When I was visiting my mom last month, we found a “calling card file” that belonged to my dad. It was a little more than half-way full of business cards my dad had collected in the last several years before his death. I took it for C, who seems to collect business cards effortlessly only to throw them all out as soon as the stack threatens to become unwieldy. At home I asked C whether he had use for such a thing, and when he said he did, I said, “Well, I’ll take the cards out before I give it to you.”
This evening, as I finally took the cards out, I travelled back in time. I went back to when my dad was still alive to collect business cards and shake hands. I started at the end. The last couple rows were a hodgepodge of occupations, most likely signifying friends or clients he wanted to keep in touch with. The cards from recovery centers that I found when I flipped the now-empty sheet forward gave me a shock that felt electric. I felt my jaw clench as I wriggled them free. Then there were specialists, which gave way to centers that I assume the doctors before them had recommended. And I remembered the way he looked in reverse from the last time I saw him to the first time I saw him after he’d been diagnosed. I remembered my different hairstyles, and how they felt against my face.
The business cards went back further still, until I recognized the names as neighbors, friends, and people who came to his memorial. I had pried them out, but they all left the impression of being there.