As we approach the anniversary of my father’s passing on October 1, 2021, I prepare for a trip to New York to commemorate my dad with my mother and siblings. I am feeling lots of emotions. Happy and excited to spend time with my family. Sad and tired too.

I cuddle the pillow I had made from dad’s favorite t-shirt. Kudos to Trader Joe’s for the kit I bought to make this shirt for my dad. It was a promotional father’s day gift no doubt meant for young children to put their handprints between the words “Best Dad” and “Hands Down”. In my fifties I inserted my blue ink handprints which later realized looked like an adult grabbing dad’s man boobs! I signed it with the tube of red writing paint, “Love, Fern”. One might have thought the childish writing was done ironically, but it wasn’t. That was the best I could do.

This was my dad’s favorite t-shirt he said. He probably said similar about other t-shirts given to him by my siblings, but I like to think he meant it.

My father had a collection of approximately 80 t-shirts which he kept in a rotation so no one shirt would be worn too often. From his armoire, every morning, he grabbed a shirt from the bottom of the stack. Mom placed the clean shirts on the top after doing laundry thus Dad never knew which shirt would come up. Invariably, when I came to his house, he’d have on one of the shirts I’d given him. When my siblings would come, one of theirs would be there. Dad swore that it was pure coincidence that he would have on a shirt related to his guests.

If you’re spiritual or from the woo-woo world, you’d say that it was destined that the shirt would sync up with universal energy. If you believe in fate, you might say that I was getting messages to visit because my dad was wearing my shirt. Or, if you run toward logic, you would say that Dad pulled out the appropriate shirt to make each of us feel special. I’m okay with any of those theories. All I know is that buying that shirt kit at Trader Joe’s was a worthwhile investment.

After a dozen years of wearing the shirt, when dad’s Alzheimer’s started impacting his ability to hold knife and fork, when his vision made it harder for him to see clearly, he started spilling food down the front of his shirts. Several shirts had to be used as rags or trashed. The shirt with Best Dad had a stain from something like soy sauce that wouldn’t come out. I didn’t care. I would not get rid of that shirt.

If there is something special that reminds you of your loved one, find a way to make it part of your life. Something that will bring up good memories; make your heart warm with love.

Aside from wearing your loved one’s jewelry or clothing, using their tools, reading the books they loved, watching movies you’ve shared, there are creative ways to keep a piece of your loved one with you if they’ve been cremated. Some people put cremains in a locket, others have it melted into gold or silver jewelry, others keep the remains in a decorative urn. Some people include ashes in art they make or put it in a house foundation.

Woman sitting on bed draped with t-shirt quilt in shades of blue; man holding up t-shirt quilt in shades of green and brown. Once dad passed away, I took his collection of shirts and made blankets for each of my siblings and my mother with the shirts that were related to each of them. My sister got the funny shirts, my brother got the tennis, sport and paddle ball tournament shirts. My mother got the travel and restaurant shirts mixed with dad’s jeans, shirts and boxer short fabrics in shades of blues. Me? I kept this one Trader Joe shirt, and had it made into a pillow that I keep on my bed.

#Preciousmemories, #TraderJoe, #keepsake