I have a sweater that my dear Aunt Betty knitted for my dad when he was in high school. It weighs about ninety pounds 😊 because it’s made of heavy weight wool yarn.  Dad loved it and kept it in a special box in his closet, but I only recall him wearing it once.

The sweater is remarkable to me because my favorite aunt touched it…created it…and she chose unique horn buttons that were fashionable at the time, but very expensive.  Maybe I love the buttons more than the sweater?  They’re fabulously rough and smooth, displaying gradations of brown, beige, tan, black – and no two are the same.  The photos don’t do justice to the sweater or the buttons, but I wanted you to see for yourself.

I’ll hold one potent memory of dad wearing the cardigan in my heart for the rest of my life. He sat on the edge of the bed, across from his closet and the box and tissue that held the sweater were on the floor by his feet. His head was lowered – I thought he was staring at the box, until I realized he was crying. Softly – no heaving. Just slow tears dripping from his face and falling to the floor. Feeling I was intruding, ten-year old me thought I should leave, but I was transfixed, cemented to the doorframe, looking in.

Aunt Betty died the week before.  She had cancer and it spread quickly, giving everyone insufficient time to spill the contents of their hearts.  Dad’s heart?  It was full when it came to his only, sweet sister.  She was his champion and cheerleader, his soft spot and rock, all in one. I imagine he was the same for her, remembering the affection they displayed for one another. 

Family photos are treasures, but they’re slick and one-dimensional.  Not so with the cardigan.  It was the warm hug Aunt Betty could no longer provide and as I watched my tall, dark, and often stoic father break down, flooded with loss and love at the same time, I knew the sweater was magic.  I watched as he pulled the right sleeve toward his face – at first, I suspected it was a move to wipe away tears – but instead he inhaled deeply.  The sweater – the sleeve – it smelled of her and I saw him comforted by the cozy rapture of her handiwork. 

Still wondering if I should approach or tiptoe away, I decided to creep in.  I recognized the private moment he was having and didn’t want him to stop…but I also want to join him.  I needn’t have worried.  He saw me and beckoned me closer, patting the bed next to him, motioning for me to sit.  As I did, he unbuttoned the cardigan and pulled me toward him, wrapping both of us up in the expansive wool warmth.

He cried, I cried…just as I am right now.  No words were spoken.  How long did we sit there?  Maybe five minutes?  Long enough for him to know, through our embrace, that we both missed her like mad and craved the closeness that was now forever out of reach, short of wrapping ourselves up in the beautiful honey-colored cardigan. 

I kissed his wet cheek, he squeezed my hand, and I stood to smooth out the tissue paper, knowing it was time to put the sweater away. At least for that day. 

Decades later, when dad died, mom was ready to donate the sweater, maybe forgetting that Aunt Betty made it for him?  I don’t know, I just remember how grateful I was to be in the right place, at the just-right-time to scoop it up.  It held magic that my mom knew nothing of. 

I found the cardigan treasure recently, tucked away with other keepsake clothes – my wedding dress (made by my mom-in-law, Maxine) and sentimental baby clothes from the fleeting days when our darling daughter was a tiny bundle of love.

Just like my dad, I felt compelled to take the sweater out of the box and smell it. I suppose it’s way past the time when a trip to the dry cleaner would be in order, to properly preserve it, but I wouldn’t dare part with it, nor would I trade the dusty, musty smell…that must also contain remnants of both dad and Aunt Betty…for any fresh-and-new aroma. Not for anything in the world.

Cardigan hugs today…from me and a very vintage sweater.

Vicki ❤

32 thoughts on “Comfort…In My Hands

  1. Dear Victoria,

    Tears have arisen as I read your incredible account of your Aunt Betty, your father, your mother and you. And you know what? I welcome them; your writing (and your expression of what holds importance to you) resonates so strongly with me. I wish you could see the old fishing rod (with a unique ball shape at the base) and binoculars—both belonging to my dad—that are in the corner of the living room of my apartment. I also hold treasured tea cups that were important to my mom.

    I want you to know that I am standing in line—this very minute—for the book of yours that I eagerly await. Please share more, more, more.

    With loving kindness,

    Art

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Oh my goodness, Art…I’m touched by your kind comment. Thank you so very much. I love that you hold a fishing rod, binoculars and sweet tea cups as treasures that hold memories of your mom and dad…so lovely. As for your kindness about sharing more and more? I can’t imagine a more fulfilling comment this morning than your encouraging words. Thank you, thank you, thank you (and let’s hope my publisher is feeling all that you are – wink!). 😘

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  3. Wow, wow, wow – what a sweet story! And I love the thing you do when you write about memories like this – your specificity and delicious descriptiveness make me recall about the precious “sweaters” I’ve hung on to in my life.

    Thank you for wrapping us in the warmth and sharing those threads that keep us together!! XOXO — Wynne

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Wynne! I’m so glad you liked it. I love it when a post nearly writes itself…when the memories and feelings are so potent, I can almost reach out and touch ’em. 😊
      xo back to you! ❤❤❤

      Liked by 2 people

  4. “He cried, I cried…just as I am right now.”

    And just as I am right now, writing this. I honestly can’t put my thoughts into words, other than to say this is now my new favorite post of yours. I don’t know how you do it – capture the essence of the “feels” so poignantly… But this is beautiful on so many, many levels, Vicki! 😭🤍

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I can relate. You have me thinking now of old family momentos that we have stored in an old chest. I couldn’t put a price on them. They’re invaluable to me. I’m so glad that you were there to save your father’s sweater. I think the thing I love most about your story is the grace and gentleness of your father. He didn’t scold you for watching. He didn’t wipe away his tears. He shared the moment with you. I could have used that lesson when I was a young father, but it’s still valuable to me today. Love too that it gets me thinking about different memories of my own to write about on another day. Beautifully written Victoria.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Brian. I’d love to learn more about some of those family mementos…sounds like you have treasures, too. And yes — I think the memory sticks with me so much because of how vulnerable and open my “I don’t cry, ever” dad was in the moments that he shared with me. I love that you saw the scene in that way. You got it! As always, I’m grateful to you for reading and sharing your thoughts and glimpses of how we have much in common. Blogging friendships at their best! 😊😘😊

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  6. Wow! What a beautifully written story! I felt like I was right there the whole time, experiencing everything. I love the subject matter, the messages, the writing itself- everything. I agree with whoever said this is your best post ever and I’ll be in line right behind Art to buy your book when it’s ready. Beautiful piece!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m not surprised you connected with the story of the sweater…I’m amazed by the things you’ve shared about how talented you are, creating hand-crafted treasures. It’s a gift, for sure, and one I don’t share, but sure do admire. Sending hugs and love to you, Erin! 😘😘😘

      Liked by 1 person

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