I’ve been taking grandpa’s suits out of his closet, and getting them retailored.
They are beautiful suits, bespoke, Brooks Brothers, and I can’t stand to see them just hanging there, in plastic, away in the front closet, like museum storage, or still waiting in his and grandma’s bedroom, like he’s about to come home and then go out.
Besides, I wear a suit everyday. So I add an inch or so to the sleeves, the pants let out two inches, uncuff them, let the jacket out tiny bit in back.
I’m not sure his suits — literally his smell still on them — are making any of this easier. I already have too many of his…most complicated…qualities inside me: his obsessiveness and perfectionism; his certainty that he always knew better and best; his withholding; his loneliness and melancholy, which is why I sometimes called him Hamlet’s Father’s Ghost, even when he was still around. I have his critical, discerning, analytic, relentless brain, and it’s exhausting.
That’s maybe also because I lack so many of his best qualities: his vast charity and generosity; his faith; and his ethics; his humility and quiet and love of quiet things; his tirelessness, and never-wavering discipline; that rare and twinkly joyfulness; his hard, earned optimism that things could be made better if you worked at it. “Nothing’s lost forever. In this world, there is a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead” is the Tony Kushner line I read him in the hospital room and kept thinking about those whole last days.
He was all about longing for what he left behind, Cono, and dreaming ahead. He made painful progress, for all of us. Putting on the suits make this metaphor real, because now it’s my job, our jobs, to keep progressing, longing, dreaming.
I fear I’ve actually made this about me, more than him. Maybe I should have made this all about a fight we had once, when I was maybe 10 or 12, out at Kingswood. We reminisced about it, over the summer, even though neither of us could remember the cause. I was angry, in a way I couldn’t really explain, and he was angry, because I was angry, and he said to me, “I love you, Mark, but I’m not going to take any of your…” I guess I can’t finish the sentence here in church. But to him this was a perfect act of parenting: loving and blunt.
But I think about that admonition, every time I put on his suit, and then every day I try to be less like him in certain ways and more like him in others, or maybe just exactly like him.