Keys

When I was a boy, my dad worked for a local propane company, where he was the branch manager. And with the job came many keys – the keys to the building, the tool room, his office, the shed out back, the garage where they repaired the trucks… so many keys.

He had a giant keyring he carried on a clip on his belt that jangled when he walked and had another, larger keyring with more seldom used keys on a ring clipped to the emergency brake handle on his truck. One of the strongest sounds I associate with my dad was us in the truck and him pulling the brake handle to release it, and the keys jangling.

One day when I was maybe eight or nine, I asked Dad why he had so many keys. He told me that each key represented a responsibility he had.

That answer was almost throw away, but over the last five years as a homeowner, it came home to me. I had the keys to the front door, to the basement, to the tool shed, to the car, the office, the church, the chicken coop. With every new responsibility came another key., until my keyring was full.

Then we moved to another city. I turned over my house keys and my work keys until all I had on my keychain was the key to a 12-year-old, paid-for car and an apartment we rent, that someone else is responsible for. Two keys, virtually no responsibilities.

Sunday I got my set of work keys – four of them. I am up to six now, as responsibilities come creeping back.