The Key With A Heart

I’m taking a break from my typical, albeit intermittent, “Monday Memes” post format today to talk about a key. A very specific key. A key that holds my heart…

As most of you know, my father passed away last October after a long illness. I still miss him a lot – and my mother, too – but I have come to accept “the natural order of things.” There is an emptiness now, with both my parents gone, that is hard to fill, hard to ignore. But I move forward and do my best to remember the good times, holding their love in my heart.

Most days, it’s just OK at best. Today it was a little rougher than normal.

See, today I attempted to remove the key to my parents’ house from my key ring. My family moved into that house in early December 1972, and my father passed away gently in that same house in October 2014. My Dad spent just under 43 years there, in a house he and my Mom both loved – our whole family loved it, actually. We all still do. Which is why today was kinda’ hard.

Today in one of my frequent grumble-y moments, I became frustrated trying to remove the fist-sized wad of keys and door openers that are MY keys from my back pocket. As I mumbled obscenities under my breath, I vowed to “fix that flippin’ key ring” when I got home. Sad thing is, when I tried, the only key I do NOT need on my key ring is the old key to my parents’ house. The very key I received as a “responsible fourteen-year-old man/boy” in December of 1972. A key that has been in my pocket virtually every single day of my life for now over forty-three years. I cannot let that key go, I just can’t…

keyThe key we are discussing looks NOTHING like the key above, of course. The key I cannot let go of is a nondescript, regular old house key with a triangular head. But – in my mind, and in my heart – that key is as magical and special as the heart-shaped key shown above. My key does hold my heart, and opens the door to a bahjillion memories, all created in that house…

My first “coming home drunk” (I passed out in the side flower bed and my Mom woke me up the next morning – not even kidding!) My first “sneak out and sneak back in” without my parents knowing (I’m sure they did). My first car accident (I ran over the mailbox at the top of our driveway as I was backing up and out). My first day on my first job (I was 15 – Mom dropped me off at work – so embarrassing!) My first cigarette “down by the creek.” Summer nights playing Jail Break (teenage hide-n-seek, a variation of Kick the Can). Late night “streaking” in my undies with the neighbor boys (it was the 70’s, after all, and we were too scared to get totally naked, LOL!)

Then there are forty-three Christmas gatherings and birthdays and Thanksgivings, all in the same house, all through the door opened by that key. When I close my eyes, I can still hear how the front door “opens” – there would be a small click as I turned the key. Then, when I opened the door, the weather stripping would creak a little. My Dad was always in the living room, in his recliner, and would always say, “Well, hello there, son” and – for whatever reason – it seems my Mom was ALWAYS at the kitchen sink, washing dishes (I think she was born wearing yellow Playtex rubber gloves). I would walk in, kiss my Dad then circle into the kitchen where my Mom would always say, “Well, here’s my big man” and then hug me really hard and kiss me.

I miss them, and I miss that house. And, weird as it sounds, I cannot give up that key.

Even though it no longer opens any physical door, it is an anchor for me. I look at that key and feel safe and loved and, well, home. I know I have shared before that keys hold a special meaning for me – this one certainly does. I suspect that if I am lucky enough to live to be one hundred, I will still be carrying that key and – if I am really lucky – I’ll also be carrying all the loving, beautiful memories it unlocks…