This post was written as part of the Red Dress Club--a writing club created by some very talented ladies. This weeks excersise was to write about finding a forgotton peice of clothing and why that article of clothing holds value to you.
The last box, brown, labeled “Master B.R.” taunting me to open it and hang its contents despite my exhaustion. The clock read sometime close to midnight and the only sound permeating the house are my husband's snores.
I pried the tape off, hearing that satisfying "rip". I peer inside at the clothes, sigh and gather my hangers from the closet. I hang a shirt, then some pants, a sweater; it's then that I notice a black and white pattern near the bottom.
Reaching my hand into the box, my fingertips touch against soft silk. I work the fabric back and forth between my fingers and instantly, my emotions shift. I pull my hand back fast as I soothe my imaginary burns. Tears sting against the corner of my eyes.
Slowly, my hand finds it's way back to the box. Once again I allow my fingers to rub the fabric together. I lift it carefully out of its storage bin and hold it up in the air. The jagged, striking random white stripes lay against the shirt’s black background creating a perfect combination of classic and modern. I look from its scoop neck down to its generous midsection which was perfect for concealing my 8-week old secret—a baby, his grandson-the one he never got the chance to meet.
I remember buying the shirt in Macy’s, in a daze, staring blankly at the black and white pattern attempting to discern it’s appropriateness at a funeral and eventually coming to the conclusion that neither he nor I would care about the norms. I carelessly tossed it on the counter to pay, not understanding the sentiment it would soon hold.
Now, I press the silkiness to my cheek wondering if tears still stain it, as I’ve never found the strength to wash it. I inhale, wishing I could still smell the fresh rain that sprinkled the burial ground. I wondered if fragments of the earth we carefully scooped on top of the casket, symbolizing our part in laying him to rest and bringing him some much needed peace are still caught between the threads.
I sit on my bed, finally allowing my tears to flow to my cheeks. This one piece of fabric brings floods of memories of his last months on earth. The seemingly endless suffering as his brain slowly shut down no longer able to handle the strain of stroke after stroke. A genius should not have to lose his mind in the end; it’s a cruel way to go.
I continue to stare at the shirt crumpled on my lap and know that it’s time. Through the tears I walk to our laundry room. Using the gentlest cycle I watch it swirl through the bubbles of soap.
I sit on the cold tile floor hoping the gentle cycle will wash away the pain so I can celebrate my dad’s life through the shirt instead of his mourn his death. Maybe this shirt can serve as a reminder of all the good, the boldness and softness that made him special— that made him, an amazing human being.