My father died April 13, 2009.
Since that day, I have kept his wallet inside a white ceramic vase on a square table next to my bed.
To hold another person’s wallet, without their consent, even when they are dead, seems a violation.
And what possession is more personal than a wallet?
Like the expired man, his wallet contains expired credit cards.
I read the business cards stuffed into the wallet pockets.
One card is The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, NJ where I saw him on the morning of October 14, 2006 after I flew into Newark on a red eye from LA. He had suffered some sort of a small stroke. And I cried at his bedside.
A Department of Veterans Affairs ID, created only a few months before he died.
A card from a Speech Pathologist who would help him pronounce words at age 75 that he once could say without practice.
He was a painter and took art lessons at The Ridgewood Art Institute. A green paper card, frayed at the edges, was valid through August 31, 2007.
AARP, Medicare, Costco, American Express, AAA, Master Card and Visa: the cards of a modern living American male. Pieces of plastic to insure, to protect, to provide, to make credit for any activity on Earth.
In his last week of life, I remember he was breathing with difficulty as he sat on a bar stool bench, at the kitchen counter in his apartment, going over his taxes, which were due in mid-April.
He was fatally and incurably ill and knew he would die from this inexplicable illness called Multi-System Atrophy.
But he was no different than any of us in his belief that he would continue to live.
My father’s wallet still seems to belong to a living person. And no amount of time or loss can diminish it.