As I’m going through my Dad’s papers, I’m telling myself he deliberately left what he left. I believe he’s telling me his story. Read, enjoy, toss.

Otherwise, he was just a manic hoarder.

On a Saturday, I went through every paper I could find in the house. I was looking for house titles, electric bills, and pink slips. I also found kindergarten drawings, job performance ratings and every pension statement he ever received. Every statement. I filled 13 yard bags.

Stuffed in one box were the Webkinz certificates. My Grace made a lot of progress in Webkinz. It was a website to got with toy pets. When she was very young, Grace had a certificate for each pet in her care. She had a lot of pandas. And Pop had printed out each of the certificates.

I found a postcard I’d written him from an airport layover in Indiana. I’d told him I’d met a girl and was going into asparagus farming. See you after the harvest. I wrote the postcards to drive him mad, but he never let me know. Didn’t know he kept one of them.

There was an FDNY job performance in which the appraiser must note three things he did well and three things he needed to improve. No way to win in one of these. Improve your decisiveness. Really.

In another review, Pop had been chided by a roving FDNY chief because his firefighters were seen eating hot dogs – while in uniform – during a surprise inspection. Pop realized the only crime was being on duty during a surprise inspection. He wrote some backchannel memos to have the record removed. I thought that if the only black mark was eating hot dogs that Pop had done well over 38 years.

Pop saved all of his step-granddaughter’s kindergarten drawings. Every canceled check. All his paid bills and notes on when he’d paid them. Any published photo of his firehouse when he was in it.

 – Tom Sakell

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