“I’ve just spent a few days looking for my father’s will and I still can’t find it. We thought it would be in his office, but it isn’t. I am really surprised. We checked all the files and I found his password in a drawer so we will get into his computer tomorrow. We just can’t believe it isn’t in his apartment.”
Joni’s father passed away late Saturday night in his high-rise apartment building, downtown Portland, in “Portlandia” where I used to live before making “Ruralandia” my home. She wasn’t expecting his death and was the one who found him. The medical examiner said it was most likely a serious stroke onset by high stress that came from his job in the financial world.
“Did you check the freezer?”
“No.” And she laughs, just a bit. It’s nice to hear. We’ve been speaking only five minutes on the phone and I want to swap Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers with her.
“Well, it wouldn’t hurt. People often hide wads of cash or an important document in a zip lock bag in the freezer. I had a little guy in here last year who kept all his spare money inside a tobacco pouch in his freezer. He would hide a bundle of hundreds there when he saw his drunken brother walking up his driveway. They stayed as fresh and as crisp as his tobacco, so it seemed natural to keep any notes, documents, cash or money there. He said he checks the freezer first thing whenever he’s misplaces something.”
Oh yes, Joni, country people are just that weird. They remind me of that Brady Bunch episode where Marcia has such a crush on the groovy boy, she absentmindedly leaves her schoolbooks in the fridge. I often wanted to trade my lip smackers with her, too.
“So check for it there, maybe in an envelope taped to the bottom of a shelf in the kitchen or behind a picture on a wall. Also look under the stairs, under his mattress, within pairs of socks, and definitely behind the canned food.”
“Yeah, I don’t think my dad was that clever.”
I urge her on, “You’ll never know unless you look. If someone is looking for a safe place to put their investments, my number one suggestion is to dig a hole in the ground four feet deep, pack your coins, paperwork and bullion in a piece of plastic PVC pipe, seal it, and bury it.”
At least that’s how I would do it out here under the big, open sky.
When I arrived to the country from the big city of Portland years ago I could see the stars at night. There is something to be said about lying on your back night after night in the summer, in your own yard and watching the stars. You know exactly where you’ll be and where you can lay your blanket down. It’s not like driving out to the country occasionally, hoping you can get that spot along the river or out in the field in front of my funeral home. It is your yard. It is your piece of land. You can trust that wherever you place that blanket it will be there for your return the following evening.
In a large city you can be totally anonymous. You can completely get lost in the fact that you are one of many. You’re a cog in the massive wheel, and it really doesn’t matter to the folks at 7-11 the next block or three over if somebody broke your heart or if you slipped and fell. Nobody really cares. You’re just the guy in a red shirt buying Camels. There was always something very lonely for me about the fact you’re just one of the crowd, a grain of sand. Nobody would probably notice if Red Shirt Guy wasn’t back in for a week or two.
In a small town you are somebody. Even if you feel like you haven’t done anything with your life, if you haven’t lived farther than a ten-mile radius from where you stand, if you’ve never left, have no education — you still are somebody. You have a name and an identity. It’s a place where everybody knows your name.
Across the street from the parlour is my beloved Barton Store, a mom ‘n pop mercantile with wagon wheel tables and professionally preserved animal carcasses. Country folks from down the lane have been employed there for quite a while which makes it wonderful to see the smiley faces when popping over to buy a corndog or refill my Extreme Gulp jug. It’s just one of those things I do; one of those things to be able to share and in that becomes part of what’s going on.
In my small town, the Barton Store has become a gentle best friend in my life. My kinder spout, Sofia, became the official Barton Store Baby at birth. Jeannie, my dear friend who owned the place, adored her. She hung portraits of Sofia behind the counter and bought her a little pink t-shirt emblazoned with an angel and the words “Barton Store Baby.”
I feel appreciated in the place where everybody knows my name, like being licked by an excited puppy that just loves you. I can go to my go-to spot and forgot all my money or be short, and someone’s always there to spot me.
When I was younger there was a pub in Portland which had a cheeseburger they christened Dancing Nancy’s Rocker. It was named after little ol’ me (back when Nancy was my legal name) and my little dancing feet. I taught ballroom dance down the street at Arthur Murray, and the burger with cheese and sauce and juicy glorious goodness was all mine. It wasn’t a place where everyone knew my name, but folks certainly said my name many times a day reading it off the menu.