For the last decade or so of my father’s life his bedroom was his sanctuary. He spent more time in his room than out of it — and not always asleep. I once asked him what he did when he went to bed at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. He said he usually lay in bed thinking.
Dad’s room was pretty much off-limits to anyone not invited in, but the stench of unwashed old-age was enough to not want to be invited in. Occasionally my dad would ask me into his room to look, for the umpteenth time, at the photograph of the navy ship he’d spent 4 years on or to look at something he’d found among his trinkets. I was never very curious about what was in his room — I couldn’t imagine there was anything of interest I’d not seen many times before.
I couldn’t have been more wrong as I found out after my father’s death in October. I found his father’s wallet, still with the cards and photographs he carried while alive. I found his wedding ring that my mother thought was lost. I also found a ziplock bag of things that belonged to my Uncle Don, my father’s brother-in-law and best friend until Don’s death in 1963.
Some of the things in the bag are bizarre — a hat with a tassel and matching purple satin sash from some honorary Moose Lodge event. Some are historical — correspondence between my Uncle Don and the War Department in 1945. Some possibly valuable — an unopened pack of Milwaukee Road playing cards.
My favorite of the trinkets, however, is the plastic box of key-chains. When I opened the box, the top key-chain was one I recalled from my childhood. Probably not the same key-chain, but I had one just like it.
It is a red and white plastic key-chain shaped like an owl. The red part (the body of the owl) separates from the white part (the eyes and tail) to make two key-chains. The white part also glows in the dark. I think the reason for the two parts is because two keys used to be required for the ignition and trunk, so this way you could keep your car running and get something out of the trunk. The back of the key-chain advertises a store called “Rorry’s: Apparel for women who care”. I vaguely remember Rorry’s — I wonder if there was one in Elgin.
Clare loves owls so, for Christmas, I parted with the Nite Owl key-chain and placed it in her stocking. I feel good that a memory of mine is now a concrete object for her.