My Dad Wasn’t a Boy Scout, but He was Prepared.

My Dad Wasn’t a Boy Scout, but He was Prepared. February 29, 2024

My Dad Wasn’t a Boy Scout, but He was Prepared.

I was thinking a lot about my dad this week. Mom would give Dad a clean, crisp package of handkerchiefs for every Thanksgiving and Christmas. He would take a close look at them, smile, thank her, and then *shoop* into Dad’s pants pocket one of the handkerchiefs would go. I will never forget my dad’s pants. More specifically, his pockets. It didn’t matter if he wore jeans, work pants, overhauls, or a suit…he had three bulging pockets.

In his front right, there was always a stubby screwdriver, a pocketknife with at least five blades, a coin pouch (the type that you squeeze on the sides and opens like a duck’s bill), and usually some binding material (twine, twist ties, baling wire, a small roll of duct tape, etc.).

The front left was reserved for the “quick reference area.” Receipts, checks (usually kept in a little plastic bag), a little business card-sized notepad, and a stubby pencil. If he were out on the ranch/farm, he would usually have his pliers in a holster on his right hip—think Quick Draw McGraw, only with pliers instead of a Colt revolver. But if he were “dressing,” he’d slip the pliers in the front left pocket with his “paperwork.”

The rear right always had a two-inch thick billfold that was brimming over with pictures, cards, more checks, phone numbers, addresses, leads of upcoming livestock sales, advertisements, Christmas present ideas for friends and family… oh yeah, and a few dollar bills.

The rear left? Well, that was sacred ground. Dad always carried two handkerchiefs. He used to say, “One for me and one for somebody who needs it.” I’ve lost track of times when I saw Dad just hand over a handkerchief to someone in tears at a funeral, wedding, or just because. He’d give it to a mother or father who was trying to take care of their child who had a runny nose or skinned knee.

Dad was sort of like the parable of the Ten Virgins. “…Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him! Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps…” His lamp was always trimmed at the ready, and he always carried just enough oil.

And Dad had the wisdom of Wisdom 6, “For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence, and whoever for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care…” He was always ready, looking, vigilant for things to be fixed earlier rather than later so they didn’t deteriorate or become worse. He didn’t have a care; he knew he was ready!

Public Domain
What do you carry in your back pocket? My dad always carried a handkerchief and a spare for another in need.

Fast Forward

In retirement, Dad retained his chipmunk pockets, even after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s and waking one morning in long-term care. On the first day, the admissions nurse went through all his personal belongings. They wouldn’t let him keep the majority he always carried in his overflowing pockets.

With head down and a slight smile on his face, he handed over all his lifetime pocket loot to me and said, “Well, this is yours now.” I looked through the plastic shopping bag and asked if he wanted to keep the small notepad and stubby pencil. He just glanced up and said, “Nah, you still need it. I’m retired. You take over.” and he wheeled down the hallway. It was like the gates had opened and then closed behind him. He didn’t have to be vigilant; he didn’t have to stay awake any longer. It was time for the banquet—and he was inside the gates.

My dad passed away seven years ago day before yesterday. It’s funny the things you remember after that amount of time. Now, I always carry a handkerchief in my right rear pocket that my wife has embroidered a special note or character on for me. And in the left rear—one for “someone who needs it.” Thanks, Dad. Miss you.

Courtesy of Ben Bongers
My dad was always a prepared person. Not for a big crisis, but for everyday life.
About Ben Bongers KM
Ben Bongers was an international operatic tenor and practicing sommelier for 30 years based in San Francisco, CA, and Europe. He has written monthly articles for trade magazines in wine and singing over a long and lustrous career. After becoming a semi-full-time caretaker for his parents, he earned an MA in Gerontology (the study of aging and care) and was asked to publish in an eldercare textbook in 2020. He has written several books, all published by EnRoute Books and Media. His first novel, THE SAINT NICHOLAS SOCIETY, has won many awards, and his other two, TRUE LOVE—12 Christmas Stories My True Love Gave to Me, and THE FARMER, THE MINER, THE ARTISAN (a children’s book) are both up for writing awards. Ben is a Knight in the Order of Malta and helped start an overnight homeless shelter at his San Francisco, CA parish. Today, he is a Permanent Diaconate Candidate in Kansas City, MO. You can read more about the author here.

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