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By Andrea Nordstrom Caughey

Some dads collect fishing poles, old boat propellers, beer steins, or signed baseballs. Mine collected flashlights. Dozens and dozens of flashlights. Small pocket flashlights, issued free with subscriptions to Readers Digest. Large beacon flashlights, with color changes, sirens, and flashing functions. Shiny and strong chrome flashlights stuffed with gigantic C’s for projects in the garage.

I had not known about this passion until I found them poised like soldiers in a laundry room cupboard after his death. Individually, I never thought twice about the occasional flash or two growing up, often paired with a home repair job gone sour. Now, exposed in all their illuminating splendor, they bred a million theories and quandaries.

Fueling the mystery, I spoke with friends whose own post-war fathers coveted and stashed flashlights in all sorts of places. Car trunks, basements, bedroom night stands, work benches.

With my dad coming of age during WWII, did he rely on them for the occasional black out?  Or was he issued one as part of a safety arsenal during his Navy career? Then again, he spent summers as a teen in a cottage with limited utilities. A flashlight for nocturnal bathroom breaks?

Maybe it was none of this. A father, after all, by definition = protection. Keeping us safe, not just during a power outage, but in the face of all things dark and scary.

In his later years, when he and I missed an exit on a darkened road, he grabbed a flashlight from his glove compartment—attempting to shine it through our car window and onto a directional sign. It broke my heart but also touched me deeply.

I have a minister friend who often uses flashlights as a metaphor for faith.  Even in the darkest moments, a small glimmer of light can guide you through. It can also help focus on the smallest, most important detail, lost in the crush of daily life.

Honoring his spirit, I have given flashlights to my grandchildren, not realizing how antiquated these devices have become in the era of embedded apps on smart phones and iPads. I remembered making scary faces with them at slumber parties, or playing Nancy Drew looking for that secret staircase during role playing with friends.

I will miss the flashlight’s role in my past, but aim to honor it like other devices that are currently under siege as semi-useless…spoons, tea towels, and wrapping paper.

For I am my father’s daughter, carrying on his self-proclaimed role as a lifelong safety czar. And even though it sits and gathers dust and corrosion under the kitchen sink, there is an EverReady waiting for me…just in case.

Andrea Caughey

Andrea Nordstrom Caughey is a magazine editor and lifelong writer who hit the jackpot moving to Davidson from California.

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