written by Alysia Butler
I took another sip of my wine and I opened the coat closet.
I was spending the evening gathering up blankets, shoes, and sheets to donate to a clothing drive for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. The Girl Scout troop in our town arranged for a large truck to be at our high school in the morning and I wanted to help fill it.
I found sweaters that were still packed up from our move six years ago. Crib sheets that were of no use to us anymore. Winter boots that my kids had outgrown years ago. All into the box.
The posting came on Facebook that what they really needed were jackets. The weather was about to get quite chilly and no power means no heat.
So out came another empty box. And to the coat closet I went.
I moved some winter jackets around and some rain coats. The ones that still fit my kids went to one side. The LL Bean pullover fleece that I hadn’t worn in years came out. As did a button down Gap jacket.
And then there it was.
My dad’s old gray Black Diamond fleece coat.
It’s been hanging in one coat closet or another of mine for almost 14 years now. One of three articles of clothing that I have of his.
I don’t wear it. Ever. It hasn’t been washed since he died.
It just hangs there in the closet. No matter what season, that coat stays.
I can still see him in that coat even after all this time. It’s that soft heather gray color with black trim around the collar. It was an in-between season coat – not quite warm enough for a winter coat but too warm for early fall and late spring.
A “mud season” coat I guess. Going by Vermont seasons.
He had a gray Black Diamond vest that was just like it and he wore that all the time when he was sick. When I think back to the memories of him those last months, he’s in that vest.
I don’t know where that vest is now.
And really I never understood the vest anyway. How does that keep you warm? I need something that covers me…something that envelopes me. Something I can feel secure in. Like a big fleece hug.
The big fleece hug hung there in the closet.
It was begging me to donate it. It makes sense, right? After all these years it should go to someone who really needs it. To someone from the hard hit areas of Long Island where my dad grew up. Or to someone from the city where he first taught.
And considering how much he gave to others in his life and how much he taught us to give back, shouldn’t I give up this coat so that someone else can use it? So that a father can wrap it around his daughter to keep her safe and warm?
I pushed the coat aside and pulled out a 3T sized raincoat.
I closed the coat closet door.
The memories are starting to fade after all these years. Some days I feel him so close, other days he’s so far away. I try to remember things but I can’t.
It’s just a coat. But I still need it.
I take the 3T raincoat and put it on top of the box. I slip some money into the pocket of the LL Bean pullover fleece, hoping to bring a “Hey! Found money!” smile to whomever wears it next.
Tomorrow I’ll put the boxes in the car and bring them to the high school.
I sit here now in the dark with another glass of wine.
The coat is just on the other side of the wall.
It will stay with me for a while longer.
“And oh I couldn’t understand it, for I felt I was rich
And I told them of the love my mamma sewed in every stitch
And I told them all the story, mamma told me while sewed
And how my coat of many colors, was worth more than all their clothes.
But they didn’t understand it and I tried to make them see
that one is only poor, only if they choose to be
Now I know we had no money, but I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors, my mamma made for me
Made just for me.”
– Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Parton
Take a moment to donate what you can to relief efforts on the East Coast. My family and my friends who are like family need your support. If you can’t donate money, find a drop off location for coats, blankets, shoes, and non-perishable items. Please.
Alysia lives in Massachusetts with her husband and three sons. She is active in the special needs community through her volunteer work, specifically as the managing editor of the SPD Blogger Network, a website designed to connect parents of children with sensory processing disorder and through her own personal blog Try Defying Gravity. She is also the co-founder of The Oxygen Mask Project, a site designed to remind parents to take a breath and take care of themselves while they take care of their children.