Reflecting

Dad and the pocket knife

One winter in the early 2000’s, I was practically penniless. I had gone through a career change, giving up my gig as a “Financial Adviser” in order to save my soul. A nasty divorce ensued, and I had been legally homeless for a few months earlier that year, when I lived in the backroom of the small (failing) bookstore I bought as my “second act”. I moved in with my girlfriend as a way of surviving that winter.

She invited my parents to Christmas dinner that year, without telling me she was going to. I was pissed – largely because my parents and I were going through an awkward phase after my divorce, but not the least of which was I had wanted to avoid having to buy them the sort of present you open in front of other people. You know – nice ones.

I honestly forget what I ended up buying Mom, but I knew Dad, and when in doubt, Dad was always happy to get a tool or pocketknife. I scrimped and saved, and believe me when I tell you I had no money, so I was waiting as long as possible in the year to buy him something. You would not believe how scarce money was for me that year.

Finally, 2 days before Christmas, I went into the small hardware store near our house to look at knives. I had, unfortunately, waited too late, and all the lower priced knives were sold out. But there was a large yellow handled Case XX sitting in the display case that was about $60, which was about $20 more than I would have paid elsewhere and about $35 more than I had planned on spending.

But when I turned 15, I had bought a hunting knife with my birthday money, and I had bought a Case XX, because Dad told me what a good brand it was. Dad told me at the time he always wanted a Case XX knife, but he couldn’t justify the money.

So anyway, here we are, some 17 years later, and I was feeling a lot like a failure and had just watched my life fall apart and everything was turning to crap, but I could buy my Dad a knife he would want and be proud of, and it would be from me.

So I bought the knife. He ooohed and awed over it at Christmas, and he was beaming. I was glowing, knowing I gave my dad something he actually wanted.

It’s been nearly 20 years since I thought about that knife. That girlfriend and I tried really hard, but it didn’t work out. Eventually I would close the store and move to NC to work out some crazy ideas I had about how we could address homelessness. It was there it all turned around for me.

And then last October, Dad died, and Easter Sunday of this year I was standing in their bedroom, going through a box of his things Mom had put aside for me to look through, and there was the yellow handled Case pocket knife.

It’s scratched up now, and the blades are worn from being run endlessly over an oilstone and there is some staining, but all of that is patina from use. You see, my Daddy not only liked my knife, but he used it.

Dad would never hurt someone’s feelings. Ever. If he hadn’t liked it, he never would have said anything, but he would have just slid it into a drawer and forgotten about it.

But no – he used it, he carried it, and obviously liked it. And now it is mine again, and it is far more valuable to me now than it was that Christmas all those years ago, and it has cost so very much for it to come back in my possession.

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