And I’m still looking for my father, two weeks after his death at 92—searching among his closeted clothes and dresser drawers for confirmation that an unrecorded event, more than two decades old, really occurred, proof that my imagination didn’t invent the roadside timothy grass and what happened there.
Memory’s poignant snapshot of my father bears no resemblance to Bacharach’s stiff-backed view: that formal portrait on a living room end table where a trial lawyer stares from his medieval office chair, its cordovan leather cloak outlined with giant brass thumbtacks.
What am I hoping to unearth as I go through his things? What splendid secret waiting to be surprised? Something that, like a zoom lens, would zap the airspace in our distant kinship.
Perhaps an envelope inscribed in his elegant penmanship, “To Be Opened After My Death.” Love letters from a mysterious woman, breath-tightening as the rubber band around them. Even one of the birthday cards I’d drawn for him every year since I was five. Or—impossibly of course—a jigsaw puzzle piece.
Yet a mahogany box, cornered in a bureau drawer, assaults me with empty space. From jacket pockets, I harvest two sealed toothpicks, one torn theater ticket stub, three broken golf tees and a penny—the flotsam of a long life.