One winter in the early 2000’s, I was practically penniless. I had went through a career change, having gave up my dream gig as an “Account Executive” in a Wall Street firm in order to save my soul. As a result, a nasty divorce ensued, and I had even been legally homeless for a few months earlier that year, when I lived in the backroom of the small (failing) bookstore I bought as my “second act”. I moved in with my girlfriend as a way of surviving that winter.
She invited my parents to Christmas dinner that year, without telling me she was going to. I was pissed – In part because my parents and I were going through an awkward phase after my divorce, but also because I had wanted to avoid having to buy them the sort of present you open in front of other people. You know – nice ones.
I don’t remember what I ended up getting Mom, but Dad was always easy to buy for: He was always happy to get a tool or pocketknife. Believe me when I tell you I had no money, so I was waiting as long as possible in the year to buy him something. You would not believe how scarce money was for me that year.
Finally, just 2 days before Christmas, I went into the small hardware store near our house to look at knives. I had, unfortunately, waited too late, and all the lower priced knives were sold out. But there was a large yellow handled Case XX sitting in the display case that was about $60, which was about $20 more than I would have paid elsewhere and about $35 more than I had planned on spending.
When I turned 15, I had bought a hunting knife with my birthday money, and I had bought a Case XX, because Dad told me what a good brand it was. (I later gave that knife to my friend Dennis when he took a trip across America on the Lewis and Clark Trail one summer, as it had brought me good luck, and I hoped it would him as well).
Dad told me at the time he always wanted a Case XX knife, but he couldn’t justify the money.
So anyway, here we are, some 17 years later, and I was feeling a lot like a failure and had just watched my life fall apart and everything was turning to crap, but I could afford to buy my Dad a knife he would want and be proud of, and it would be from me.
So I bought the knife. On Christmas, he ooohed and awed over it, and then he put it in his right hand pants pocket. I was glowing, knowing I gave my dad something he actually wanted.
It’s been nearly 20 years since I thought about that knife. A lot has changed since then. The girlfriend and I tried really hard, but it didn’t work out. Eventually I would close the store and move to NC to work out some crazy ideas I had about how we could address homelessness. There I would get married, things would turn around for me, and it was there that many of you came to know me. And then, 13 years later, I would move back to Mississippi.
Last October, my Dad died from COVID, and on Easter Sunday I was standing in their bedroom, going through a box of his things Mom had put aside for me to look through. And there, sitting in the box, was a yellow handled Case XX pocket knife.
It’s scratched up now, and the blades are slightly worn from being run endlessly over an oilstone and there is some staining, but all of that is patina from use. The important thing is that my Daddy not only liked my knife, but he *used* it.
Dad would never hurt someone’s feelings. Ever. If he hadn’t liked it, he wouldn’t have said anything, but then when he got home he would have just slid it into a drawer and forgotten about it.
But no – he carried it, he used it, and obviously liked it. And now it is mine again, and it’s currently in my right pants pocket, where it shall stay. It cost $60 way back then, but it is now far more valuable to me than it was that Christmas all those years ago, and it has cost so very much for it to come back in my possession.