I am not sure when this urgency was born into my soul. Perhaps, When I was about 15, I borrowed this one black western shirt with fringe hanging off the shoulders and arms for a school “cowboy day”. It belonged to my Dad, and one afternoon I finally got up enough nerve and ask if I could wear it the next day. We didn’t borrow clothing from my Dad, in fact by the time my older brother was 15, his clothes were being handed down to Dad instead of the other way around. Stan was built like Dad, with the exception that Dad is what I would term normally built from the waist up, and Stan was built like our Dad’s Dad, and HIS namesake. Grandpa Stan had a barrel chest and broad shoulders. Thus, Stan handed the clothes down to Dad. Two of my other brothers and built exactly like Our Dad, just nice and lean.
Dad wore this shirt off and on as he played in a country-western band most every Friday and Saturday night since he was 16 years old. I remember wearing his shirt all day, and it smelled like him. A bit of cologne with a touch of his own natural scent and a hint of coffee. It felt like he was hugging me all day. My Dad is a GREAT man but never hugged us as kids. He wasn’t raised in a demonstrative home, he was raised with a lot of love and encouragement and beautiful words from his mom….they just didn’t demonstrate all they felt. Today, I will hug my Dad when I leave, and though sometimes he tenses up, I do it anyway. When I leave him, or talk to him on the phone I tell him I love him, i think sometimes it makes him a tad uncomfortable, but I do it anyway. He is 83 years young and I am so INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL that he is still here, and I dread the day he wont be. Since i was 12, i would imagine losing him and i would cry…..nothing has changed this many years later.
Dad playing my OVATION guitar
I should mention here…….that I was in the 1st, grade, standing behind the school building with some girl friends when one of them burst my heart and shocked me into reality. We were doing hopscotch and saying this silly rhythm about who we would marry, I of course said I was going to marry my Dad when I grow up. SHE told me I was stupid, and that I couldn’t marry him, because he was already married to my mom. Grant it, I should have known that, but we did live a rather sheltered country life…… (Photo below, my wedding day dancing with my Dad 1981)
Fast forward, to June 2001 . My Son and I went to Nevada and spent some time high up on a mountain that belonged to my Older cousin Larry. He, like his father, and my father was built long and lean. While we were out there visiting Larry had a bag of work shirts and t-shirts he couldn’t wear anymore and gave them to my son. It was kind of Larry to give them to us, and I packed them into my suitcase and brought them home, but My son and I both knew these shirts would never fit him. He is built just like my older brother. Large barrel chest and square shoulders. Once we arrived home, I packed them away in a tote, just because they were Larry’s. Some are uniform shirts with his name and company logo on them , there was few t-shirts, and hats…etc. Within 15 months Larry was killed in a head on collision by a young man doing 90mph in a jag. I was so sad. I pulled one of his t-shirts from the tote, and wore it, just to feel close to him . Maybe to help ease the pain my heart felt so heavily.
In 2007, I drove to my Uncle Freds house. (My Dads little brother) to give his wife some relief and help take care of him, as he lay in a bedroom dying from cancer. Before the end of the day, he begged me to stay and take care of him. I had never done anything like it before. I never went home. I had clothes brought to me, and I stayed till the end. We had alot of beautiful conversation in that dark back room, and my heart ached for the man who said he wasn’t leaving much good behind. I lost weight during those 3 weeks, it was a lot on my mind to do all I did for him. I was with him when he passed at 2 a.m. I then called his wife downstairs to tell her. I called the coroner, and when they arrived they said “they would not accept him as he was”. His body so rapid with fever and bacteria, that he only wore a diaper, because he was so hot. I had to dress my deceased Uncle’s body by myself that morning. I have never gotten over that feeling. I stayed through the final process of it all. My Aunt clung to me like a lifeline. Insisting I sat beside her during the funeral and to the cemetery. At his funeral, the preacher stopped at the end and said so perfectly….”I won’t mention the name, as this person is incredibly giving and doesn’t seek the notoriety for it, but we know and GOD knows that Barb and Fred had an angel in their midst these last 3 weeks and we know who that angel was.” That meant a lot to me. And to add a bit more “frosting” afterward my Dad walked up to me and said “I think the angel the preacher was talking about was you” wasn’t it. I just smiled. Again, before I left the house, to come back to life, I ask my Aunt for one of his old flannels and she told me to take all his civil are t-shirts as we both were history buffs.
In hindsight, I am most grateful that I took care of my uncle, for otherwise I wouldn’t have known or had the experience that I would NEED just two years later, to take care of Burt.
My Uncle Fred My Dad
In 2009, My very Best Friend and Confidant. We had the BEST of friends for 26 years. I knew him my entire life, but shortly after the birth of my first child in 1983, he began stopping by my old single-wide mobile home and having coffee with me. My home was clean, but the trailer was about wore out when we bought it for $500.00 and put it up on a piece of property that belonged to my Dad. We made payments on the septic system for 6 years. We were so poor, but that was such a RICH time in my life.
Burt was 36 years OLDER than me, and he loved to stop by my humble little place and visit. He never having children of his own, grew attached to mine, and we spent many days walking the woods together, sharing conversations about life, and love, and happiness and the pursuit of it all. What is real, and isn’t. What matters and what doesn’t. I learned so many things from him.
In 2009, Burt was dyeing in a nursing home. I begged his wife to let me bring him home to die, as each day he ate 9 spoonful’s of food, then seven, then 5… He begged to me every day to bring him home. When I agreed to move in and stay until it was all over, and promised his wife that she would not have to take care of him in any way, she finally agreed. I was his entire hospice team for 2 weeks while he lost his battle to several health issues. Those were hard days, sad days, and days still filled with so much love. I held on to him until the end, I recorded his time of death, and I prepared his body, before I called the coroner. As the van pulled out of the driveway with my dearest friend laying in the back covered with a white sheet, there was a woman standing behind the house in downtown south bend, crying and sobbing so hard, I almost didn’t recognize her. It was me. Later that day, I went into his closet and pulled his favorite tie, his “Mr. Rogers church sweater” I always teased him about, and both of his OLIVER TRACTOR t-shirts. (I was a fan, because of him ) Today, I still wear his sweater on a cold winter day, and his t-shirt is about worn thin.
When I wear them, I feel close to Burt. It makes my heart feel lighter, healed, maybe not so broken, and it help ease the pain that I still try to push clean down to the bottom of my farm boots, but it stills rises when i least expect it to. That MISSING YOU feeling never goes way. We deal with it, file it away…but its still there.
2018 I had met a woman of remarkable value. She was born as Edna, but her name never stuck. Clear up until the day she passed, close friends and family called her Babe. She was a tall, stout woman with such a loving demeanor and such a hard working woman. I loved to sit at her table and hear the stories of her life. During the wars 1941- her and her husband raised chickens in a large silver military Quonset and collected and washed 1500 eggs a day. Folks would come to their home with food bonds, and were allowed only 1 dozen eggs per family. Babe would tell her husband to redirect their attention and she would sneak 4 or 5 dozen into the vehicles of people who had a large brood of children and needed more than what the govt said they were allowed to have. She was beautifully kind, and smart, and the more time i spent with her, the more i idolized her. Did I mention she was 88 when i met her, and 94 when she passed. At her funeral, I about had to gag my own mouth. a few family members stood up and talked about her but no one spoke of her accomplishments as a woman, about her name and how it came to be, about how she took care of dozens of others, how she took in borders later in life, more to help them that herself. Every single time she saw me, she kissed me right on the lips, and as strange as it sounds, I adored it, and her. When she passed, because we had talked about my silly fettish, her daughter Jo who is 78 showed up at my house one afternoon and said “Mom wanted you to have her garden shirt and this old family bible”. I was so touched and boy did I cried. Even on her deathbed, Babe thought of me.
Myself, JoAnne, and Babe
I have shirts and a bathrobe that are my dad’s. When his wife cleans the closets and asks me to pass them onto my son-in-love that is the size of my dad, I tell her I will, but I always steal the most well-worn shirts for myself.
My older brother, and dear friend…lives 6 hours away, when he went through a divorce, and lived here with me, and his “ex” so generously threw all his clothes in black garbage bags, with most of his other possessions. It all stored in my garage and then one morning he and I repacked everything so he could move south. All that was left on the garage floor he told me to just toss for him. I did not. I kept his well-worn Carhartt bibs, a couple of pair of his Carhartt carpenter pants, a few of his t-shirts, and flannels. Why? Because they were his. Obviously, I can never wear his bibs or jeans. And I bought a 1986 Orange Ford F 150, and a 1960 Farmall 504 from him ….just because they were his first.
My Brother Stan,
The reason for this lengthy posting is this……
IF I ASK YOU FOR ONE OF YOUR SHIRTS, you can rest assured that I adore you, that I love you, and respect you. I want to carry a part of you with me. If it’s a day that you are gone from this world, or just a day when you are farther away from me than my heart can stand, I want to wear your shirt. I want to smell your scent, and allow it to transport me to a moment in time that is locked up tight in my mind.
You matter that much to someone. You are that important to someone, You made that much of a difference in someone’s life, and you are that hard to just let go of. I am that SOMEONE that will never let you go, never forget you, never stop loving you, and will always want to carry a tangible piece of you with me, always.
When it comes time for me to walk away from this side of the world, I’d like to think that someone will want a part of me to hold on.