Daddy's shirts

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It's an extremely surreal experience to go through the home of someone you love after they die. YOU choose what to keep, what to donate, what to throw away. YOU go through a lifetime of someones belongings and decide what still has value and what doesn't. You evaluate each item, many things you've never seen before. Did Daddy love this? Would he have wanted me to keep this? Did he want one of us to have this? But other things you've seen a million times. You know exactly what it meant, where it came from, and what to do with it.

My sisters and I went through this bittersweet process over the past few months. There were tears when we found photos of my Dad as a young man that had been buried for decades. But there were also belly laughs when we found hilarious samples of his handwriting with to-do lists and notes to himself that only remind us of his endearing quirks. I even found one from a few years back that said "Win Taylor Swift tickets for Ashley on WKCY." He called that radio station 20 times to try and win. Seeing his handwriting crushes me.

We also found head scratching things like bags full of empty walnut shells that he found at the cabin. Really Dad? Walnut shells? But they reminded him of a place he loved. He was very sentimental like that. We found a hideous sculpture I made in 6th grade proudly displayed in the foyer for all to see. Let me be clear...that sculpture belonged in a box in the attic. But to him, it was worth a coveted spot in the foyer. And don't get me started on the garage full of tools. We had tools coming out our ears. Four and five versions of the same tool. He was a tool collector indeed. And I think he would be proud that his daughters and son-in-laws will now make use of them.

This morning I was going through a bin of items (of treasures really) that I found in his house and have brought back to my house to keep forever. Photo albums, the Bible I gave him a few years ago, a notepad that said "We Love Granddaddy!" that the kids had given him for Christmas recently, his glasses, his watch, my parents wedding invitation.

And two of his shirts. I could only bear to keep two.

But they're the two I remember him wearing most often. Raggedy old denim button up shirts. Well washed. Well worn in. If my Dad had a capsule wardrobe, these shirts would be his signature staple. I can close my eyes and see him in my college dorm room wearing one. I can see him holding my babies wearing one. I can see him sitting in his kitchen petting his dog, Gracie, and he is wearing one.

And God help me... when I close my eyes, I can see him standing at the end of his driveway in Virginia, smiling at me and my family as we drive away after a visit. I am watching him in the passenger side mirror as the car pulls away. He is waving goodbye. And he is wearing that shirt.


  1. Rocking my baby, staring up at the moon w a heart full of emotion. So glad you wrote.

  2. I recently did this for my dad's house. At 30, I felt like the youngest person in the world (which I know I'm not) to be deciding on stuff. There seemed to always be more stuff! Just when I thought I was making headway. The closet was last and I couldn't have done it alone. Thanks for writing about this experience. I too imagine my daddy in his shirts.

  3. I think my dad had 5 of the same shirts and he considered these his 'dress' shirts :) I chose to save one that said "Grateful not to be Dead" which was a symbol and a reminder of his struggle with addiction. It's a tough thing to go through but it does help heal!

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