Lincoln's Crumpled Paper
For my tenth birthday my grandfather presented me with an old wooden cigar box containing the crumpled remains of a piece of paper once tossed in a waste-paper bin by President Abraham Lincoln himself.
I was suspicious, of course. Grandad was always making up tall-tales. When I was five years old he convinced me that our dog possessed the soul of Captain Kidd. ’And the reason he’s always digging up our back yard?’ grandad said. ‘He’s searching for long-lost buried treasure. He’ll never find it, though. It’s been over three hundred years since the captain buried it in Madacascar. New York is a long way from Madadgascar. It would take him another three hundred years to get there. But the dog doesn’t know that. His instinct tells him to dig. So he digs. You dig?”
Grandad said things like that. You dig, groovy, far out, it’s a gas. He said they were phrases from a by-gone age and that he was the keeper of that age. ‘Some things need a keeper. For instance, I’m the keeper of all things crumpled or torn, and tossed in waste-paper bins. Rotten poems from disgruntled poets, greeting cards from people too lazy to have an original thought, note-paper crumpled by former presidents.
When I asked him how he came across the crumpled notes he told me it was classified information. “I’d be a traitor to my country if I ever divulged such information. They’d hang me feet first from the Washington monument and have every school-age child assault me with wads of spit balls.
“Never, under any circustance uncrumple a crumpled note. You don’t want to lose the integrity of the crumpled note. Crumpled notes need to stay crumpled. We need to respect the crumplers intention. You dig?”
I did dig. And for the next dozen years I held on to the notion that I was indeed the proud possessor of a crumpled note from President Lincoln’s waste-paper basket. Now grandad’s dead. Old age. Peaceful. in his sleep. Pen in hand. His bed and floor littered with crumpled paper.
I was glad it was me who found him, and not the nurse. I wanted to be the new keeper of all things crumpled. Even if they were only Grandad’s.
What I wanted most was the crumbled note I found in his hand. The one that sits on my desk and begs to be opened. What could he have been writing. A last will? A love letter? A grocery list? Was it even meant to stay crumbled? Respect the crumplers intention, I could hear grandad saying. But I honestly didn’t know what his intentions were. So I opened it.
You never were a good listener, were you. Ha! Kidding. I’m glad you decided to get nosy. I would have been disappointed if you hadn’t because there are things I’ve always meant to say, but didn’t. I was too busy filling your head with tall-tales and bad jokes. No joking this time. I promise.
The world out there needs some help, and I was hoping I could get you to continue my battle with the menace. The menace being hate and apathy.
Tall order I know. But it’s easier than you think. Here are some starting points:
Open to change.
Have fun out there, young man. I know I did. And I hope I helped to keep your heart and mind open to the idea of change. People are funny about change. It makes them nervous. But nervous is good. Something good usually comes out of nervous. Like the first day of school, first dance, first kiss.
I smile at the memories. You keep smiling, too. I love you and hope to be with you always.
With much love and regret I must be on my way.
Your devoted grandad.
PS. Open the Lincoln paper before you bust a gut. Ha!
So I did.
Don’t forget to take out the trash.
PS. You dig?
Picture courtesy of Wiki Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Crumpled_paper#/media/File:Paperball_2.jpeg