I was cleaning out a closet in my house when I pulled out a tub of crocheted items and felt a lump lodge in my throat.
My father—who would have turned 70 this week but succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 2004—had made the items for me and my daughters during my pregnancies. You have to understand: My father was 6’4”, about 230 pounds, and but for the remaining six months, spent the last 17 years of his life behind bars. I didn’t even think he had a feminine side. How ironic is it that federal prison is what softened him.
I still keep one of the blankets he made for me on my bed even though it doesn’t match anything in my room. I kept the other blankets and sweaters and hats and 60s-style handbag and stuffed animals and baby clothes so I would remember him. We weren’t close. My father didn’t let people get close to him; it’s how he was raised. After he passed, I secreted these items in a clear plastic tub. I didn’t know why. I just thought it would be sacrilegious or something to get rid of them even though the likelihood of me wearing the sweaters in Florida was practically nil.
Therefore I was surprised by my reaction as I pulled out item after item from the tub including two pairs of pink and white baby booties made of the softest and most delicate yarn, a pale pink baby beret, and a downy soft yellow and white infant blanket.
I started crying.
I haven’t mourned for my dad in years, but I’m in a transition with my kids—one daughter entering high school and my youngest child entering middle school—and the last picture I have of my father before the cancer ravaged him is of him holding my youngest daughter, Tia, as an infant (see above).
Again, we were never that close, but in that moment, I missed him terribly.
I was tempted to take out the items and share them with my daughters who don’t remember their Grandpa, and only recognize him because of pictures I have around the house. Then, because I had 100 things on my To Do List, I tucked everything back in the box and went on with my day.
But after reading Teal Ashes, a friend’s blog about the importance of speaking the names of our departed loved ones, I realized that the real reason I kept those beautiful but ridiculously warm sweaters, the countless infant blankets, hippie purse, and the baby clothes well after my children had outgrown them was because subconsciously, I wanted there to be evidence of my dad’s life here on earth. In spite of some of his poor choices, I wanted something good that he did to last after he was gone.
So, I pulled out the clear tub again, gathered my girls around me, and told them about my father. I wept and they wept a little with me. And it felt good to tell them about someone whose blood they have running through their veins and to show them how this flawed man—their grandpa—who couldn’t say ‘I love you’ with words, had said it to his granddaughters with yarn and a crochet needle.
Thank you, Teresa, for your inspiration.
Thank you for always being so vulnerable and emotionally honest. We love your family. ❤️
Kim, I thank you for sharing this beautiful post about your complicated relationship with your father. What a blessing that you tucked away his handmade gifts. What a blessed prompt they now give you in turning “the heart of [your] children to the heart of [your] father.”
I think all family relationships have their challenges. But it took adulthood and the sobriety of my own flaws to show real grace to my dad. He did the best be could. How can you fault anyone for that?