My Fathers Jacket

My fathers jacket is made of Moose hide, and beaded by Indians. My step-mother gave his leather coat to me when he died. It wasn’t listed in the will. She could have legally kept the coat.   He wore it hunting. On the left shoulder is a hole where his gun strap rubbed.

I am thankful she did not clean out the pockets of the jacket.  In the left pocket are two bolts and a washer. The right pocket has a drill bit, a plastic clip, a bolt and a worn piece of paper with a lock combination written on it in his handwriting.  32-9-54. I keep the bolts in the pockets. I like to take the bolts out and hold them.  My father put his hands in those pockets. I put my hands in the same pockets.

The day before my father died my step-mother , my brother and I went and sat in the lounge down the hall from my dad’s room.  He had a rattling sound in his throat.   The doctor said it would be soon.

” Would you like to split up your fathers ashes and each of you have some in an urn?” she asked.

” No. We would like him to be all together.”

I am content knowing my father’s ashes are in one place, and with the last woman he loved.  His ashes were placed in a hand crafted wooden box that resembled a book, and propped up on a table at his funeral.

I  wonder where he is now.  Is he in his second wife’s closet under shoe boxes? Or in her attic stacked on top of Christmas ornaments, or maybe his ashes are sitting on the mantle next to the picture of her wedding to her third husband.  I am glad  his ashes are not  interned in a cemetery.  Then I might think that there is only one place to think of him, or to officially remember him.

My father was with me when I built the fence in California. He is with me when I look at something that is broken and I say, “I can fix that.”  He is with me when I see a wooden bookcase and I say, “I can make that.”

Several months ago, I had a vivid dream. My father and I were in his backyard. His hedges  next to the alley had died. He wanted to build a fence, where the hedges had been, to keep out the neighbors dog. I told him, “Hey dad, I know how to build fences now. I can dig the post holes for you. I have my own post hole digger.”  I wanted to do something for my father. I wanted to work together with him.  He was alive in my dream.

Last Sunday at church during announcements there was a video clip for Grief Share, a new small group that was starting. In the video they  talked about how  “With death you move from a relationship of presence to a relationship of memory.”

My father is alive in my memories. I think of him often. He died,  March 17, 1998.  I don’t wear anything green on that day. I wear my father’s jacket.


17 responses to “My Fathers Jacket

  1. I had been wondering if you would do a post about Bill as March 17th came around. So many of your blogs have shared your thoughts and memories of his death, and I am glad for one that while overall is about his death, is really so much more. I don’t have any of his personal belongings to remember him by but what I do have and cherish are the mounted antlers of the first buck I shot with him and a small birch bark canoe and paddle he made for me one day on a picnic along with an eight inch bow and arrow. I sometimes mention to people things I can do because he never felt that just because I was a girl they weren’t suitable and more than one of those things gets a raised eyebrow but I would not be the woman I am today without the ten years that he was my step-dad. I miss him.

    • Jada, I didn’t know how much of an effect my father had on your life, as I was living in Japan at the time and never got to be together with you and him. I miss him too.

  2. I love how you told this story beginning with the jacket and ending with that wonderful quote. I have yet to lose a close relative but it will happen within the next 10 years and I want to remember how to have that new relationship and tell my own stories.

  3. You have some wonderful memories of your father. He taught you a lot. It is interesting the items left in the pocket and now you hold them and it brings your father closer to you. This is a very touching tribute to this man, your father.

  4. This is a beautiful, beautiful piece of writing. My dad died in December, 1993 and I have his old suede jacket. I have worn it for years, especially when life was hard. I was really sad earlier this year when my lab ate half of one side to get to a piece of gum in a pocket. Hoping to find someone who can repair it this summer…

  5. I enjoyed reading this about your relationship with your father and the photographs provided an intimate touch.

  6. You write in such a deep and powerful way. Your writing reveals you as a poignant eyewitness. You often use a picture of a thing ( your father’s jacket, your note to your husband, the unmatched lids, your bird) to help convey the significance of an event. It is like the picture is a touchstone to the story allowing you to unleash your thoughts.

  7. Great story about the memories of your father.

    “With death you move from a relationship of presence to a relationship of memory.” I find it interesting how close those two states are. More so for people of whom you have memories of simple, ordinary, and unremarkable things about them. Those memories are sometimes among the best.

    Curious that I thought of Mark often the day you posted this.

  8. My desk is the antique library table that came from my great grandmother on my mother’s side, that became, for as long as I can remember, my father’s desk. He was my champion and we were very close. He died in 1979 and I still miss him.
    You write about your father wonderfully and what a beautiful jacket!!
    I am so glad for you that you have it and what was in hte pockets. I knew him very briefly, but long enough to know that he was a very interesting man and I liked that he was really straight up about what he
    was thinking and that he appreciated people who were the same with him.
    Love, AJ

  9. You write with such clarity, beauty, and quiet power. There is nothing out of place here, and you bring a reader into the deep world of your experience a kind of straightforward comfort that’s quite admirable.

    Such is the magic of love that even old bolts left in a pocket can become enchanted objects. Such is the magic of the mind that memory is not a filing cabinet but a theatre where imagination enlivens what has passed. Such is the magic of (your) writing that we can see and feel these things so clearly.

  10. Oh, Pamela! You can’t know how much this piece touched me. I especially loved the part where you say, “He is with me when . . . .” because it is a truth that I’ve come to understand in the past several weeks. Your father lives in your character, as my father does in mine.

  11. This is so lovely. I’m so happy you have this jacket (and what a fabulous jacket, by the way!), so happy the pockets weren’t cleaned out. What a wonderful keepsake.

    As always, your writing moves me. This one really struck me, making me think so much about my own dad’s passing.

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