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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Fashion Felony - Guided by the Hand of God

Have you ever heard God laugh? I have. The best story I have to illustrate this is an incident which happened not long after my mother died, in 1995.

Dad at his sartorial best. Mom didn't need help.
The older I get, the younger they look.

Let me preset the story by going back a few years before that. My mother had done laundry and was helping my dad get ready for a business trip that he'd be taking for a few days. My dad was the manager of a bottling plant and occasionally he'd go on a bottler's convention, and "the guys" would also take time for a round of golf or two.

My dad, never a snappy dresser, occasionally had to be chided by mom for the odd fashion felony here and there - mom would catch him before he made it out the door. My dad had some casual clothes to take along for the "hanging out and playing golf" portion of the trip. There were two items that gave my mom concern: one a light blue shirt, with tiny white dots, as well as a pair of very thin stripe white/blue seersucker trousers. Both nice garments in their own right.

My mother looked at the two items and said to my dad: "Ed, these blues ARE about the same shade, and *you* will be tempted to wear them together, but stripes and dots Do. Not. Go. Together. PLEASE promise me that you will NOT wear them together, against my better judgment, I will pack them, but you have to promise me."

Dad said "sure, I promise." When dad got back, he had a souvenir photo of his golf foursome. What was he wearing? Yes. you guessed. Mom just shook her head and she and I laughed about that.

Fast forward to two afternoons past her death when dad and I were to go to the funeral parlor where a my mom had been prepared in her casket. It was the first time I would look at my mom since she had died, and I was a little concerned how I would handle that. Normally I'm good in crisis times but knew my dad tended to be a basket case in such matters. I'd not seen my dad that day, having last minute errands to run. We arrived at the funeral parlor separately, me first. He came in with my grandmother, and predictably, he was not holding up. Not that he was prone to tears, just that I knew that it would be the case this time and it was. I took some time calming him down and playing "good daughter."

When he was finally calm ... I suddenly noticed what he was wearing. If you guessed "links special" you are right. I *almost* *almost* laughed out loud right then and there.

The funeral director right then came over to me and asked if I'd like to go in first to see that everything was okay. I practically leapt from the chair and went in to be with her alone and said: "Mom, he DID IT AGAIN!!!!" I like to think this was the last private laugh my mother and I had together. I kissed her, and knew everything would be okay for me. I am QUITE sure God guided my dad's hand when he selected those two particular items to go together. I thought "GOOD ONE, God!"

Predictably, *I* fell apart three weeks later...but that sure helped at the time. I never told my dad about that, not wanting to chance hurting his feelings ... but I expect he knows about it now.


Cathy said...

That was a very sweet post and both your parents sound great!

I'll bet your mother was lauuuuughing.


Anonymous said...

Lovely story Karen..

gemoftheocean said...

Ma, oh, yes.... I actually walked into that room with a smile on my face. "Mom, *look* what he did!" I think God, my mom, and I had a great laugh.

Jackie, glad you liked the story. It's one I'd been saving for a while.

ArchAngel's Advocate said...

The only thing which could have been funnier is if your Mother had been dressed in the "links special" (and you know what a practical joer God is!)

gemoftheocean said...

Well, among the things I tucked into the coffin was one of the baseballs that mom had come up with at a Padre's game. We had full season tickets for many years, behind home plate. Over the years I cam up with a few, ditto mom, dad was "oh fer..."

I put one in dad's coffin when his time came, and I hope whatever jokers bury me will put one in for me rather than keep the thing. As a joke we did put an ace up my dad's sleeve, as he, his mom and his cousin Diane were pinocle fiends -- they tried to teach me how to play but I never did get the knack!


gemoftheocean said...

BTW, meant to say that mom had created and designed her own wedding dress. In her youth from age 16 until she married my dad she worked in a garment factory and had "the knack." A gene which I completely missed!


ArchAngel's Advocate said...

When we buried my mother's 2nd husband (an avid golfer), there must have been 10 dimes in the casket (for you non-golfer a dime is often used to mark a ball's position on the green if the ball has to be moved).

gemoftheocean said...

AA: Well, it's not exactly "King Tut's" whole load, but the sentiment is somewhat the same. Whomever said "You can't take it with you" didn't have a big enough tomb or casket.


The Digital Hairshirt said...

Fabulous story, Gem! My father also suffered from being unfashionable and relied on my mother to tell him, in her delicate Bronx fashion, "Frank, you're not earing that g*****n outfit outside or you'll f*****g walk alone!"

My father would come out with some bizarre statements of fact or opinion, and his joke was to ask, "Do you know who said that?" so that the following ensued:

Us: "No, Dad, who said that?"
Dad: "Harvey Keck. And do you know who Harvey Keck was?"
Us: "No, Dad, who was he?"
Dad: "Mrs. Keck's baby boy."

When we buried him, my brother tucked into his breast pocket a slip of paper that read, "With our condolences, Harvey Keck and his mother."

gemoftheocean said...

"Frank, you're not earing that g*****n outfit outside or you'll f*****g walk alone!"

ROTFLMAO!!!!! Oh, I well remember those times ... "you are NOT 'casual' you look like a slob in that!" One time when I was about 11 he came to the Sunday dinner table in his ratty undershirt with a hole or two. She kind of lost it and said "Ed, just ONCE in a while can you MAKE an effort?" So he got up, went into their bedroom, and came back with a tie on. No shirt, still the same ratty T-Shirt but the tie. Even she had to laugh. I think that's why they stayed together....because I can remember many a donnybrook where one or the other of them was just NOT going to give in, and one of them said something so funny the tension broke, because you just had to laugh. And you can't stay mad if you're laughing.

BTW, I expect you're also an Ann Coulter Fan, her dad recently died. Her column about her dad (A Catholic, who was also a Red Fighting FBI man) is well worth reading.

Stephen said...

My Dad's scary clothing obsession was making sure his socks *exactly* matched his sweater. And he had a *lot* of sweaters.

gemoftheocean said...

Stephen....I bet your mum was tempted more than once to throw all the socks out and buy all black ones for him, but she figured "not to go there."

Stephen said...

She was, yes. And he had a *lot* of sweaters, mostly expensive wool ones courtesy of a friend who was the director of a spinning company (they had sample sweaters made for trade shows to show their yarns, and over the years Dad ended up with about 30 of these sweaters).

I've inherited some of his socks - mostly through flying home for visits and arriving a couple of days before my luggage, which seems to happen to me every time I connect through Heathrow.

EC Gefroh said...

Karen, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at this story. I think your dear old dad would have appreciated it though. Thanks for a lovely post!

gemoftheocean said...

Esther, glad you enjoyed it. For a few years after her death, while dad was still alive, I only told a few intimate friends, but now that dad is gone too I figure it's safe enough.

It was something that happened that for sure got me through that time. That was a moment I dreaded most, along with her coffin actually going in the ground. The funeral Mass itself, was actually the easiest part. I one of the readings and I had an uncle do the other, and I had my aunts bring up the gifts. My dad had a hard time with it, but over all bore up pretty well, and the reception at the eastern rite church was very nice after the burial, with a lot of eastern European comfort food. [I had a nice Eastern Rite customary vigil the night before the Roman rite, thus incorporating both traditions into her funeral.]

I can remember when my grandmother died in 91 my youngest three cousins were 6, 8 and 13 respectively. The oldest did not want to be in the same room with grammy when she was in her coffin at the funeral parlor, that was respected and no one made him go in. The younger two, however, had an easier time of it, my 8 year old cousin had one of those little kids cameras and took a picture of her in the coffin -- when developed, a day or so later, there was a little toy turtle image on the photo. My cousin Rosemary and I got a charge out of that and said: "Oh, how grammy would have laughed."

BTW, I should say in addition the baseball I put in her coffin, I also put in a painted Easter Egg I'd done -- pysanky style. It had a nice line drawing of an eastern rite church on the front, and an eastern style cross on the back.


swissmiss said...

When my dad died, he gave us explicit instructions not to buy a pricey casket. The cheapest they had was what he specified. When my brother, hubby and I went the funeral home to make arrangements for my dad, the funeral director, after we took care of some paperwork, led us into the "casket room." He said he would leave us alone for awhile to pick one out. They were arranged from the cheapest to the most expensive. We headed down the line to the cheapest, which really didn't look bad at all, and said amongst ourselves that that was the one. I commented that it was a good "starter model" and joked we would upgrade later. The funeral director comes back in and asked us which casket we had settled on. My brother tells the man we want the "starter model" and points to the cheap casket. The funeral director DID NOT laugh, or smirk or anything. But, I know my dad did :)

Stephen said...

When my Dad died, the funeral director basically suggested to us that we shouldn't spend too much on the casket. He didn't quite point us in the direction of a pine box, but he did suggest a standard model (and I was quite grateful for that, actually - choosing the cemetery plot was bad enough). It's not that we were having a cheap funeral - far from it, the reception cost an absolute fortune, and so did the flowers - but that was one area where none of us really had much of an opinion, and it was a relief to let the funeral director take the choice out of our hands.

I do not, by the way, share my Dad's obsession with matching socks to sweaters. I mostly buy plain black or navy blue socks from Marks and Spencers.

gemoftheocean said...

My priest at the time, Fr. Moloney, ever the practical ex-accountant from Limerick said "Don't be tempted to go overboard on the casket, it's going in the ground, you know?" I had everything picked out and settled and paid for within 24 hours of her death. It helped that I knew a raft of priests and had good friends who were singers/musicians and a chunk of change. My dad was grateful not to have to have done that stuff, and I was glad he didn't have to.


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