Toothpicks from Heaven

"Thanks for your business, folks, I’ll have them bring your new car around, so you can transfer your belongings."

The young salesman, who was not at all unpleasant, gave each of our sweaty palms a mild shake and disappeared into the depths of the crowded dealership.

Husband and I looked at each other, overwhelmed and pleased at what we’d accomplished: the numbers, the negotiating, and the desired outcome of the new car.

But "transfer your belongings" rattled around in my head, searching for a place to settle and not be found. The reality of a new car was exciting, but the finality of saying goodbye to our old one brought an unexpected wave of emotion.

"It’s metal and rubber, Jennifer, get over it," I chided myself.

But it was so much more. It was the last tangible piece I had of my Dad.

*****

Dad bought himself a car in Dallas Cowboy Silver, back when the Cowboys were less than inspiring. His devotion to the team, as well as the car, never wavered. But he offered to sell us the car once I became pregnant with our first child, and we needed a more reliable car for our new family.

We took him up on it and set up a payment schedule, simple interest only, at his insistence. I took great pride in mailing him our payment each month, showing him how responsible and adult we could be. Equal pride was shown on his part when he called each month to thank me for our timely payment.

It was not just a financial arrangement, but a testament of devotion, him to us, and us to him. The security and satisfaction of knowing that he was there for us, like a safety net underneath the tightrope of new parenthood we were walking.

Now it’s eleven years later, and the time has come to part ways with Dad’s car. So much has changed in these years. He never met our son, his namesake. He would never see our daughter become a young woman. He would never know the troubles our family would see.

I walked out of the air-conditioned dealership, into the sticky, hot afternoon, wiping off the condensation that formed on my sunglasses. Approaching the car, I could almost see his gnarled, old-man knuckles gripping that steering wheel, and the bumper sticker touting "These Colors Don’t Run" carefully placed in the back window.

"Hey, check this out." Husband held out his upturned palm. "Look what I found in the glove compartment."

An individually wrapped toothpick. Wooden. Mint flavored.

Dad’s calling card.

He never left home without several in his front shirt pocket. He collected them like rare stamps, gathering them from rest stops and small-town diners across Texas.

One last parting gift.

Today, I had to say goodbye to that car.

But I would never have to say goodbye to my Dad.

The toothpick told me so.


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Comments

  1. I'm sobbing. Well written and beautiful. Go cowboys.

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    1. Thank you. Why are my posts tear-jerkers lately? I blame it on perimenopause. Go Cowboys.

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  2. beautiful post. sounds like you and your dad had a beautiful relationship. so glad your husband found the toothpick. :)

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    1. Thanks, I'm so thankful he found it, too!

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  3. I love this post - so well written. I get emotional about objects as well, tieing them to moments in time. We're getting close to trading in the first car I bought myself - so it's seen pre and post kids and I'm getting a bit emotional on that - and that doesn't come close to comparing with trading in a car tied to memories of your father.

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    1. Thanks very much! I know, I kept telling myself it's just a car, but that strategy wasn't really working!

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  4. This is really beautiful. I hope you put that toothpick in the glove compartment of your new car!

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  5. I loved this post so much! It might be my favorite of yours.

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  6. What Samantha said. My husband wants to replace our car, but we bought it when I was pregnant with my son and I just LOVE it. I love its musty smell after rain, I love that it's the car we brought our kids home in, I love the cloth seats and I even love the stains from kiddie snacks. Sniff.

    Thanks for helping me work through my attachment to the Sonata!

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    1. Glad I am not the only one with an emotional attachment to a hunk of metal :)
      Your Sonata sounds like a keeper to me!

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  7. I have a hard time letting go of things that hold memories, too. I totally understand.

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    1. Easy to rationalize in the mind that they are just "things" but the heart doesn't so easily understand.

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  8. I love signs like that, happy little hauntings, that help us remember people we love. I also hope you put that toothpick in the glove compartment so you can bring your dad with you wherever you go. Lovely story.

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    1. Thanks, Michelle. My special toothpick!

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  9. This is really beautiful...I wish I had pieces of memorabilia to remind me of the people that i don;t have anymore.

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    1. I think as long as you have the memories, that is most important. Things can get damaged or lost.

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  10. We never lose the people we love, because they are always with us in our memories, in our hearts, still touching our daily lives. Thanks for sharing with us how your dad is still with you.

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  11. Eloquent. I love that you found that toothpick. Good thing the salesman reminded you to transfer your belongings. Great dads are the best. Sorry you lost yours too soon.

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    1. Thank you. Great dads are the best, I agree! And I still miss him everyday.

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  12. Nicely done. I can completely relate to you on that one as I held onto my dad's truck after he passed away and so did not want to sell it. Not just metal and rubber :)

    "The toothpick told me so." I love that line :)

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  13. Oh, so sweet and sad. I lost my dad, but I still have a lot of the things he made (stained glass decorations, furniture), and they mean so much to me. I love how even a toothpick can be so special.

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    1. Stained glass & furniture sound lovely! I'm holding on to my toothpick!!!

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  14. I love everything that that toothpick represents.

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  15. It is difficult to get rid of an heirloom but you will never lose what is in your heart -- and that is what is important.

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  16. A truly beautiful post. We're getting ready to sell a car we've had for almost 10 years now too and it's so much more than just a car. I was so glad to hear you found that little mint toothpick before you had to give it away. Definitely a sign that you were making the right choice on this one and a lovely memory of your dad.

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  17. So that's where they make toothpicks. I never knew - sweet story.

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  18. That was meant for you to find. I just know it! Beautifully bittersweet indeed!

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  19. This is so beautiful. I'm so glad your husband found that toothpick!

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  20. This is a great testament to him. I love those tiny, little things. Just found my own random memory from my grandfather: a little domino-shaped cologne bottle that was in a piece of furniture we inherited from them. Smells terrible, but I can't throw it out. :)

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  21. Such a beautiful post. It's wonderful to find something unexpected like that from a loved one we miss so much. It's a gift.

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  22. Love this, Jennifer. Those items we bump across when we least expect it...

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