A tin full of stuff. Scout knife. Cuff links. Engraved bracelet. Puzzle game.

A tin full of my Dad’s stuff.

It’s just stuff.

But it was my Dad’s stuff.

Friday marked the day nine years ago Morris Levine left this earth. You don’t forget your loved ones, but their presence ebbs and flows without much regular pattern, except twice a year. First is May, for his birthday, a day I wish I could have back again to celebrate, and late August (2 days ago), the day I wish I could give back again.

Can it be nine years? I try cycling back to where I was, who I was, what mattered in August 2001. There was no user’s guide (and if there was I would not have read it anyhow) for dealing with your parent’s death, especially when it was the cancerous impending one that just unravels in front of you. My way to deal with this time was to tell his story, in a web site, started before he passed away, and finished afterward. My way is to do write something, photograph something on these two days a year.

Nine years? I play with math. I am now the age my Dad was in 1974. He still had another 15 or 18 years of work before retiring. He was in his rhythm of cutting the grass and washing the car. It was maybe a year after the oil embargos; I remember him waiting in line to buy gas that was suddenly much more expensive that before (but insanely cheap compared to now).

But those are just the snapshot bits I have as watching him as an 11 year old kid. What did I know of his thoughts? Dreams? Hopes? Worries? I have the hardest time trying to imagine my father as a man the same age I am now. I cannot warp time like that.

So the stuff in the can came from my Mom after Dad died. I don;t know why, but it helps just to open that box every now and then and look at it.

There was something else in there- his last wallet. Hah, what can define a man more than his wallet? It is something that sits close to him every day ;-). I don’t think I had looked at it before; it looked empty. But flipping it open, I found some artifacts in the back pocket

He has my business card from the job at I held at the time (at Maricopa Community Colleges) with his familiar, careful block letter writing (something I did not inherit) with my cell phone number at the time. There his his Lee County Library card- he got a lot of joy in retirement volunteering at the library. That’s what I knew of that time, but did I know what that joy was about? Did we ever talk about it?

And then the hand written piece of paper with my coordinates from the year before, in 2000 when I had my sabbatical visit toi New Zealand and Australia, and more or less blogged it (before there was blog software, this was hand writing HTML posts and uploading photos every day) on my own web site http://dommy.com/az2nzau.

He followed my web site continuously from his home in Florida, even printing it off into a thick folder, a paper archive of a web version of a trip. It’s one of those things he did that silently spoke in volumes.

There again, that hand writing, so… Dad-like. Most of his communications to me were in hand written letters, pages and pages where he expressed himself more comfortably than talkin— wait a minute, now I know something perhaps I did get from him.

We did talk though on the phone, and in the Arizona portion of my life (after 1987) we had this tradition of me calling him (in jest) “Old Man” and him calling me “Junior”. That I can feel, in my ears, in my heart,

So now I sit here trying to unravel that time for him has stopped, frozen in memories, photos, words, a tin full of stuff, yet for me it flows on, to some place I cannot yet see. I will, in time, like he did.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. A lovely tribute and reflection. Thank you.
    I attended a wedding last night, the daughter of good friends, a beautiful young woman I have watched grow from a gawky little girl to the confident and competent teacher she us today. As military families our extended relatives are scattered across the country and we only meet parents, siblings, and grandparents of our friends at milestone events like this. It is a privilege to be included, as it is to read your posts.

  2. Hi Alan,
    I am crying as I write this because your writing has touched me so. I too have little keepsakes from both of my parents that I take in my hand on various occasions to help me through a tough time or when I just want to feel their presence.

    I loved reading the website you wrote to honor your dad. The post I loved the most was the one about going to the shore. My little family of four did the same thing every summer. I clearly remember the first time we caught our own crabs and steamed them, I refused to eat any because I was so upset about the live crabs being put in the pot. After that we always got our crabs from Phillips Crab House. Sandcastle building with my dad is one of my childhood joys.

    Thank you for sharing your feelings with us. I spent a nice couple of hours thinking and reflecting on my dad and mom, and holding their keepsakes close to my heart.

  3. Hi Alan. I’m not sure how I missed this entry when you wrote it … it is a beautiful and moving piece. The handwritten URL from his wallet reminds of the way my own Dad keeps little things I do in the online space tangible in the form of printed pages, little notes, and scribbles on the back of my business cards. When I saw that I just cried … and it was timely as I sort of felt like I needed to today. Thanks for being so open and revealing. Can’t wait to hang out with you in the coming months.

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