Beginning when I was old enough to fly to see Dad on my own, each and every time I visited him he’d guide me to the room I was staying in. On the bed I would find one of his thick velour robes, laid out for me to wear in the morning hours.
Each morning Dad was up early, it seemed eons before me. He’d greet me, “well, good morning honey!” I wore his big baggy robe, sleeves rolled up a couple times, the waste cinched, gathering handfuls of fabric at my waist. Breakfast plates would be set inside but first we would head out to the patio. He would have me take a seat while he finished watering plants, hose off the patio, tidy up the yard space, ready everything for the day.
When his work was done he would take a seat where his cigarettes and ashtray lay, light up a Marlboro and take a deep inhale. We would chat about the night before, ask if was I comfortable? Did I sleep well? Was the electric blanket turned up high enough? Then we would go through the plans for the day.
Still groggy the morning chill helped to wake me up. Our patio-side chats helped transition to day, and I stayed just warm enough, encased in the heavy cloak of his robe. One that bore the slight scent of freshness that came with his home.
Once we’d covered morning particulars Dad would cease conversation, take in several long drags of his cigarettes. One of his dogs, Max, Sadie or Katie (depending on the time in his life) settled at our feet. Dad would suddenly gaze at me with a glossy eyed look, drift to a distant place in time. It was an element of him I’d known, to go lost for a time…thought between sessions of chatter. I often wondered where he’d gone for those brief moments. It was noticeably different from his upbeat usual energy. Over time I considered the moment he stopped his busy work he was reminded of his many realities, how he wished some things were different.
His smoking and reflection were a constant throughout my life. In my early 30’s, after I’d established my career I bought him a crystal lighter. It was heavy and handsome. It was stately and fine. He loved beautiful things and I thought he would feel special each time he lit up, before going off to his dream place…where I was finally sure he wrestled with inner demons – questions – troubles.
I also believed he would think of me each time he picked up the fist full of crystal brilliance. Like the robe it would be an item we would use to comfort us throughout many seasons. A comfort when we didn’t use words, but felt each other’s love all the same.
It was the little things that got us through what we didn’t say, helped provide pleasure and memories. Each and every time I entered Dad’s house I could count on a cozy robe, the same variety to lounge in, to visit, to take each other in. No, we hadn’t been in each other’s lives nearly enough, because of our circumstances, but the robe and lighter became meaningful objects, tokens of love for one another.