My father's a real pack-rat.

When I asked him if he wanted help moving some of his old stuff into the garbage, he looked kind of helpless and told me how he's heard that some people whose houses burn down feel relieved that they're freed from their possessions. When we flew out of Denver last Sunday, the sky was filled with smoke. Even though the fires were hundreds of miles away in the mountains, announcements on both TV and radio asked people to quit calling 911 to report a fire in their neighborhood, it all seemed that close. Breathing was hard so we stayed inside until we absolutely had to get in the car to leave for the airport.

Then we got back to California and I kind of forgot about it, thinking that it would all be under control by the end of the day. But it's not -- it's worse now, it was on the cover of the New York Times, which, for me, makes it "real." I called my dad this morning after I heard that residents on the border of Jefferson County, the county where my parents have lived for the last forty years, were starting to evacuate. I expected him to say something reassuring like, "Oh, it's shifting direction and the firefighters are getting it all under control." Instead he sighed and said, "It's a real bearcat."

I'm worried now that he'll never get the chance to go through all his stuff piece by piece and remember how it came into his life and think about what it means to him now and decide what to throw out and what to pass on to us; that a lifetime's accumulated trashes and treasures will all go up in flames. But maybe that's what he wants.

This is a link to the National Fire Information Center.