Saturday, July 09, 2005

My Dad's Old Sweater

As I'm cleaning my closets and sorting out my life, I've come across a number of articles about which I've needed to make some hard decisions. One of those items is my dad's old sweater.

I co-opted it sometime in high school. I'm not sure if it really was a letterman's sweater or not, and I'm pretty sure my dad was never much of an athlete and he certainly didn't have any letters to hang on it, but I always thought of it as a such, and I liked wearing it around.

Of course it was too big for me, but back then, oversized was cool. I took the sweater with me to college and would pull it on in the dorm when it was chilly. The sweater graduated from college with me, minus at least one button. It stayed with me as I got my first job and after I got married. Somewhere along the way I purchased a newer, more appropriate sweater, but I still kept this one.

I kept it through my job change in 1999 and my separation in 2000. The sweater made its way into my office where it hung on the back of my door, and sometimes I would pull it on in the winter rather than turn on the heat.

All of the buttons are gone now. The sweater is pilled and bedraggled. It was one of the last things I took from my office before I left for good on June 30. And now, as I clean my closets and try to make sense of the disorder in my life, I have to decide the fate of my father's sweater.

I want to keep it. It's like a security blanket now, and just looking at it reminds me of the many years we spent together. I don't know how I can just throw it in the garbage. And if I don't keep it, that is what I must do - throw it in the garbage. It's not something I can donate or give away. It's not just old, tired, dirty and worn - it's mine and it's filled with memories that I don't want to share with anyone else.

I just came back from a visit with my parents. Even though he just turned 61, my father is getting older now, and in some ways I fear that the end may be near. His father died in his early sixties and his uncle died at 54. I know it sounds fatalistic, but my father may not have too many years left. So how can I throw out his sweater?

When I left my parents the other day, I hugged my dad and told him I'd be back next week. I can still feel the tight bear hug he gave me, and the scratch of his beard on my cheek. And I will be back next week, and I'm going to be driving with my parents to South Carolina to visit my father's cousins - cousins he never really knew. I am going to be spending some good old fashioned quality time with mom and dad.

And the memory of that will last longer than the sweater.

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