I find it early one morning tucked away in the suitcase he brought on vacation.
And it leaves me temporarily stunned, an electric fence to the forehead feeling, of sorts.
My father's handwriting across a weathered triangle of wood stops me in my laundry-toting tracks.
My dad carried the wooden door chock when he trudged into buildings ablaze with fire and smoke and heat, used it to prop open doors so he wouldnt get locked into a firefight or so the door wouldnt cut off the flow of a hose. My oldest son found it inside the pocket of his belated grandpa's fire coat, and now he carries it around, too.
I wonder why, so I ask.
"You mean the door stop, mom?"
I nod; he tells me he carries it just in case we need it.
And, he says, he carries it because it was something small of Papa Brian's that he can actually bear the weight of inside the pockets of his suitcase or jeans.
The man, in his eyes, was larger than life, and his bunker boots and fire captain's helmet all tell a six year old the same story: Papa Brian wore large shoes.
So now my son carries handcuffs, a glasses case and a wooden door chock in his suitcase pocket.
These small reminders of my dad's life, these things my oldest son carries around with him sneak up on me and remind me of these things I still carry -- the longing to reconcile what I couldn't whence died suddenly three years ago.
The longing for
just one more Sunday phone call.
Where I would tell him I love him and that I forgive him for literally working his life away and I would mean it a whole lot this time in ways I never could have understood when I had the opportunity to say it.
And I would really hear in his deep voice the love he had for me.
Another squeeze of my fingers from his large, time-worn hands where I would be reminded of what he built using them instead of what he worked to death.
And I would know he was trying to make a life and a future with the shear force of human hands, i would learn a lesson that Bigger hands are more capable of doing the job of building futures than mere human hands.
A giant hug from the strong arms that carried me when I was small but couldn't seem to do much more than wrap around my shoulders momentarily when he left me standing on the doorstoop of my college dorm and then five years later at the end of a ceremony aisle.
And I would know in that hug that he was trying to do the right amount of holding on and letting go.
My son, he carries these things
and I carry these things and my dad carried these things
and I'm lost in the amazement
at the actual weight
of these things we carry.