It was on my sister's lap at his funeral. She was passing it on to one of the men in our family as a keepsake. Previously she had returned the photos from inside to their new rightful owners. The photos he carried of me were from 5th grade, in all my buck-tooth glory, and my senior photo. I felt special, knowing he carried photos of me wherever he went, and even more special to see the signs of wear, realizing he loved me enough to take the photos out and look at them or show them off once in a while.
Tooled diagonally into the front of the leather were his initials, DRM. Most people, even up to his funeral, never knew his name was Davis Roy McCullough. Everyone called him "Doc;" born in 1929 he was the first of his siblings to be delivered by a real doctor, which is the rumor anyway. My sister traced the initials with her polished fingers and turned the wallet over and over in her hands as we listened to the preacher. She was obviously connecting with him in the only way possible now, through the things that remind us of him. And I longed to connect with him too, to put my hands where his had been so many times, but not at the expense of my sister's comfort.
The leather wallet was dark and slick from age and wear. It was also thin and empty now, but during his life my grandpa worked tirelessly for the cash that came and went through its folds. As my sister flopped it open and closed I remembered how easily he had opened it to give what little he did earn to help anyone who asked and many more that didn't. I remembered the times he reached in and slipped a bill or two into the palms of my own hands.
It wasn't just money that he gave. I met several people with stories about my grandpa's wisdom, the kindness he had shown and the replacement father he had been. I don't think he met anybody without becoming their best friend. It reminds me of that wallet. He too was old and worn, his body used up. But what a way to wear out, by constantly opening up and giving generously of what he had for the benefit of others.
I love you, Papa Doc. It is my turn to carry your memory around wherever I go, to take it out and show it off every chance I get.