we've been waiting for the time when my mother was ready to give them up. these were not his favorite things, but dress clothes he may have outgrown, both in fit and usefulness, that now hung in the guest room closet, dry cleaned and ready for something. perhaps some other body to inhabit them.
so that's what we decided, after we'd stuffed ourselves twice over the turkey and whatnot: to gather these few things up and pass them on.
i actually didn't mind my bodiless passengers. every time i opened the door to the back seat, i'd sniff them to see if they bore any traces of him, but they did not. i tried to remember when i'd last seen him wear that tweed blazer, the navy sports coat, the striped button down, the several pairs of khaki colored slacks, but i couldn't recall. it was right to give them away.
today is his birthday, 86 he would be. so it seemed the perfect day to donate these discarded pieces of his life to someone else to use. after lunch with my coworkers, i headed over to StepUp Ministry, which recently has created GG's closet, a place where men participating in their program, which is focused on financial literacy, can shop for interview and career clothes. (though women have similar clothing programs all over the country, men's programs are rare, it seems.)
(Daddy went on only one interview in his life that he talked about, and that was for the job he eventually held for more than 50 years — caretaker of the people of my home town. (when he applied for a loan to start his practice, the farmers who ran the bank asked for collateral, and he gave them his career, though they were used to dealing in land and tractors, neither of which he had.)
he never wore a suit to work, saving them for church, funerals and weddings. he did wear a tie, but those were not part of my parcel.
i parked my car, gathering as many of his things as i could and headed to StepUp's front door, my heart pounding. i'd made arrangements to meet the volunteer director, and when i asked for her, handing over the first of Daddy's coats to someone at the front desk, i felt the tears coming. i'll go back and get more, i said, escaping. what was that about?
by the time i reached my car, the tears came on full force and i could not stop them, thinking only: i need to call my sister, she will understand this.
i gathered the last things and turned, finding the volunteer coordinator, a tall woman i had met briefly at my church, her arms open to me and to the burden i carried.
'i didn't think this would be so hard,' i said.
'i did,' she countered, 'which is why i want to give you a hug.'
we walked back with Daddy's clothes, and i found myself talking, probably too much.
'he was a physician,' i told her. 'many of his patients were poor.'
'what better place, then,' she said, 'than to share his clothes here.'
somebody soon will dress in my father's old navy blazer and his striped button down, his khaki slacks and head off into their own job interview. what they will have, if not land or tractor as collateral, is history — one of helping and healing.
such is what they need.
i wish i had thought to put a small card in each pocket—
'this blazer belonged to Graham Vance Byrum, Sr., raised in Sunbury, NC, father, grandfather, husband and physician. loved Wake Forest and circus peanuts. adored his wife. treasured his children & grandchildren. was tight with a penny and loved a pun. what you wear was donated on his 86th birthday. go for that job, and wear it well.'
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