Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ghosts of Jackets Past...

If you know me you are probably aware that I have an affinity for jackets. For some reason I just love a great jacket or coat. In the summer months I find myself looking forward to jacket weather.

I typically find a new jacket every fall. But not just any kind of jacket but a jacket worthy of joining my sacred collection. My birthday is in the fall so as a sort of 'Happy Birthday' to myself I get a new jacket.

This morning I got dressed and ready to go to the West Village for a rehearsal. I dressed myself for a typical day in November in New York.

Bitchin' tights. Cute dress. Great boots.

But what jacket to wear?

I have a purple down coat that I have been wearing a lot lately and while it is a very practical and a warm option, I was feeling bloated and as any girl in the North East knows, down coats are just about the worst option ever when you're already feeling like the Michelin Man sans puffy coat.

So I opened my closet and there it was...

A little more than eight years ago I lost my grandpa.
My Granddaddy.

He was a very important figure in my life. For as long as I could remember he spent 3 months of the year and every Christmas with us and we ate truck loads of ice cream together and rarely missed a nightly episode of Wheel of Fortune. And maybe most importantly he was by and large the funniest man I've had the pleasure of knowing.

The funeral was on a bone chilling January day in Simsbury, Connecticut where my family is from. I, however, spent most of my formative years in Texas...meaning I was and still am pretty terrible at dressing for freezing temperatures and heavy snow.

When my dad, sister and I arrived in Connecticut it was very clear that my light Texas jacket would not keep me warm in the -10 degree weather. But my wardrobe took a seat on the back burner when we arrived. Saying goodbye to a man that touched our lives so profoundly became much more important.

My dad knew I was interested in writing a eulogy. In the Catholic Church eulogy's are not part of a traditional funeral. But my grandpa was loved by so many people and so many of us wanted to share our fondest memories of him. So our family approached the priest and asked if he would make allowances for my grandpa's funeral the the next day. He did. But he would only allow one person to deliver it.


I was terrified.

My dad, sister and I got into the rental car and I think my dad could see me trembling in the back seat with fear. So he took me to JCPenney and said "let's get you a warm jacket."

I couldn't think straight sorting through the coat department and then my dad came up to me with a light suede jacket with beautiful red and purple embroidery and a thick, fluffy and warm lining.

It was perfect.

We bought it. I put it on and we headed back to our hotel where I sat at a desk for hours trying to find the perfect way to say goodbye for all of us.


And then more nothing.

After many failed drafts I looked at my dad, who was silently watching TV on his bed and told him I couldn't do it. It was too much. And then my dad said.

"Colleen, relax. You can do this. If you don't I know you will look back and wish that you had."

And just like that, the words came to me.

The next day I put on my new jacket and folded the piece of hotel scrap paper full of my words of love and goodbye and placed it in my pocket.

This moment in my life will forever remain as one of my most vivid and difficult times I have ever experienced. But because of my dad I can look back and remember the time he gave me the warmth and courage I needed to express my heart, gratitude and remembrance for my beautiful grandpa.

As I opened my closet today there my jacket was. Without hesitation I grabbed it, buttoned up and ventured into my day.

I've been having a tough time lately. A time when warmth and courage are something I need very much and as I walked through this city as a Nor'Easter coated the streets with snow my core felt warm and very much not alone because I was wearing a memory of love and support and after all these years the memories and the jacket still keep me warm.

...if only I had worn gloves and waterproof boots.

But I am learning. Learning so much about survival and how to thrive...even if it is one layer at a time...