I opened the mailbox and saw it. An unmarked manila envelope with scratchy handwriting on it. I had been anticipating the arrival of this little package for a while, but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Part of me hoped there would be some money in it, or maybe even those pictures I had requested, but most of me knew I was in for something else.
It all started a couple weeks prior. I emailed my dad (our only means of communication) to give him a little update on my life. He didn’t ask for it, but I do it for myself. It makes me feel slightly closer to him. I talked about my internship ending, starting my second year of graduate school and my impending debt. I asked him about his health and if he had talked to my brother recently (who is equally as hard to communicate with).
A few days went by with no response. This wasn’t exactly shocking. Over the years there have been countless unanswered emails, especially the ones that only include personal details about my life. I know how uncomfortable that makes him. Yet I still do it. Like I said, it’s for me.
A day later I get a response. It says:
Are you guys still at the Warner Avenue addy? Long enough for me to send a letter there? No biggie, just want to send you some info via snail mail. It would arrive in a few days.”
The vagueness of his words were not exactly unusual for him, but it still caught me a little off guard. Especially because I sent him a pretty long email and that was all he had to say back. Clearly he had read my email because I mentioned I might be moving soon and he was asking about my current “addy.”
I respond: “Yup, I will still be at this address in a few days.”
He doesn’t respond. It stings a bit that he doesn’t seem to care about everything else I had written to him about, but I stopped letting that get to me years ago. I go about my business the next few days imagining all the things he could be sending me.
I should note a few things about my father: he has always been a strange guy. He grew up playing the guitar and hoping to be in a famous band one day, but settled for working at the post office after my mom got pregnant. He doesn’t like social gatherings or having to interact with anyone other than immediate family (and even then it’s hit or miss). The first time he met my in-laws was at my wedding, despite my repeated attempts to get him to meet them prior. He even has an alias he goes by in his day to day life. One thing that has become extra important to him in recent years is doomsday prepping (preparing for the end of the world). It started out with him buying 20 pound bags of rice and evolved into a full-fledged storage room of food that could last at least a year. He had everything from soap to military meals. He even talked about buying land somewhere remote and building a real bunker. I mostly stayed quiet about it because I didn’t quite know what to say. He says he does it because the bees are dying and that will stop crops from being pollinated, so then the cost of food will skyrocket. That I understand. It doesn’t even sound that crazy. He loses me when he starts talking about Marshall law and a society of chaos. None of it really bothered me until he started buying guns and other weapons. One time I visited him and he said, “I had the opportunity to buy grenades the other day but when I got there they were all gone.” I have learned not to ask the whys or hows, so I just said “Oh.”
So here I am, staring at this envelope wondering what he possibly could have sent me. It feels a bit heavy and I can hear something little clinking around inside. I wait until I get inside to open it just in case. If some bullet shells and a butterfly knife fall out I don’t want the neighbors to get the wrong idea.
I tear it open and out fall two sets of keys. There is a thick letter, at least 5 pages, with the word “confidential” written across it. There are a few loose pictures that were poorly printed on paper and a safe combination.
Based on those things, I should have seen the contents of the note coming. I knew it wasn’t going to be a birthday card, but I still wasn’t fully prepared. The letter talks about the value of money going down and America going back to a bartering system. He references “our self-appointed emperor Obama” reading all our texts and emails and listening in on our phone calls. He talks about exchanging his money for gold and silver, and where he has hidden his “booty.” He even included pictures of his hiding place with detailed instructions on how to locate it. When Marshall law occurs, he says, my brother and I are to grab his gold and silver and take off into the wilderness. I momentarily imagine myself running around the woods with a bow and arrow looking for something to kill for my lunch. Gold and silver clinking on my pocket as I navigate the trees. I could trade a gold coin for a blanket and a coon-skin hat later on in the day, but I must ration my currency.
Back to reality.
I stare at the letter dumbfounded. It’s true, I have never been close with my dad. He didn’t necessarily want children, but still I know he worked hard to make sure I had food in my mouth. He even paid for my college education with the inheritance he got from my grandma passing, which was more than generous. He wanted me to get my degree. He always wanted my life to be better than his was. Even in my thankfulness it was hard not to want my father to be more loving. He barely talks to me, and when he does it is brief and to the point. This letter was just another reminder that my father and I couldn’t be more different. I didn’t grow up living with him and I rarely saw him. Even when I did, we never connected. He doesn’t know me. If he did, he wouldn’t have sent this to me. He would have known that I wouldn’t want it. He would have known that money doesn’t matter to me. He would have known that the best thing he could do it respond to my email with normal pleasantries. I want him to say he is interested in what class I am taking and where I work. I want him to ask where I am moving to and express worry for my safety. I want him to respond saying anything that indicates he gives a damn about me as a person.
So here I am with this letter, unsure what to do with it. So I say nothing.
Three days later I receive an email:
“Could you confirm delivery of notes to you? No need to discuss, just ‘yeah, I got it’.
I say, “Yup, I got it.”