As I wrote in my last post, my dad died on May 8. In the six-to-eight months prior to his death, Dad finally gave up his driver’s license. It was a momentous occasion on many levels. For most of us, we felt a huge rush of relief that this then 93-year-old man with failing eyesight, bad hearing, and poor reflexes would no longer be behind the wheel of a two-ton automobile. For him, it was the last relinquishment of his independence and a situation to be mourned.
Since he and Mom no longer needed the car, Dad decided to sell it. I put it on Craig’s List, but wasn’t surprised when it garnered little response. Although the car is in good shape, it’s a boat of a 1993 station wagon with almost 100,000 miles on it. There was no way Dad would get the $2400 he wanted, let alone the $1800 or so recommended by Blue Book. So the vehicle languished.
With Dad’s death, all bets were off. We offered the car at a much reduced price (receiving no takers) and debated the idea of donating it to charity. Then Fate intervened. My sister’s best friend knew of a family in Vermont with several children (including at least one with disabilities) who needed a vehicle but could not afford one. Would we be willing to donate the car?
I’m not sure Dad would have been happy with our decision, but the rest of us were quite pleased. On the day before the father of the family came to get the car, my husband made sure it was running smoothly and I went over it pulling out any personal items belonging to my parents. There wasn’t much — my father (OCD in so many ways) kept the interior of his car as clean and well-maintained as he did the exterior. I left behind the few folded road maps and all things pertaining to the car itself. I removed several pairs of sunglasses, a plastic urinal (poor Dad), and a few Swiffer sheets they used for cleaning the inside of the windshield.
Then it happened.
Beneath the driver’s seat (what I always thought of as “Dad’s Seat” even though Mom drove the car as well), I found a discarded brown paper sack, folded and flattened and crinkled. Assuming it was garbage, I was about to chuck it in the trash when something in me suggested I open it. Inside was a pair of earrings, silver hooks with a line of beads descending, ending in a ladybug-shaped charm. I stared at them, dumbfounded. What on earth?
All we can figure is this: At some point, back when he could still drive, Dad must have seen these, thought Mom would like them, and bought them for her. Then he stuffed them under the seat (maybe because she was traveling with him and he wanted them to be a surprise) and forgot about them. Never mind that I can’t remember my father buying anything for anybody more than three or four times. (At Christmas, he let Mom shop for the rest of us and gave her money to buy whatever she wanted. I never knew if he was worried he’d buy the wrong thing or didn’t want to bother with shopping.) I have a hard time imagining him finding the impetus to purchase these earrings, but where else did they come from?
At any rate, Mom calls them her “gift from beyond the grave” and wears them often, along with his wedding ring on the gold chain I slipped it onto the night before he passed. Those things bring her peace at a unpeaceful time and lay a warm hand on her aching heart. In the end, it doesn’t matter if Dad bought the earrings or not.
But I like to think he did.