The Suit

After spending a wonderful weekend celebrating the high school graduation of my daughter, much of the past two days have revolved around cleaning up the aftermath- packing away formal wear, cleaning up the 45 pairs of shoes littering my bedroom floor, vacuuming. Living in the moments are more important to me than dusting and tidying, so at times like this everything just sits until it’s over. When was the last time anyone ever remembered how clean everything was at a barbeque, or party?

It was while I was wiping down the kitchen  today that the phone rang, the caller ID showing my dads work number. I knew something was up. My dad didn’t call to let us know he arrived home safely Sunday night, not like he usually does.And then I  had missed his call last night and today is Tuesday.

My dad had joined us from Prince George, having driven down last Thursday to see his first grand-child make the transition from student to … well, another kind of student and even more school!  A rite of passage for most of us, it escaped neither of us that she was making the journey  every teenager looks forward to exactly twenty years  after I did.

Time flies, does it not? In the blink of an eye,( or so it seems to me ), I’ve gone from a nervous giddy teen, to being the mother of a nervous giddy teen.  This June will be my 20th high-school reunion, and when my father arrived, the first thing my dad did was fret about was whether or not his suit would even fit, given the long PG winter this year.

My dad first bought the timeless, tailored suit twenty years ago so he would do me proud in photos taken to mark the moment of my graduation. And since then, it only leaves the safe confines of it’s garment bag for the happiest and saddest of  life’s best and worst. This last weekend, it once again was removed and freshened in anticipation of another generations unleashing upon the world, a wondrous affair full of laughter and happy tears.

The tears on my cheeks after asking my dad how his drive home was , were not so happy though. His voice caught as he told me about hearing the news  when he arrived home, that my brother had been among the 5 friends who had gone out for a day of quadding in the area around PG, and came home one short. While riding down an old logging road, something went wrong. One of the riders struck the back of the rider in front of him and there was a horrific crash, leaving one dead at the scene and one injured. My brother was one of the remaining riders who performed CPR trying to bring life back to a friend, to no avail. It is said he must have died instantly on impact after being thrown into some logs on the road. Words cannot express the emotions I felt as I thought of the  both the poor fellow who died doing what he loved, and my brother and his friends who must have had the most difficult of goodbyes, waiting there in the bush for emergency responders to arrive.

It wasn’t until after I hung up, and gathered my dad’s suit to pack and send home for him, that I thought how ironic it all was. Here we had spent Sunday after grad in celebration down here, while my brother and his friends( who are my dads as well) were all at home  in PG living a tragedy.

I folded the suit tenderly, and inhaling the scent of my dads aftershave on the collar of the jacket, thought about what stories this suit could tell, if it could.

Imagine…

Would it speak of the first time it was worn, twenty years ago,  to the day I stood in my dad’s arm, smiling for the camera in among the flower beds at Connaught Hill Park. Royal blue satin pressed against pinstripe fabric as he congratulated me with a hug. Would it mention the feelings of pride and celebration that made the day?

Or would it speak to the magnitude of sorrow it’s experienced, saying goodbye to loved ones, family and friends alike? Would it talk about the tears that flowed, or the laughter the followed the musings and memories of those who stood before the room and honoured the  dead? Would it recall the heavy smell of flowers that graced the room, or the coffee  that spilled on the pocket when dad was elbowed at the buffet?

One can only guess at the what stories lay impressed upon the fabric of the suit.

Folding the garment bag carefully on top of  the folded items in the box, I took one last look before I closed the lid. Just three days ago my dad wore this suit to my daughters graduation – a new beginning, an open door to a new and wondrous adventure in life… and now?

Now it was going home so my father could say goodbye to a friend, a man who loved well and was loved by many, whose adventures through life were abruptly brought to an end, doing what he loved to do. Another life moment. Another story for the suit. I wrapped the box, wrote the address, and sat there at the table with nothing else to do.

And that’s it , I guess. I don’t know what else to write. Sometimes there isn’t a happy ending. But the sudden randomness with which it can all be taken away does not escape me. When my brother and his friends left that afternoon, none of them knew one of them was going to be killed. It could have been any of them. So please, in the words of that wonderful songstress, Joan Baez, remember this:

” You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live. Now.”

7 thoughts on “The Suit

  1. What a great article Laila. It immediately reminded me of my dad and an incident two days ago.
    Years ago he had purchased a sunburst and two candle holders, Not functional just ornaments. I inherited them after his death along with a tackle box I had given him for his fortieth birthday. We had moved to temporary digs for the winter and as the temporary place was much larger the bride decided we could take these with us. On moving back she put these in the shed with other boxes and the stack of boxes fell over breaking the sunburst.
    Rather than try to repair it I threw it out But I still have the Candle holders.
    Tears almost came to my eyes as I went out to my boat last night and there on the deck was the Tackle box I had given him so many years ago. Memories from the past.

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  2. Laila

    Thank you Gary, and Gary E – what a wonderfully told moment.

    It’s funny what we remember and how inanimate objects can trigger a memory with such intensity that it knocks you over.
    I seem to have developed very strong sense memories along my life. Just last week the lawnmower boy was doing the lawn outside my kitchen window and I got a whiff of the fuel mix used in mowers- for some reason it took me right back to being a kid and watching my dad fill the mower so I could slave away for an hour doing my half of a two acre lawn….
    I’m ok, though, just worried and sad for my father and in particular, my brother. I can’t imagine having been there.

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  3. Any death is tragic, especially when it’s sudden and unexpected.

    As cliche as it sounds, there is some silver -lining, knowing that the other accident victim is still alive and well should be a gift within itself. One tragedy is bad, but two is even worse, so fortunately it didn’t come to that.

    For your last quote, your brother and his friends are definately living their life to the fullest….. make sure you tell them to keep doing so.

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  4. Laila

    I will Lancaster, and thank you for your kind and wise words. You are very right. I am glad my brother is alive and well, and although he often indulges his love for high risk recreational activities ( which worries me to no end) I wouldn’t want it any other way. He works hard, plays harder.
    No regrets right?

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  5. Laila, it is indeed ironic how life mixes the good with the bad and the happy with the sad!

    “It wasn’t until after I hung up, and gathered my dad’s suit to pack and send home for him, that I thought how ironic it all was. Here we had spent Sunday after grad in celebration down here, while my brother and his friends( who are my dads as well) were all at home in PG living a tragedy.”

    Last Friday my son came to town to play at a young couple’s wedding, while I was getting ready to play the next day at a memorial for a close friend and former bandmate who tragically died in a motorcycle crash enroute to the Okanagan to vote on May 11th. He planned on voting the next day in the riding of his still official residence as he was in the process of moving back to these parts and staying on site where he was working.

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  6. Laila

    kootcoot- I’m sorry for the loss, and for the delay in reply. I’ve been out of town and off the grid for the last 10 days- no computer. Life does take tragic twists, but the good perhaps, is the reality check they always seem to inspire. Live well while you can.

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