When I put the phone down, the first thing that pops into my head unbidden is the stamps. I remember the postage stamps. He collected them- had for, well, always. I had shown some interest in the music themed ones and even the Vatican City ones and shortly thereafter, he had sent my parents home with a small manila envelope of them for me. For months now, that envelope has drifted around my kitchen in various sorted piles, waiting for me to do something with it. In my head, I had anticipated framing the stamps, but it was a distant thought for some other time. Right now though, that envelope is all I can think about.
I have to find it.
I check my office first, hoping that some responsible part of me has already put it someplace safe. I hastily flip through files and overturn junk drawers.
It's not here.
I run back downstairs and check the shallow, decorative bowl that was meant to hold my keys, but ends up bearing the brunt of my disorganization. It's a mound of crisp, white mortgage statements and utility bills interspersed with crumpled up receipts and change. None of it matters. It all gets dumped unceremoniously in the search for anything manila colored.
I find it, but there is no relief.
Because I know it's not the only one.
I find myself downstairs going through Christmas decorations, of all things. My Mom and Dad had given me some old Christmas decorations to go though and had tucked in two more little packets of stamps from him, even smaller than the first, for safe keeping. I had just let it all sit there.
Had I even said "Thank You?"
I pull them out and take the first good look at them that I ever have. They are about the size of an index card, with a label at the top, and a clear cellophane covering to protect and display the stamps. Each card is only meant to hold one or two stamps, but there are enough in each to make the plastic bulge. In red pen he had written my name, one in all caps and one in cursive. I think, not for the first time, that he and I both preferred to write in all-caps. Even the "R" on the cursive one is identical to my signature.
I lose it.
I clear the entire table and lay all the envelopes down reverently, silently counting the number of envelopes in my under-appreciated hoard and remembering that there is another set he gave my parents just last week. They had told me he had passed them along and I hadn't even remembered to ask for them even though I've seen my parents several times since then. Now, I'm wondering if I can make a polite inquiry to my Mom about them without upsetting my Dad.
I don't open them. I just stare at them and wonder if the ones right behind the plastic were there for a reason. Did he just throw them all in here or is this particular stamp on top for a reason? I can see parts of other stamps, but despite my new-found curiosity, I don't dare open them. I feel like I don't have the right to.
Later, as I'm turning off the light switch to go upstairs, my hand hesitates and my eyes are invariably drawn to the sets of stamps on the otherwise empty table. I take a long look accompanied by a shuddering breath before shutting off the light, like I'm worried I'll wake up tomorrow and the stamps will be gone too.
I love you Grandpa, and thank you for the stamps. Say "hi" to Grandma for me.
Reese: Elementary Music Teacher in Chicagoland. Clarinetist and Trumpeter.
I'm writing a Slice of Life every day for the month of March as part of the Slice of Life Challenge. See more at TWO WRITING TEACHERS.
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