Monday, November 8, 2010

Papa's Jacket

I forgot my Papa... Not entirely, but a little bit. Growing up, he and I were very close. Two peas in a pod you might say. We are both Leos and the bond between ferocious felines is something to be reckoned with.

Papa died three years ago at the age of eighty-eight. My husband and I were living in San Francisco. We had been there for over seven years and the physical miles of separation had distanced me a bit from Papa in his last years. I was deeply saddened when I received news of his passing, but that man, weakened, thin and pale, was a tamed version of the mighty lion who had been a strong and loyal friend from the day I was born.

I lost him, and all that remained were memories, faint glimpses of our lives together. I enjoyed reminiscing but did so less and less frequently. Papa became a good spirit that I knew was watching out for me and our family from somewhere 'out there'.

Our move to Cape Cod is an ever evolving lesson in life. As our time here becomes less about summer vacation and more about the beginning of a new life, I am confronted by a past that was obscured by thousands of miles. This house was built by my grandparents and every part of this property was touched by Papa. I think of him daily...

A few days ago I was putting away some winter coats in the back of the closet in Gramma's room. I spotted a vaguely familiar pale green, quilted fabric clinging to an old wooden hanger. I snatched it out of the closet and pulled it out into the light.

'I think, I'm pretty sure... this is Papa's jacket!'

In an instant I knew it was his and could see him standing out on the deck in the crisp, cool of early fall, the jacket zipped close to his younger, stronger frame. It might have been the day he decided to build a deck on to the back room, or maybe the day he planted one of the trees out front. He may have been cleaning out the eaves or touching up paint. No matter the chore, there he was standing in front of me in that fantastic jacket.

I looked more closely at the garment. It's a little rough around the edges. The cuffs of the sleeves are paint splattered and I could see Papa's strong, wrinkled workman's hands at their end. I smelled the fabric hoping to catch even the slightest scent of Old Spice, Papa's favorite.

I have to admit, holding it out in front of me, the jacket looked a little small. My Papa was a big man, or so it always seemed. Now I think that maybe it was his spirit, his powerful presence, his passion for life and his family that made him a bit larger than life.

I unzipped it and slid my arm into his. I zipped it back up and stood there for a minute imagining Papa's arms wrapped around me.

The jacket fit perfectly.

I called Gramma to ask if it was alright for me to wear the jacket. Sure, she said, and told me that, after cleaning out many of his belongings over the past few years, she just couldn't give away this one last article.

I think it was meant to be. My fellow leo is nowhere near as far away as I once thought. I'll wear the jacket, live here at the Cape house, for now, and I'll build my new life a bit closer to the people and places I grew up with.

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