It's November, so I should be writing about how amazing my mother is, and I will, as it gets closer to her birthday. (It's in 11 days... SHEESH! Where has the time gone?!) But for some reason these past few days I have been gifted with memories and thoughts of my father. And from the strangest, and most unusual sources. That being said, Veteran's Day is around the corner, and my father, along with many other members of my family, have served this great country and deserve to be honored. I don't know that this is the best way to honor his service, and sacrifice, but it is a way to recognize him. So here goes...
For those of you who are not aware of my father's current status. He's teaching high school math to a bunch of kids who don't understand that his entire life's goal was to teach math to a bunch of high school kids. He teaches, grades papers, reads, watches the news, the occasional sporting event, and complains that he's getting old. I didn't realize until I was well into my twenties that he was actually aging, but I digress. The point is, this isn't a sentimental post about my father because he's gone. It's a sentimental post about my father because for some reason, even though he doesn't talk a lot, or do a lot, he continues to make a large and lasting impact on my life.
I'm normally not sentimental. I will admit to being sentimental at times. It's a little quirk of mine. My mother disagrees with me on this half the time, and since she raised me, and was a strong influence and observer of my life for many of my early years, she may be right. But for the most part, I keep it under wraps. I regularly purge my closet of unused, or forgotten items to be donated to the nearest clothing drive. I replace things once they're broken. I normally don't wast time on imbuing items or things with sentiment. It means you carry more physical baggage, and to be honest, I don't have the space in my tiny New York City apartment for it.
What brought upon this sudden wash of feels? The one moment that came out of the blue, and without issue, and made me realize that I might be more sentimental than I initially thought, was when I put on my red outerwear vest when I ran out the door to catch the subway to work. This red vest fits a bit tighter than it did when my dad brought it back from wherever he was while he was TDY (military speak for "Temporary Duty") during one of the last few years he was in the Air Force. This piece of clothing is one of the only, if not THE ONLY item of clothing that has survived four separate moves across this country.
There is nothing truly special about it. It's a fleece lined quilted vest that you wear when it's cold enough for a jacket, but not so cold that you need a winter coat. My dad couldn't even tell me where he got it, or where he was when he got it. (He flew those top secret missions his last few years.) What I do remember, is that when he went TDY for a long time, he would come back with small gifts for all of us. When I was younger he would get my brothers and I all the same thing, but as I got older, he would pick up some Bath and Body Works more often than not, or in this case, a "grown-up" piece of clothing.
I have to admit that at the time, it was not something that I thought I'd ever wear. It's functional, not a fashion statement. But it was the first piece of "grown-up" piece of clothing that my father purchased for me. It's probably one of the only items of clothing he has purchased for me without any input from me, my mother, or some other person who would be able to assist in giving him advice about what the "style of the day" was or what my preferences were.
With all these factors, there was no way I was going to give it up, pass it off to Salvation Army, or a Thrift Store. It was a vest for a grown up, and at fourteen, you can bet I wanted to be as grown up as I could be. So I kept it. I brought it out occasionally to wear, and justify keeping it. The fact that this vest is a lovely shade of red, also had a great impact on me keeping it. After all, red is my favorite color to wear.
But for some reason today when I put it on, it hit me. This vest, as much as it was just a functional, average, fall outerwear vest. It carries memories from Jacksonville & Conway, Arkansas, Great Falls, Montana, and now New York City. And as hard as I tried to set it aside, or dismiss it, what I thought was an "ok" gift from my father, from one of his many TDY trips, has turned into a carrier of wisdom, memories, and experiences. It stands as a reminder of the sacrifices he made as a Major of the U.S. Air Force.
A reminder of the weeks he would be gone. The phone calls from him when he was forced to say where he was for longer than he expected. How he was always trying to beat the jet lag when he got back. How he missed birthdays, holidays, and celebrations. He gave so much more than I will ever realize, or understand.
But I have a red vest. A red vest that is filled with love, and memories, and has become one of my most treasured possessions. It is a badge of honor I get to wear to honor my father, and his sacrifice. As an added bonus - it keeps me nice and warm through the fall, just like the memories it gives me of my father.
London Griffith is an Alaskan born, Montana raised, Southern influenced, New York Actress. She occasionally writes about her life and experiences of being on the verge ...