Why would Dad have bothered to keep any of this crap? I knew he’d been a pack rat, but…man!

“It can’t be that bad,” said Meagan over the speakerphone.

“Can’t be that bad?” I said. “If you were here you wouldn’t be saying that.”

“Cut him some slack,” Meagan said. “Speak no ill of the dead, and really speak no ill of the dead father.”

I felt a little ashamed at that, but kvetching has always been a coping mechanism for me–clearing out Dad’s old desk was no different. It was either complain or sob incoherently, which wouldn’t have sat any better with Meagan.

And, in my defense, there was a lot of strange old crap in that desk. A pile of promotional notepads from businesses that no longer existed, for example. Everyone in town knew that Detmore’s Lumber Yard had gone under ten years ago–would sending a note on their stationary really have sent the right message, especially if you were writing a friend or business partner?

Then there were the matchbooks. Dad had only smoked one or two cigars a year, usually around Christmas, yet the drawers housed a bewildering array of old-style matchbooks from places as far away as Hong Kong or Danang. All had been roughly handled–it wasn’t a matchbook collection–and I was reminded of seeing a thousand matches lit at once in the science channel as I looked at them.