I finally made some space in the disaster I call our garage today to install my Dad's toolbox in its new home. It's not accurate to refer to "Dad's toolbox"; he had easily a dozen of them each for it's own purpose. This one however lived in the workshop of the house I grew up in. This is the one that I went to countless times in my youth when Dad needed a certain tool for the project of the day. The tools in this toolbox all went in their prescribed location and the job wasn't done until they were back in that location. It had a smell that I still smell today of steel and of oil and of work. It's a smell that evokes my Dad and I'm thankful to have it in my life.
We've been through a lot of loss recently. One very kind condolence card from someone who knows noted that "...we are now the top generation...". It was an oddly perfect way to put it but seriously how did such time pass that most of my parents generation are gone? It's difficult to fathom.
One concrete reality is the quantity of belongings left from the lives of those that have left us. My wife and I have sadly become experts at processing such belongings both for her family and mine. We recognize as so many of us are now that happiness is not provided by things (cameras excepted of course!) but by friends, family and experiences. Nevertheless, when you are reviewing the tangible results of someone's life, it certainly does not seem right to let it all go. Separating the wheat from the chaff is emotionally exhausting and mistakes are inevitably made - typically in the form of keeping too much stuff. But try we must.
So the wheat is harvested and some things do move on to new home in successive generations. The grandfather clock, the slides and photos, the bench vice, the autobiography and for me, the toolbox. These tangible items - along with the memories and stories that envelope them - keep the past alive which in turn puts context around our present and helps guide us into our future. I'm thankful that my family has been able to do a good job of this - and thankful that now every time I need a pair of diagonal cutters or needle-nose pliers, my Dad is there to hand them to me.