Postcards From My Father

In 1957 I was two years old.  My father sent my brother postcards from his trips.  My brother was five.  My father was collecting plants in Texas.  In 1981 I found the stack of postcards in my father’s desk.  I had always been attracted to his desk, ever since I was a small child.  In 1981 my brother had already been dead for some time.  He was 22 when he died.  In 1981 I was 26.  He seemed older to me then than I thought of myself at that time.  My father was 35 when he wrote most of those postcards.  He was 61 when I rummaged his desk.  He is 87 years old now.  His sight is rapidly fading, and he has been waiting to die for three decades.  He sees his life as a failure, though he has always claimed his family the most important thing in his life.  When he sent those postcards he was involved with science and taxonomy and the future.  “Dear son,” he would write, “Today we saw a hognosed snake, some collared lizards, lots of birds and the buffalo that look just like the ones on this card.”  I wish I still had those postcards.  I’m not sure what happened to them, though my father either obsessively archives things or aggressively throws things away.  There is no in-between, either clutter or order, presence or absence, memory or forgetting.