Dad walked out of his bedroom this morning with an old brown leather address book in his hand and began to read it to me from the beginning. Yes, the letter A. With each name I asked him about the person listed. Several were woman that were described as “just a friend”. Which is understandable as Dad was married, divorced, widowed and dated during different times in his life. There was a man that went by the name “stick” because he was tall, and according to Dad, the nickname “stuck to stick”. A man that ran a tractor business, the local realtor, friends made through the radio club, tractor club, and his automobile restoration and antiques hobbies. We chuckled when we read names like “5 Star ED”.
When Dad found the name of a close friend or family member, he read the address and birthdates, most of which have changed. A couple included short directions like “left 6 blocks then right” or “exit then stay for 2 miles”. Local phone numbers were written without the area code. Dad read the name of his sister, her birthdate and said, “in case you need it.” He remembered I had recently looked up her address. “Okay, now be really careful to keep this one”, Dad said, then laughed. It was his next-door neighbor and friend of 40 plus years.
When he made it to the letter L, Dad said, “We can do this til the cows come home. It goes all the way to the back still with numbers.” When he reached the letter N, Dad said, “It would be nice if I talked to some people once in a while.” Dad has outlived the majority of his friends. Knowing this he would occasionally say, “There’s not much use in this number.” Sometimes he would read a number as …3057 or 8. About one long-lost friend, Dad said, “We know where they are because of all the traffic noise.” He remembered a few young friends like Gus and his brother. Gus was the little brother to a childhood friend of Dad’s that followed the bigger boys around. Dad said, “He cried a lot.” There were also quite a few names Dad could not recall. When he got to the letter T, Dad hopped up and went to get his teeth, which I had not yet noticed were missing.
As he continued to read, Dad mentioned “On this page there is an arrow going all the way to the next page.” While there was only one Barney, Bud, Doug, Dale, Gus, Macel, Meleese, Robin and Roger, there were half a dozen Bobs, several Joans, a few Johns, a couple Bettys and Maries, and the copious amount of Eds, Barbaras and Charles that run in our family. In some sections several generations of a family are listed. Dad thought the entry for his father at the family home was instead for himself. The entries traveled across the country through Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, New York, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Utah and more. In the middle of the letter V Dad realized his untouched breakfast was cold and we stopped to warm it up.
The last entry in Dad’s book is my younger sister and her family. Like many names in his brown leather book, we lost her a few years ago to a complicated illness. Her birthday is in a few days. After Dad read all their names and birthdates, he asked, “Guess what?” and without waiting for an answer said, “My book is empty from here on – two blank pages. That’s all there is of that.”
This alphabet morning, we found some of Dad’s life in his address book. Time was forgotten and people were remembered.