For Safe Keepings How I Found Out My Dad Left Me A Safe Deposit Box In Las Vegas Years After He Died Jensen Karp

My father passed when I was 29 years old in a manner that is probably a bit too familiar for some readers. He was diagnosed with his first bout of lung cancer a few years prior, only to beat it with chemotherapy and radiation. But like the career of Nick Cannon, as bad as we wanted it to disappear, it didn’t. I watched as he tirelessly attempted to fight a second diagnosis, but when the tumors multiplied, he became a shell of his former self. Once a fast-talking car salesman who never took “no” for an answer, my father knew defeat when he saw it. You only know the feeling if you’ve experienced it firsthand, and I hope most of you don’t, but it’s extremely painful to witness your parent just disintegrate.

In between some moments of incoherency, we still cleared the air on many subjects, including our past squabbles and what to do moving forward. We talked about his funeral, but he didn’t want anything planned in advance. He joked about hiring a magician for the service who’d keep promising to raise him from the dead, only to admit magic isn’t real and leave crying. And as we planned the funeral, we meticulously went through every bank account, every credit card, every outstanding debt, every dollar and every loose end he may have left behind. When he passed, I knew he did everything he could to make it easy for me, and for that, and our conversations, I will always be grateful. We had taken care of absolutely everything in advance, or so we thought.

Two years later, I received a call from a bank in Las Vegas alerting me of my “expiring safe deposit box.” They explained that I was a few months behind in payments, and that if I didn’t catch up in the next few weeks, they would have to break open the box and I’d lose whatever was inside. I understood the dilemma, but had only one problem—I’ve never opened a safe deposit box, let alone one in Las Vegas. I told them there must be some sort of mistake, and he assured me he was speaking to the real owner—Jensen Karp. He said the rent was pre-paid for about four years, and it just expired. He also revealed that my father’s name was listed as a secondary contact. I quickly jarred my brain for memories of a drunken night gambling, one where I ran off to a nearby bank and hid the winnings from the government, but could only muster memories of sadly eating a Nathan’s hot dog alone after losing money at the New York, New York hotel. Right before my father’s first run-in with cancer, he lived for a short time in Las Vegas, a period of his life I usually liked to forget, but now couldn’t stop thinking about.

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Did he buy a safe deposit box in my name, understanding that one day, if he were to die, the bank would alert me of these hidden assets? Why didn’t he tell me about this? Am I in a Nic Cage movie? I thanked the bank associate and started planning my pilgrimage to Vegas to learn what this was all about.

My mom was most excited about the prospects. She explained that my dad frequently would hide cash outside of the house, knowing that it wasn’t safe to leave just lying around inside. She theorized that during his Las Vegas period, many things happened that he didn’t remember and this must have just slipped his mind. She basically told me to rent an armored truck just in case I couldn’t fit all the jewels in my suitcase. But I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I obviously wouldn’t reject money, but I also kind of hoped for meaningful results. Not to sound like a Nicholas Sparks’ movie, but I still struggle with losing my father every day. A hand-written letter from him—words from beyond the grave detailing his love and support for me years later—would be more helpful than any money. Also, it sounded like something JJ Abrams would do to promote LOST, and I can back that. I decided to face this alone, so I bought a solo plane ticket and coordinated my arrival with the bank. Since I wasn’t left a key to the box, I had to hire a local locksmith to crack it. At the end of the day, with airfare, hotel, car rental and bank fees, I was in for around $650. Las Vegas, here I come.

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  1. If there were a way to send hugs via message, you’d get one from me. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been for you to go through. There’s this little book, hell I don’t even think it’s a book but a packet called, “What you are never stops,” and I was thinking of that while reading your article. Although the pain of losing a parent never goes away, your dad is always with you in spirit. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. So beautiful!

  3. Thanks for sharing. I lost my father to Hodgkin’s when I was seven. I really don’t have a whole lot of memories other than him being sick. What I do have from him is a red hoodie. I grew into it and it fits me better than anything. It probably seems crazy to most but live in a constant state of being torn apart by wanting to wear it often to be reminded of him and wanting to keep in hanging in my closet so it lasts forever. I know it’s a very different situation but your paperclip reminded me of it.

  4. Hey Jensen. Great article. Thanks for sharing. Can’t imagine your initial disappointment in finding that box (nearly) empty, but it’s cool that you turned the experience into a positive, and a means of building inner strength. Love the podcast, BTW. F*** your dreams, my friend.

  5. My dad died of terminal lung cancer in September of 2011. My dad also lived in Las Vegas. My sisters and I never found any random safe deposit boxes, but we had 17 amazing days with him.

  6. Thanks for sharing this. Like many who have commented, I also lost my dad to cancer in my twenties (a year and a half ago). What gives me strength is knowing that that’s what he’d want for me. It’s comforting to know there’s others working through the same issues I am.

  7. Thank you for sharing. I was choking during the first 2 pages. I felt the story, even when both my parents are still alive. If I weren’t at the mall, I would’ve cried! In the end, I was really hoping the paper clip to be a kind of first clue for the second box, which contained what you needed. So now, I was left with a sudden urge to visit all the banks in Woodland Hills, asking for an abandoned box under your name.

    • I would encourage you to go to Woodland Hills purely for the Pizza Cookery on Topanga. Thank you so much for reading and connecting with my story.

  8. Great story. Thanks for sharing and sorry that was so stressful when it happened. But still, a little part of me from the back of my head said, wouldn’t the “Damn son, where’d you find this?” drop be ever so perfect here?

    Thanks, Jensen.

  9. Thanks for writing this. My Daddy died 30 years ago when I was 23. Twenty years later, when I was in dire straits, I found an envelope marked, “$1.64 found in Mr. Haughawout’s jacket pocket.” This was from the funeral home. Daddy was a very practical man, so I used the money. He also had a bank that looked like a model.T and I used that money too, also just a few dollars. What he left me was unconditional love, and his transparent admiration and pride for the person I was becoming. He always won at Scrabble, and was the most intelligent and thoughtful man I knew, despite his family’s inability to send him to college. It was the depression and his parents could only afford to send one son to college. I’m grateful to have had him for the years I did.

  10. Jenson,
    Thanks for that. I think that was a well thought out, great article, regardless of what some have said. I lost my mother when I was 13 and father at 25, I have to say that the little things, albeit not a paperclip but other small things sometimes end up being much more meaningful than you think. It is what you can hear that person say to you, as that familiar voice in your head, when you see it. Lessons in perseverance, and learning to be happy, even when feeling lost. Small things, big lessons, it’s that life is a journey thing all over again. I’m glad it worked out for you, even as oddly as it did. Me too. That’s what our parents wanted I’m certain.

    • Thanks for the kind words. Technically, it’s not what “people” are saying, just the mother below. Thanks again xo

  11. I lost my mother to cancer a few years ago. I find dimes in the oddest places at just the right time, and for some reason I know they’re from her. The small things we ascribe meaning to often mean the most. Thank you for writing this! It made me smile.

    Elizabeth Entenman | 6/11/2014 10:06 am
  12. Hi Jensen. I just wanted to say thank you for writing this article. My father passed away about two years ago due to throat cancer and I think being able to sort things out before someone passes is one of the greatest gifts you can get. The sense of loss will never truly go away. I really enjoyed your point of view and experiences. So thank you for sharing them with us.

  13. Ouch, Sirena. Sometimes stories don’t have endings we want. But I think what Jensen was getting at was the important lesson he learned that we can’t rely on blind faith, and we need to rely on ourselves to make our lives great. You can choose to take away meaning from the story or not, but it was a good article that was well written. Sorry he couldn’t make it any happier for you. This is about a guy’s life, it’s not a fan fiction.

  14. Bravo, Jensen.

  15. This was absolutely the “suckiest” thing I have ever read. Really. Yes, I respect your journey with your father’s passing (I lost my strong, powerful, amazing Daddy to Lymphoma when I was 22. It came out of nowhere and took him painfully and swiftly), but you’re a writer.. Aren’t you supposed to write things that people will like and be satisfied to read?? I just read three pages in anticipation of something, ANYTHING interesting, to end up with your interpretation of a paper clip and another box that you “didn’t want”. Do the reading world a favor please and don’t write anything like this again. I’m just being honest.. It was bad.
    Ps It’s staring, not “starring”.. Unless you are starring in the movie “The Most Unfulfilling Three Pages Ever Written”.
    Pps I really, really did like the pics of your Dad you inserted. They made me tear up quite a bit.

    • I may be completely off but I loved the story. People go into stories/movies these days expecting everything to end happily ever after. Life isn’t a fairy tale and to me this is a great example that it isn’t but you should still look for the positive in everything. No Jensen didn’t walk out of the bank with a treasure but he was reminded of a valuable lesson. Things don’t magically happen. You make them happen.

      That’s just my two cents.

      Great write up Jensen. Love the podcast

    • You seem like you’d be fun at parties.

    • I’m sorry that you went through this but it’s great that you found a positive out of something negative! A really interesting article, Jensen.

  16. This was so great, Jensen.

  17. My mum was diagnosed with Cancer and had treatment 6 years ago. I was terrified. But happy to say she is alive and well, despite the chance of her survival was only 30%.
    So sorry for your loss, stay strong!

  18. I, too, am just 29 and just lost my dad on May 10th. Reading the first paragraph was almost reading my own story. Aside from a few details, my dad wasn’t a car salesman, but a musician. He was diagnosed in January and the horrible effing disease quickly took everything I knew of my dad, until he, too, was a ‘shell of his former self.’

    I don’t have a safe deposit box, but I enjoyed reading the story!

    • I’m am so sorry for your loss. Hopefully you can find the peace he most definitely would want you to find. Thank you for reading.

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