for me and my family.
From the time I left for college to about a year or so before he died, my dad assembled collections of articles for me in big yellow envelopes. He did that for my brothers. He did that for other friends and family as relevant articles presented themselves. If you expressed an interest in a topic around him you might get a file of papers in the mail. It was his obsession to clip and save from printed material, and in its distilled form the packets were personal filing masterpieces. I don't know anyone who got one who didn't feel special for receiving it.
If he really deeply loved you, though, you got a lot of packets. And my dad deeply loved me.
My packets were filled with articles on music, and reviews of books and plays, pieces about places I'd been or would like to go, fascinating obituaries, anything he thought I might find interesting. I remember once he mixed the packets up by mistake and I got an envelope intended for my brother Arno. I loved it. It was all about brains and science and Japan and martial arts and things that didn't make their way into my normal packet, and to get a glimpse at how he viewed someone else's life in terms of tailoring their packet was amazing. I kind of wished he would mix the packets up on purpose once in a while, because I felt I learned a lot about both my brother and my dad by what was in the other packet. I wonder what someone else would learn about me from mine?
During my thirties when I was married and started having kids my life became a bit too frazzled for the packets. I would pore over each article when I was in college and single, and later when it was me and Ian and my packets included pieces on trains and military information for my husband, but once the kids arrived time to read in general became a luxury.
I did get to them when I could, and they were always worth it. In fact, the reason I contacted Babble originally was because my dad sent me an article about its launch. Without that packet at that time I would not be typing this blog right now.
But many packets began piling up. I bought a special box for them. And then a second one. I wanted to save them for when I could appreciate them. I can see my family grow through my dad's distinctive lettering on the packets. They start out with a K on the envelope, then K and I. Then K, I, and A. K, I, A, and M. I have a few packets for K, I, A, M and Q before dad started getting sick and the packets became more rare.
Today is my birthday. I am grateful to have a husband who loves me and three wonderful kids. My mom is visiting and will make me a cake. I don't have my dad. But tonight I will pull a packet from the pile and sort through it. Or at least some of it and save the rest. They are the only packets I will ever get from my dad now, so I don't want to go through them too fast.
At one time the packets drove me a little crazy because it seemed like one more thing to do when I didn't have time for anything. But at some point I started to realize there would be a day when they would stop coming and they became more precious. So I have my stash. Today seems like the right time to indulge. I wonder what I will find? (Besides love, I mean. All the packets were filled with love.)