We live the most when we reach out to the people we share the planet with. People are our greatest resource. They are walking, talking encyclopedias and they inform our lives with the story of their time here. Stories that only add to the substance of our own.
Life sometimes makes that hard. Families get separated. People go away. Relationships are fractured by circumstance. Sometimes things get shunted out of their predictable orbits by choices made in moments of weakness or confusion. Regaining precious human resources is sometimes a very tough, emotional business.
My wife and her father were separated for years. She only found him again when she was in her early forties after years of searching phone books in whatever city she happened to be in. It turned out they’d lived in the same city for decades.
Her father was an amazing character. A jazz-loving rugby fan with a penchant for good beer, the pursuit of beautiful women and a zest for life that meant that he was a total original and a very unforgettable man. He may have had his faults but what you saw was always what you got.
She only had a chance to know him for a handful of years before he passed away. She was devastated. For the briefest of time she walked side by side with her history, her family and when it ended all too quickly she lost a cultural, emotional and historical linchpin.
We cleaned out his apartment. I would walk by with armloads and watch her reading his papers. It’s funny how something like a postcard scribbled years ago can come to mean so much. Place and time and distance implied, not really known, a connection you feel as paper in the hands.
There was a lifetime in those boxes, and in their faded inks and snapshots her father’s world filled itself in hint by hint, line by line, detail by detail. When she was finished, she had a keepsake, a shrine they so inelegantly call a “scrap” book — the only treasure she took away.
They are the sum of us the things we keep and in the hands of loved ones once we’re gone, those paper trails of living retain their sense of self, sit there squarely in the palm, crooning old jazz ballads, moaning a particular blues, singing their histories.
People. Our greatest resource.