Inspiring Quilters, Stitch by Stitch
Merry Christmas morning to you all! As I sit here this snowy morning, alternately sipping my Christmas tea and Diet Coke, I am contemplating the year soon to end and another about to begin. I once told someone a good year was three quilts completed and by that definition, this was a good year. I finished Becky's wedding quilt (finally!), made a new Halloween pumpkin quilt for myself and made a memorial quilt for my mom from my dad's shirts. Here it is.
Not wanting to make the usual memorial shirt quilt (is there such a thing?), I decided to change it up a bit. I asked all the surviving male members of my dad's tribe to send me a shirt they could afford to recycle and made the quilt with Dad's shirts and the shirts of his brother, his brother-in-law, his son-in-laws, his grandson, his grandsons-in-law, and his great grandsons, one of whom he never met. I called the quilt, "The Men in His Family."
Dad has been gone two years now but I still miss him everyday. I wish I could say we had a close, fantastic relationship but other than my early childhood, when we might have been close but I cannot remember, our relationship was loving but distant, the ghost of my parents' painful divorce always getting in the way. My parents were good people who raised me well and gave me a safe, stable childhood. I felt I knew my dad best for about 30 minutes one April morning the year before he died. I was in Naperville, Illinois visiting my family and it was one of those rare times when Dad and I were alone together. My dad was living in a senior care home adjacent to my mom's senior living condo, a great set up that made it possible for her to be with him everyday. But it was just me and Dad that morning and I was helping him get dressed and shaved for the day when I noticed he was crying.
I asked him, "Did I hurt your, Dad? what's wrong?" and he responded that he did not think he had been a good father to me and my sister (from the first disastrous marriage). Here it was, the moment I had been wishing for for all of my adult life, the chance to talk honestly about the past, clear some things up, get some questions asked and answered. But instead of the that man who had all the answers to my questions, I saw sitting in the chair, another human being hurting, regretting, reassessing his life. A man handicapped physically and blind, needing love and reassurance, not questions. A man who knew his race was almost all run and that the next stop was on the not too distant horizon. "I wish I could have done some things better," he went on to tell me. "If I could do them over, I would do them differently. I don't know why you girls want to have anything to do with me."
I knew then that no questions would get asked or answered. What was needed was love. Life and circumstance, even God, had given me the opportunity to help put his mind to rest, to lighten his heart. To tell him what a good dad he had been. That we all make mistakes and have times when we wish we had done things differently. That none of us are perfect.
I took his face between my two hands. I remember the feeling of the whiskers I had not managed to shave well off his cheeks against my palm. I told him, "you were the best dad and I do not want you to ever forget it. You were and are the best." By this time we are both crying. It was the most genuine moment I have ever had with my dad and I am so grateful for it. No one was mentioned by name, no particular sins were recounted and forgiven. Love was like a blanket of snow falling over us both and wiping out all wrongs.
Before I left that weekend, as I was visiting Dad at his bedtime, I wanted to say goodbye as he would not see me in the morning, I would be on the road driving home. My Mom and sister Denise, his most constant caregivers, were helping him get ready for bed and when he was all settled in, I leaned over to tell him goodbye. Dad started crying again and said, "I don't want you to leave." I told him I loved him and asked him to remember what I had said earlier. He responded and we said together, "you are the best dad ever." I told him I would be back and I wanted him to remember that until I returned.
That was 2014. Dad died December 23, 2015. I miss him everyday though I feel I only really knew him for less than an hour on a random day.
Mom keeps this quilt on her bed at home. I talked to her on Dad's death anniversary this year and she told me she had a hard time sleeping the night before, but on the whole, things get easier everyday. I hope the quilt was a little bit of Dad there with her.