My mother, my brother, and I would write letters to my father frequently - two or three times a month, at the very least. We also would record messages to him on cassette (remember those?) and send those with our letters in a carefully padded envelope. He made sure to write back to us, usually writing a little every day for a couple of weeks and then sending it. He didn't send cassettes, but he would try to take photos, and he always described what the country he was staying in was like. He picked up what he called the "important parts" of several different languages - basically, enough to swear in traffic and say that he was US military.
When he came back, he was always sure to bring a few things he'd found as souvenirs - I still have a few of them, though some got lost along the way, with the moves between bases and everything that goes with them. He also would bring back mementos for himself, usually in the form of currency. He would keep at least one or two bills of whatever currency was used in the country he had been to. He kept these bills, his "funny money," in a small, zip-locked bag - the kind you see used as pencil cases in Trapper Keepers. (Wow, I'm really dating myself with this entry, aren't I?)
Ten years ago, my father died of a heart attack. It took several days, but my mother, my brother, and I managed to go into his bedroom and start going through his things. There's a lot you can discover about someone when you go through their personal affects - my mother, for instance, had the dubious pleasure of finding my father's porn collection. She then proceeded to show it to me, which was something I could have lived without. But I digress.
Among the things close to his chair (he had a big Lazy Boy recliner, and he practically lived in that thing - the chair is at my mother's place now, and we still refer to it as Dad's chair) were the detritus of a life in steady progress. He had a few books he was reading, a few work papers. His stereo was right next to his chair, with his favorite CDs within easy reach - Sousa, Wagner, Charley Pride, Lee Greenwood. He also had a few things that obviously meant a lot to him, tucked away but kept nearby - we found a stash of the letters we'd sent, along with the cassettes we'd made (and dear God, did I have a squeaky, lisping voice as a kid!), and his envelope of funny money.
We went through what we found, commenting and laughing (how the hell did Dad get a foot-long hunting knife through customs? A HOOKAH? Seriously?), and deciding if we wanted any of the things there. There were several things my brother wanted, but there was really only one that held any meaning for me - the funny money. I'm still not entirely sure why. I just know that I had liked going through the different bills with him when I was a child, as he explained what each one was and showed me on a map where each country was. There's also a small piece of paper (torn from one of his ubiquitous notebooks) that lists how much of each currency he had. It's nice to have something with his handwriting on it - his handwriting is rather distressingly similar to my brother's, now that I think of it.
The envelope moved with me to college, and later to Everett. I've always known where it is, even if it wasn't anywhere close at hand, because it was important. The most recent resting place was inside a box of legal-sized envelopes. The box had fallen on the floor under a standing jewelry box in the hallway, as our place was, as I've mentioned before, a complete sty.
Eric and I have several absolutely amazing friends. (I'd say most, if not all, of you reading this fall into that category.) Three of them came over on Wednesday to help us prepare for the apartment inspection. They are hard-working, wonderful people who, in spite of their amazing compassion and generosity, somehow lack the ability to read my mind. (Shocking, I know.) A lot of trash got throw out of the apartment on Wednesday, as a lot of junk got purged. In the process, the box of legal envelopes made its way into the trash, as well.
This morning, I realized the envelope of funny money was gone. I panicked. This was something that I planned to hand down to my child someday, while telling him or her all about his/her grandfather's Adventures in Foreign Lands. We searched the apartment, called the friends who helped us clean to see if they remembered anything - and it appeared lost.
On the way out the door this morning, as I was nearing hysterical tears, I looked at the dumpster where the trash had ended up. It hadn't been emptied yet. "The trash is still there," I told Eric. "I'm going to find that envelope."
"It'll be near the bottom, probably," he told me.
"I don't care. I have to find it."
We got home from work, and lo, the dumpster was still full. We did one more search around the apartment, made one more round of calls, and then - then, my friends, my husband showed me the most impressive act of love and devotion I have ever seen or heard of.
He climbed into the dumpster.
We were pulling out bags, going through the ones we knew were ours and re-bagging them after tearing them apart, and then he climbed into the dumpster. This thing was quite full - evidently, we weren't the only ones frantically cleaning before the inspection, and there was at least one very dead Christmas tree in there.
He got down to nearly the bottom of the dumpster, handing me bags to go through or to get out of his way - and suddenly, there it was. The box of legal envelopes, with the envelope of funny money still tucked inside. I made sure it was there, and still intact, and nearly started crying. There was a box of important papers that we thought had also gotten throw away by accident, and we had been keeping an eye out for it, as well, but after finding the envelope, we decided to hell with it - the envelope was the only irreplaceable thing. Eric carefully climbed back out of the dumpster, we put the trash back where it belonged, and got inside to clean up.
I feel horribly that the whole thing happened, and I take full responsibility for it - if I had taken better care of the envelope, it wouldn't have been in a position to be thrown out. I am well aware that the problems with the apartment are my fault, and I am striving to make sure it never gets to that point again. I can't thank my friends enough for helping us. And, well, let's face it - my husband wins. I mean, how many people do you know are willing to climb into a full dumpster to help you find something small that was lost through your own negligence?
And now, to sleep. Good night, all.