My Father’s Bathrobe

Its thin, navy blue plaid 100% cotton wasn’t very warm. “One size” (fits all), the label read. Rolled cuffs, tattered sash. Brand name: Van Heusen. Made in China, of course.

It was Dad’s bathrobe, probably the last one he owned. I had it hanging on my bathroom door since he died, first at my condo, then at the apartment. It was the only bathrobe I owned. Then I realized it wasn’t really my bathrobe.

And I didn’t want it anymore.

2018 has been the 10th anniversary of losing Dad, in September 2008. Mom died in May of that year. For the longest time I kept thinking: Why do I still have this? It’s not particularly warm or comfortable, and it’s not the kind of thing I would wear now. It had become a psychological drain I no longer wanted around.

So a couple weeks ago, along with some old clothes I didn’t want or that no longer fit me, I brought it to Goodwill and gave it back to the universe.

I admit this not to reject my dad, who was a big bathroom guy. I’ve written about it before, but that’s not the point. Every bathroom with that robe hanging on the hasp above the door was like his bathroom all over again. And I needed that to end so I can move forward with my own life and whatever that may include.

Morning time was Dad’s “golden hour,” no doubt.

He awoke early, turned on WCCO-AM radio for the jokes, the Boone and Erickson banter, the weather and “hog reports,” and once out of his bathrobe, he sang in the shower, “Rise and shine, and give God the glory, glory…” or, most of the time, “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah” from Disney’s Song of the South. “…My oh my what a wonderful day/Plenty of sunshine headin’ my way/Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay!

I can still hear his voice now, ten years later.

Dad was happiest when he was in control of a situation—and morning, I think, availed itself to that more than any other time of day, except when he came home after work to go fishing before dinner. At the time I felt buried under the shadow of all that “controlling energy.” I had my own ideas of how I wanted the world to work, and I could get pretty dreamy and obscure about that. For example, I felt happiest late at night, with moody rock music and DJs who spoke directly to me. Dad’s world seemed too proper, too normal, too early. But I think he was satisfied with it because he knew he was providing for his family. It was important to him.

I didn’t see that at the time. I see it now.

When I think of Dad’s bathrobe, it’s like a second skin, like a coat you wore in the wintertime to protect you from the cold, to warm your shoulders before you got in a hot shower. It reminds me of that saying, “You gotta be comfortable in your skin.” You can instantly tell people who are not that way.

Sometimes Dad seemed comfortable, sometimes not. If he wasn’t getting his way, he’d get angry. He had expectations, and those expectations had to be met. For my part, I still struggle to feel comfortable in my skin. I’m not a kinetic person―I’m incurably cerebral. In many ways, as contrary to Dad as I believe I am, I am still my father’s son.

You see, years later while living in Hopkins, I was able—for the first time in my life—to create a workspace in my apartment I had absolute control over. The studio unit had wall-to-wall carpeting, so I put down a plastic floor mat below the drawing board so my desk chair easily shuttled between sketch pad and electric typewriter. I’d rigged up an architect’s lamp and T-square, where I could write and draw and do the oddball party announcements I made for friends at the time. My Olivetti typewriter was ready at the flip of a switch for those screenplays and stories I desperately needed to write.

Well, I wish I had a better connection between me and my father’s old bathrobe, but that is probably it—the Hopkins apartment creative space.

It was like Dad’s den on Casco Point, where we lived for nearly ten years.

He awoke with Mom in the master bedroom, crossed the living room with its stone fireplace and low-pile carpet, trudged past the Zenith color TV and down the hallway to turn left into the den. Once there he switched on the radio, entered the adjoining bathroom, slipped out of his bathrobe, took that shit, shaved and showered, then slapped on some Aqua-Velva and got dressed for work.

He sang, he laughed, he got ready to meet the day.

I must adopt a cheerfully hopeful attitude like Dad’s, if I can.

~ by completelyinthedark on December 14, 2018.

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