THE DRAWER, second one down, left hand side, held a small box in which we would place receipts for purchases made with the family credit card. I can feel the wooden drawer pull covering my fingers, its shape rubbed smooth from thousands of touches. I can hear the sound the wood to wood drawer glide makes. The soft smell of old cedar fills my nose though I am lying in my bed, in my own home, in the middle of the night, thirty years later.
In my Father's study, the desk was not grand. As a child - and even as an adult in my twenties - sitting in the visitor chair, peering past the back of his lamp and adding machine to his stern, serious and handsome face, I felt powerless. The study was where the serious business happened. Everything from reconciling a credit card charge, requesting payment of college tuition, receiving a sentence for coming in late or talking back, making my final car loan payment and determining the budget for my wedding. I still get sweaty in my palms and my heart rate quickens thinking about taking a seat in the small room that once served as our nursery.
Dad maintained such a high standard of order. He created systems in our home and held us accountable for respecting each. The pen for the front hall table was kept next to the phone message pad. the perfectly folded Giant grocery bags stacked on the shelf in the pantry were stored until the kitchen trash was taken out and a replacement bag was needed. His hand made reminder tags that hung from a nail just outside the large dutch door of the Carriage House served as reminders of what he needed to do before shutting down after a long day of weekend chores. There are so many more examples of the systems that kept our home running in proper order. In the mayhem of five children and a dog in a giant house, with an expansive yard, we would have been lost without Daddy's framework. We nicknamed him "Captain" because he ran our home like a ship. Every single time I watch The Sound of Music, the scenes between Father and children resonate with me and how the orderly and formal tone of our lives existed. I now know the security that order provides.
In my life, I am compelled to call into power similar systems, a need for dependable order in a World that feels utterly out of my control. I long for the box inside the drawer. There is that smell again. My Father, now 90 and living with late stage Alzheimer's, is finishing his life in a way that is not by his design. Living with this disease is the antithesis of all this man held dear. In his life there remains no order and no control, no systems or chores, nothing remains but the letting of it all go.