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The Lake News Online
  • Guest column: The chill of fall and a jacket of memories

  • It was about this time of year, when the season started to chill the night air, that I probably should have regretted my mother taking such a liking to my red jacket.
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  • It was about this time of year, when the season started to chill the night air, that I probably should have regretted my mother taking such a liking to my red jacket.
    Winter was on its way, and I would be needing a heavier coat - one that might not be as pleasing to her.
    But, this light jacket being the last thing about me that she seemed to recognize through the fog of her dementia, it gave me enough warmth for any weather.
    I can see her smile at the sight of the jacket as I write this. And I feel myself flush. Love lingered in that red cloth. Even now, years after her passing, it still warms my heart.
     
    TRADITION BEGINS
    My habit of wearing the jacket when I was with her started on a cool evening in early autumn. On my way to a visit, my short-sleeved golf shirt proved not enough protection against the chilly dampness. So, after getting out of my car, I layered over the shirt a red golf jacket that I had thrown on the back seat.
    The garments might not even have matched. Are there rules against wearing a red jacket with a green shirt on any other day than Christmas? My mother didn't seem to mind my minor fashion faux pas.
    When she saw me in my jacket, she smiled.
    She usually smiled upon my arrival. The emotion seemed polite in nature. My mother was perhaps the most polite person on the planet. Still, no sense of recognition seemed to accompany the smile. Not even a nod came when my sister might announce, "Oh, look, Mom, Gary's here!"
    But, when I bent to kiss her, then sat down beside her, she reached to touch my jacket, then her eyes met mine as if this new red garment had bonded us in some form of mutual discovery.
    Mom rubbed the sleeve of my jacket between her fingers for a few moments, and looked at me again, her face seeming to have brightened even further from the pleasure of feeling the cloth or seeing its color. She repeated the gesture several times during the course of my visit. Each time it brought an apparent happiness back to her features.
     
    FUTURE VISITS
    So that's why I wore that red jacket every time I went to visit her until the end of her life.
    I don't know if my brothers or sister ever noticed that my attire was sometimes inconsistent with the season. There were times when I arrived for a visit when it was too hot for a jacket or cold enough to warrant a winter coat.
    Page 2 of 2 - But, the red jacket always pleased my mother. Maybe it brought even more pleasure to me. Perhaps both purposes were served by the last lingering bond that her disease left between us.
    I still have the red jacket. And I wear it, instead of keeping it stored away in a closet or a trunk where memories seldom are seen. Such recollections are only valuable if you can relive them.
    If I close my eyes and rub the red sleeve between my fingers, I feel more than the cloth.

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