February 28, 2016

The Boy With the Bow Tie

He asked yesterday.

"Could I wear one of dad's ties today?  Everyone is wearing a bow tie to the basketball game.  Did you save them?"

Take a breath Sandra.  
You can do this.  

"Of course Jack.  I saved all of them.  Let me go in my closet and get the box". 

The box I packed almost 2 years ago.  The box I haven't been able to open because it hurts too much.  

His things.  His life.  One plastic bin.  Ties.  Cuff links.  Socks.  A financial calculator.  A pair of Gucci loafers. Tie stays.  Belts. Handkerchiefs.  Watches.  Diplomas. Pictures. Cards from the boys he saved.  Love notes I had sent him I found tucked away in his drawer I didn't find until I had to empty the drawer.

Open a mans dresser drawer and you see his life.  
A beautiful life he cherishes and holds close.

I packed Pat's life in a box. 
It took me days.  
I sobbed doing it.  
It had to be done.  

It wasn't hard to know what to keep and give away.  I kept the things he cherished.  The things I could tell a story about to the boys.  The things I wanted to remember.  The memories I don't want to forget yet still and maybe always will hurt my broken heart.

I remember giving his clothes away.  I stuffed it all in plastic bags.  Clothes and shoes are just clothes and shoes.  "Somebody else can use this" I thought.  Pat would be happy helping another person. A man looking for a job would have a beautiful suit.  Pat loved clothes.  More than me.  Our closet was two thirds his.  We always laughed about it.

When his clothes started to be covered with dust I couldn't go in my closet anymore.  

Our closet is where I felt him.  
Not the cemetery.
The closet.

I would lay for hours in our closet and cry.  
I'd scream at him.  
I'd tell him I loved him.  

Dust had fallen.  His clothes were turning gray. It was time to let go.  I asked my sister to come over.  Please help me move his clothes.  I can't look anymore.  It hurts too much.

She helped me move his clothes into the guest room closet.  Still with me but I didn't have to look.  Didn't have to see the layer of dust.  Didn't have to acknowledge he had been gone a year. The pile of dust painfully reminded me I had not talked to my best friend, the man I loved, in a year.

Moving time.  
Emptying my house. 
A beautiful suit is not bringing him back.  
Pack it up Sandra.  
Time to let go.  
All of it.  
I packed it up.  
It's over I thought.  
Bags and bags of his clothes.  

Is this it? 
His life in a fucking garbage bag?

I asked my friend if she could help me.  I couldn't ask my family.
"I can't take the bags to Goodwill.  Could you do it for me?" 

Yes she said.  
She walked in my kitchen.  
A pile of black garbage bags piled high.  
I sobbed and screamed..."Take it away.  My heart hurts.  I'm giving his life away. I'm giving him away. His life is in a fucking bag? Thank you for doing this for me.  I just can't do it." 

She cried. 
I cried.  

We quietly loaded the bags in her car. She drove away.  I know it was heartbreaking for her but she did it.  Did it for me. Did it for Pat. I will always be grateful of her strength and love.  I fell on the kitchen floor and cried. The guilt for giving him away was suffocating. 

But Sandra.  
A pair of pants is not bringing him back. 
A pair of pants is not him. 
He is in your heart. 
He is not coming back.  

No guilt.  
It is okay.  
Your memories are in your heart.

My memories are in my heart and one plastic bin.

Jack needs you to open that bin Sandra.  
Take him in your closet.  
Pull the tape off and open it.  

He wants a tie.   
He needs the tie.  
He is ready to see that box and what is inside.

But I can't.  

The last time this boy wore a bow tie was at his father's funeral.  His little brother wore one too.  Two little boys who wore bow ties to honor the father who loved them. 

Friends wore bow ties to the funeral to honor him.  Kids he coached soccer and who were his sons friends wore bow ties to honor him.  To honor a man who loved his family and friends but who couldn't conquer the illness that took him.

The bow tie.  
Pat's signature.  
The man hadn't owned a "real" tie in 10 years.  

Old ladies would come up to me and ask...
"Is that your husband?"  "Yes, the guy with the bow tie is my husband" I would say. "He looks cute doesn't he?"  We would laugh.  The old ladies loved it.  They would stop us and tell him how handsome he looked and how much he reminded them of the old days.  They told us stories about their Grandfathers.  Fathers.  Husbands.  Long gone but the bow tie brought them back.

I'm one of those ladies now.  
The bow tie takes me back.  
I see one and I take a deep breath.  

Colorful.  Crazy.  Pat sought them out.  He special ordered them with crazy socks that didn't match.  He loved his ties.  They always made me smile.  His friends would stop over before a wedding. "Pat, can you tie this for me?" He would put his loving arms around their neck, tie the bow tie, and tell them to have a great time. I loved how his bow ties brought people together.  His bow ties still bring people together.

His bow tie brought Jack and I together yesterday. 

I had to open that box to give my son a bow tie.

We walked in my closet. I moved boxes stacked on top and opened it.  

Don't cry Sandra.  
Jack is happy to be wearing his dad's tie.  

I didn't cry.  
We laughed.  
I told stories.  
Jack asked questions.  

"What is a cuff link? What size were his feet?  Charlie's and my feet are now bigger than his.  Can I keep these golf balls in my room? Can Charlie and I wear his socks?   Will this belt fit me?  

Of course Jack.

This is your box.  This is Charlie's box too. This is your dad.  This is the man you didn't know. You knew Patrick Joseph Began as your father but now you know him as a man. 

It's time to know your dad - the beautiful man he was. I will share my memories with you both.  I will share his treasures with you. They will be yours.  Forever.

And damn Jackson Patrick Began, you look handsome in that bow tie.  

Just like your dad did.

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