My father handed me a sheet of paper six months before his friend Bernard again handed me a sealed envelope after he died. My father had been diabetic and because he was not particularly a man of some means, the disease wore him out. My father became paralyzed losing the use of most of his sense organs – he couldn’t pee, couldn’t pee, couldn’t eat, and couldn’t talk to you. In that vegetable state, I was the one there helping him feed, guess at whatever he wanted and carry him on my back whenever I thought he needed to go to the john. His wife who had run away sometime before he became critically ill came back to help out. But you did not have to make a guess at what daddy felt about her coming back whenever you looked at his face.
The sheet of paper my father handed me (it’s right here in front of me) was typed and addressed to me. It had a caption, INTEGRITY, underlined twice and had that word defined with three words, also all written in upper case thus: UPRIGHTNESS, WHOLENESS, and PURITY. At first when I casually glanced through the ten-paragraph document, it didn’t make much sense to me. I asked myself: why was he handing me this document on integrity? Was he by any chance trying to tell me that I wasn’t upright and that I should; that I was not whole and that I should endeavour to be whole; and that I wasn’t pure and try to purify myself?
But I began to be preoccupied with a lot other things after he died, that is, until his friend Bernard walked up and handed me that sealed envelope he said was from my father in the event of his death. I opened it but this time it had another sheet of paper with another kind of title. It was an intriguing one. The content of that sheet of paper is not one I wanted to keep a secret but I had no choice but obey the wishes of a dead man who was my father.
Recently and out of perchance I was leafing through some of my papers and ran into that first sheet of paper he had given to me about six months before he died in 1990. It was getting brown with age. On the top right hand corner I’d jotted something down, concerning Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws and very close to paragraph four of that document, I cannot remember why I’d written ‘Count Mirabeau’. Glancing away from paragraph four to paragraphs five and six, I read, as though I was hearing my father’s voice…
5. It is easy to know men of integrity; their word is their bond. They make no rash or foolish promises; but once they have passed their word on a matter, they will abide by that word at all costs to themselves.
6. Men of integrity never betray confidences; and they are always reliable and trustworthy in every way, and especially in times of trouble or distress.
I had not thought nor toyed with the idea of revealing my father’s secret in that envelope his friend Bernard gave to me after my daddy was buried. Now, I have a chance to make some money out of the contents of that sealed envelope that his friend Bernard gave to me. Should I go for it and tell you about the contents of that sealed envelope? I think I should but I will not. Why? Because it’s my biggest secret.
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