(trigger warning: suicide)

After my father passed away almost two years ago, I inherited a room full of his chemicals.

He had quite a bit - enough to fill a Honda Civic a dozen times, anyways.

My dad owned chemicals and the related equipment for three reasons:

1. to create explosives

As a kid, it was just as a hobby - he would do things like recreate the explosive arrows from Rambo.
A bit older, he joined the Air Force as part of the E.O.D. or "bomb squad" to diffuse bombs overseas.
After that, he got back to making fireworks as a hobby, and many of my childhood memories involve homemade fireworks fired off by a nearby creek - I remember that fondly.

2.  misc. experiments:

  • extracting THC out of weed
  • purifying alcohol for fun, seeing what % he could get to (how many 9s?)
  • just seeing what he could make, really

3. to kill himself
with sodium cyanide or a poisonous gas (apparently he couldn't make up his mind for a while)

So here I was with a room full of chemicals, much of which was meant to either blow you up or poison you, and my working knowledge of chemistry effectively stopped in high school.

You'd think some policeman or something would come to the rescue and deal with the fact I had kilograms of sodium cyanide and red phosphorous. Nope. I was on my own somehow. Apparently my situation was not common enough for systems to be in place.

I entered the situation with fear and anger/frustration:

  • what are the laws around me dealing with these chemicals?
  • how do I safely store and transport all of them?
  • what if I accidentally blow something or someone up?
  • what if I accidentally poison someone, or contaminate something unexpectedly?
  • what if I sell explosives to a maniac, and he ends up using them to do something terrible?
  • how much are chemicals and equipment even worth, and how much do I want/need to squeeze that value out in order to help support his wife and young kids?
  • why is this bottle of household drain cleaner stored with the official-looking chemicals?
  • why did he need so much damn glassware?
  • how can I handle the emotions associated with the fact that I'm handling my father's poison?

It's been nearly two years now, all the above questions have been resolved OK, and I've reduced my dad's stash to just one treasured box.

I've learned so much along this path, and am forever grateful for being able to connect with my father through chemistry, even if only after his death.

Part 2 will be on how I handled the chemicals.