On what’s typically considered to be the most important day in a young woman’s life, I stood in my long white dress, terrified about the vow I was about to take. Then he walked into the room and took my breath away.
Proudly smiling and looking handsome in his new navy-blue suit, the first man I ever loved engulfed me in his usual bear hug, asking, “Honey, are you ready?”
“I’m scared,” was all I could utter.
Weaving my arm through his and interlocking our fingers like when I was young and afraid, my dad led me to the doors of the church, kissed my cheek and reassured, “You’re going to be just fine. But never forget, I’m always here for you.”
Throughout the years, every time he stood tall in that blue suit, which was typically reserved for religious celebrations, the feeling in my heart was the same. I needed to collect myself as I studied the image of this fine man. But it wasn’t just because of how he looked. After all, it was just a piece of clothing. Instead, it symbolized everything my father embodied: grace, dignity and sophistication as he honored the Lord. Nothing was more awe-inspiring than to see him dressed up, his head bowed in prayer.
When life became cruel and my father lost the use of his legs, there were no more occasions to wear it. Sequestered in the far corner of his closet, perfectly pressed, it sadly reminded me of my wallflower days at teen club dances, standing in the dark, hoping someone would notice. The only difference was that I’d one day find my way into the light, while the suit remained in the dark.
Years later, after his passing, it became my responsibility to clear out his belongings. Knowing the experience could knock me at the back of my knees with a baseball bat and send me tumbling, I forced the persona of a drill sergeant with no emotion and methodically placed things into piles: keep, give away and throw out. Before long, all was gone – except for the suit. I couldn’t bring myself to part with it. Last month, however, I had an epiphany. It was time to set it free.
Like my mother, I become paralyzed when giving away something with a memory laced to it. I feared that if it were gone, then I’d forget that it ever existed in the first place. But realizing one day that my own children would be left with my mess to clear out, I decided it was finally time to take action.
Removing the jacket from the hanger, I wove my arms through the long sleeves, wrapped myself up into a chrysalis and inhaled the masculine scent of his Old Spice aftershave, breathing in his essence.
Tears quickly began soaking my cheeks, but, surprisingly, they weren’t sad tears. By letting this beautiful suit go, I hoped that another man would one day stand proudly, smiling at his daughter, and she in return, on the biggest day of her life before giving her away. I was giving it a chance to be reborn.
I don’t need his suit, or any other trinket, to be reminded of how much we loved each other. I have hundreds of pictures to keep the visual alive. When I miss his strength, and the sound of his voice, I just close my eyes and cloak myself in a warm memory that interlocks our fingers once again – a daddy and his daughter, soulfully, lovingly and eternally intertwined.