The Eastman Chemical Tank Car

I browsed various Tumblr blog posts this morning and paused to read through a list of thought-provoking questions.

Paul Garrison's story about a model train car is part of Project Keepsake. 

Paul Garrison's story about a model train car is part of Project Keepsake. 

147. Mars for Snickers? 
Definitely Snickers, I thought.
148. What's your favorite quote?
Thoreau's "In wildness is the preservation of the world," popped into my mind.
149. Do you believe in ghosts?
Maybe.
150. Get the closest book next to you, open it to page 42, what's the first line on that page?

I grabbed my copy of Project Keepsake, flipped to page 42, and instantly recognized the story as Paul Garrison's "The Eastman Chemical Tank Car,"  a hauntingly beautiful story chronicling the life of an adopted son as he faces the death of his parents and searches for some type of resolution to the events of his life. 

I know Garrison, and he doesn't consider himself a writer, yet his story is one of the most powerful stories in the collection. It stars a cast of real people I knew long ago, living tragic, tormented lives—divorce, sudden death, neglect, psychological abuse, dementia, grief. I wept the first time I read it. 

At the core of the story is a young boy's innocence, imagination, and his love of train sets—a simple and almost universal concept.

The trains were not really my toy trains—they were my father’s. The train set came out only once a year, for about a month around Christmas. My father, Lawrence Garrison, pulled out the boxes and assembled all the pieces into electromechanical magnificence.
— Paul Garrison from Project Keepsake

Just like the other stories in the book, Garrison's story isn't really about his keepsake. His model train car holds thousands of memories. He condensed the memories and emotions down and penned the story. Here's another excerpt from the book. 

Each new day brought new tracks and new destinations. Uncle Georgy provided for me and Georgia, making sure we had life’s necessities and doing his best to make us decent, well-adjusted people. We eventually called him ‘Dad,’ and he became our dad, though to him, I was still, ‘Snot.’

Over the next thirty-six years, I experienced mostly great fortune. I did not get drafted into war. I graduated from Georgia Tech, met my beautiful wife, Annie, and found excellent work. Annie and I travelled the world and participated in the Internet boom. I lived a life most would envy.

Then in 2009, Uncle Georgy’s—Dad’s—health declined dramatically. He developed what he called a serious case of the don’t give a shits. For years, he had been the main caregiver for my mother, who lived with dementia and stayed in bed all day, every day. He lost a lot of weight and was not too concerned about any of it.

He died in May that year. I had seen it coming and was as prepared as I could be. I told my mom, but she never fully digested the news. Georgia and I found a funeral home and scheduled the cremation, just as Dad requested. He had asked us to plan the least expensive funeral possible, and we obliged. We bought an inexpensive, marble urn for his ashes.
— Paul Garrison from Project Keepsake
16.99 18.99

Garrison's story reminds us that like a train, life barrels down its course taking different tracks as directed by some grand engineer. We can't stop it. Some of the changes are welcome, while others are not. 

Do you have a keepsake? Where did it come from? Why is it special? Share the story.

Project Keepsake is on sale with free shipping and handling. It's great gift item, especially for the holidays. 
Buy it right here right now, and get a free bookmark.