Ah, January. The mad rush of consumerism that is the holiday season is over, and now we look around at all of our…stuff. Where did it come from?! My house, for example, is filled with random Lego pieces, twisted up slinkys, the boxes for the electronics which crept their way in here somehow- it’s a lot. And so this time of year, Tupperware bins and all sorts of storage supplies go on sale, as we being our yearly cleanouts and “refreshing”- either as part of an ill-fated resolution, or looking ahead toward Spring and hoping to lessen our load. Either way, now is the time when I myself start looking around and wondering how to make sense of the chaos. But when I opened my closet the other day to take stock of things, a different feeling overwhelmed me. I looked down at the bins which now house some of my father’s belongings, and I wondered- what happened to the stuff I had to give away? Where is it now? Who’s loving those vintage wingtips? Who wears that beautiful wool sport coat to every special occasion? Where did I put that cool digital alarm clock that took up half a dresser? I hope I didn’t accidentally throw it away….
And then, I was overwhelmed with the desire to smell my dad’s scent again. I would give anything to bury my face in his jacket sleeve once again and breathe deeply- conditioner, aftershave maybe, but mostly just…him. You see, when my dad passed away, it was two days before Christmas- almost the end of the month. I had no choice but to pack up an entire apartment-an entire life– as quickly as possible and try to be out before the end of the month. I am an only child, and my parents were divorced (amicably, but nevertheless) and so that is how I found myself, in late December 2020, sifting through clothing, music, and trinkets. Alone, sobbing loudly and feeling enormous guilt for judging what of my father’s belongings was “worth keeping.” Bear in mind, this was mere months into the Covid-19 pandemic, and I actually couldn’t even consign his furniture due to health concerns. I had to pay a team to come and junk-destroy-the pieces he loved and was so proud of. My own circumstances wouldn’t allow for me to store it anywhere, and in my headspace at the time I couldn’t comprehend an alternative. This had to be done, and I couldn’t stop moving. I had to forge ahead, not let the pain sink in. Look away while these gentlemen threw dressers and armchairs and things that my father sat on, loved, touched daily…threw them forcefully into the back of a dump truck to be carted away and crushed. Like my heart…crushed. What the hell was I doing? Was I doing this right? Why on earth was my dad not here to tell me what to do? Oh…that’s right….
The things which caused the most anxiety were his clothes, shoes and music collection. As a drummer, and as a person, my dad loved to dress well. He had a great fashion sense, and loved art deco ties, fedoras and flat newsboys, beautiful wool jackets….and shoes. When I peered under his bed, I actually gasped. There were no less than 3 plastic storage bins filled with beautiful wingtips, blue and red suede loafers…they were amazing. Then, I made my way to the closet. As I gently took the first blazer off the hanger to fold neatly, I felt something hard in the breast pocket. Upon reaching in, I found a fountain pen. My dad dressed well everywhere he went, and was very fond of making shopping lists- so even on a trip to Wal-Mart, it was not unusual for him to wear a blazer and have something to write with. I smiled, removed the pen-tossing it on the floor- and kept reaching for more jackets. After folding almost 30 items, I turned around and gasped again. I had just as many pens laying in a little bonfire pile next to me- one for each jacket! I had to laugh to myself- was he giving autographs around town? Why so many damn pens??? It’s such a practical choice, honestly. Often while I’m running errands I shudder at the thought of using the communal pen in the bank or post office….and I chuckle to myself…dad was right. A pen is a good thing to have on you at all times. Another posthumous lesson from a secret genius.
Sadly, (and again because of a lack of storage space) I had to give most of his clothing and shoes to Goodwill. I kept the ones I think he loved the most, and they now sit at the bottom of my closet, waiting for the day when my son might fit them. Same with his ties. I wear as many of his hats as I can, though I know I don’t look nearly as cool as he did. But the other night, I watched a show featuring a fashion-savvy widow who finds her late husband’s suits and dons one of his jackets flawlessly for a night out. And it made my heart ache- I should have kept one of those jackets. If nothing else, to take a moment once in a blue and pretend his arms were still around me. To sniff that scent and hear his laugh in my head. This got me thinking again, about the second lives of our discarded things…about who is finding comfort in them now, or smiles when they look at a trinket they’ve purchased, which once belonged to him, and find happiness in it. We never know the histories behind some of our most loved items…and I wish we could. I wish people could know…history. The story of a beautiful human named Eddie, who was talented and gregarious and kind….curious about all things, and loved his family with unrivaled ferocity. Who suffered with an addiction that stole him away from us way too soon…who like to be organized and well-dressed and have a pen on him. Who drank excessively from vintage highball glasses while sitting in that purple paisley armchair, listening to Duke Ellington and gazing at that cool painting you have now, hanging in your living room-that one you got from Goodwill for five bucks. Colorful, with all the sparrows, that makes you smile every time. It made him happy, too, just so you know.
That’s the thing- we put our energy into the people and the things we love. So, to every item I had to donate hastily, some with great sadness and regret….I release you. I release you into the world, to your new owners, with love. I hope that wherever you are, you shine brightly in your new home and bring some of Eddie’s joy to the space. Because I know that would be the legacy my father would want to leave- one of joy.
Thank you for reading. Spread love today.
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