For more years than I can recall, our dad, Carmen Donnarumma, sported red-plaid slacks for the Christmas season. We could count on his livening up the otherwise more conservative dress of the other men and boys in our extended family. Dad’s bold, brash slacks matched his personality, reminding us that living “out loud” with blatantly generous joy was the way to acknowledge and celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th (and every other day).
When Dad died last March 18th, many thoughts crowded my mind. One of them was the pressing question: Who will wear the red-plaid slacks come December?
Friends and family members who had already lost a parent told and tell us, “The first year without is the hardest.” Perhaps they are right. But for me, images figure more predominantly than ticking clocks when I conjure Dad, whose invisible but very-much-felt embrace holds me upright in the world every day.
“Atta girl!” he would proclaim, encouraging me for asking this question, as he did for my asking every other question, even (perhaps especially) the ones that provoked, tested, speculated.
The answer is, of course, that whoever does don the slacks will not, cannot, be our father. But he (or she, who knows?) will certainly vivify Dad’s spirit by the fire, at the table, on the snowy path, and by my side.
Perhaps I will cry yet again for missing him, for longing, for loneliness. But, be assured, I will smile, as well. At this writing, while my fingers light upon the lettered computer keys, red plaid is papering the walls, warming my legs, unraveling like Christmas ribbons in my brain.
Thank you, Dad, and merriest of Christmases!