I sat down to write this blog and found myself at a loss for words. I don't know how to describe how I feel anymore, I don't know where I am in the whole grieving process and I don't really know what to say about it anymore. Except… I miss Dad. It still isn't final for me. And, I don't know when it will be.
I've also noticed I seem to find him everywhere these days. He's in the car I drive, the work ethic I practice, the budget I formulate, the groceries I buy, the recipes I cook, the songs I listen to, the home projects I envision and the dreams I have at night. I may not have been able to tell him in person he was going to be a Grandpa again, but it's comforting knowing… he really was the first to know.
While metaphorical representations of a lost parent are consoling, they can't replace the tangibles we can take with us. In this case, I received a couple irreplaceable tangibles this Christmas, thanks to Tammy. The first, a quilt.
I know the photo doesn't do it justice but it does give a good representation of who my Dad was, at a glance. You would almost always find him in camo (the color and pattern depended on the season), flannel, Nascar, Cabelas attire or the infamous, eternal, zubaz. This quilt is my Dad. I now have something that was his, that he wore. I can touch, smell and curl up in him. When I look at it, it's almost hard to know whether I want to cry or grin. I'm just thankful I have a tangible part of a person I'm a part of. It's indispensable.
I have to highlight some of my favorites nestled within the camo. Now pieces of a quilt are never any greater then the quilt as a whole, but some caught my eye immediately. In case you can't read my cryptic numbers in the photo below, they are one through five starting clockwise from the top.
1: The zubaz. Anyone who knew my Dad knew he wore the zubaz. I think this pair made it through the eighties, nineties and into 2K. I recall seeing a photo of him in these pants, with tennies and a black leather jacket. Mmm-hmm. My friends used to comment on them all the time. While I may have rolled my eyes before, they well up with tears now. In Dad's defense, these really weren't the crazy, stereotypical zubaz. They had some different imagery, contrast and depth to them. A little artistic. A little, unique.
2. The Rusty Wallace blue tee shirt. I bought this shirt for him for Christmas one year while I was working at Scheels. Everyone knows parents are impossible to buy Christmas presents for so I was just proud to find something, find it in his very specific size and see him wear it as much as he did. I have a photo of him dawning this tee as well. In fact, it was the day after Mandi's wedding. He had fallen asleep on the floor while they were opening presents. Which was just about what you'd expect from Dad.
3. The Hooters shirt. What can you say about this, really, except it was a rare occurrence seeing Dad in a long sleeve tee. If I remember right, this one seemed about it. I guess he just really liked the shirt. Or the restaurant. Or…
4. The red flannel. This one is tough because it's most current. This was the first thing I saw the night we came home from the hospital. We walked into the house and straight ahead of me in my line of sight was the coat rack. On it, hung Dad's flannel. I walked straight over, stuck my arm in the sleeve, pulled the flannel to my face and lost it. We had just said goodbye and it was like he had never really left.
5. The Trojans sweatshirt. Number one, since Allison-Bristow joined schools with neighboring Greene, there is no longer such a thing as a Trojan. So really, it's a classic. Number two, it's a sweatshirt. Back in the day, Dad used to tuck in his sweatshirts. I think he might have even thrown a belt on too, not for sure. It's what he did. It's what made him Dad. If you look super close at this piece, I believe there's even a stain on it. Authenticity at it's best.
All these are surrounded by Cabela's and camo. Dad's favorite past time. I'm sure it's hunting season year round for him now, up in God's real country.
The second, a bracelet. I had never heard of such an idea until Tammy mentioned it immediately following the funeral. Apparently people started making bracelets from the funeral programs as a way to remember a loved one. It was so fitting in this case because it came out damn near camo. I can't really explain how it's done, because I'm not sure, but I believe it involves cutting triangle pieces from the program, rolling them up and then rubbing an adhesive/hardening substance over them when complete. I think. One thing's for sure, it takes patience, attention to detail and tedious, tedious handwork. The end result though… is… indescribable. It's embellished with some accenting beads but bottom line, it too, is Dad. It's another tangible to take with me. It can sit by my green Iowa Donor Network bracelet on my wrist and can go with me everywhere, everyday. It's a warming, constant reminder that I really do get to take him with me.
I have a terrible, point-and-shoot camera but if you can't tell, there are actually two bracelets. The simplest of the two belongs to Shawn and the thicker belongs to me. It's hard to see from the photo but squares with Dad's initials hold space in the middle ring: M.V.M. for his given name, Mark Vernon Miller. To me, he's just Dad.