Sunday, July 24, 2011

Artifact #1: The Key

The Key: An Artifact from Randy Osborne

I was six years old when my parents split up. Dad disappeared, and my mother took a full-time secretarial job. She sent me across town to live with my grandmother, Madeline.

My last name would change when my mother remarried, but in 1961, it was Gardiner. A popular TV show then was “Adventures in Paradise,” starring the handsome and debonair Gardner McKay. Growing up with Mad, I became “The Little McKay.” She believed I resembled a smaller version of the actor.

Not until well into adulthood did I find my father, who also had remarried. His wife told me Dad once said that he didn’t want to live past 50, which I thought was odd. But when my father became a paraplegic as a result of an accident in Colorado – his second wife had left him by then – it made more sense.

In 1999, my second marriage ended and I was roaming the West when the news reached me of my mother’s death. I was staying in room 50 of the Paradise Inn, in Livingston, Montana.

Later, after my father passed away, I found among his papers a letter he had typed, perhaps drunkenly, to my mother. He expressed his regrets for ruining their life together and apologized. Jesus, he wrote, had saved him.

The letter, never mailed, was dated Aug. 5, 1989: the day before my father’s 63rd birthday, and exactly 10 years before the date on my mother’s death certificate.

I stored the box of my father’s ashes on a closet shelf for several years, unable to let them go. On my 50th birthday, I scattered them into the ocean off the coast of San Francisco, a place that's always felt like a paradise to me. I kept the key.

Randy Osborne read at "True Story!" #8 in January 2011.

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