Even the couch cushions are plaid...
I'm not sure how it is that my dad acquired so many mismatched tops and bottoms, or why his loungewear collection consisted of nothing but plaid fleece, cotton stripes and bizarre prints (tractors, anyone?), all of which he liked to wear at the same time, if possible. But knowing my dad would be sitting at the head of the kitchen table reading the Sunday paper in one of these clown costumes on weekends when I came home to visit as an adult is one of the things I grew to rely on, to feel comforted by. It was a goofy tick of his that let me know that no matter how old I got, and even when I had my own child, I would always feel like a little girl around my dad.
Yes, the blanket is plaid. And I'm wearing my dad's bathrobe. It's plaid.
Adriana, trying to comprehend the perpetual, pervasive presence of plaid.
I lost my dad in 2008 to cancer, something I haven't really talked about excessively. I've mentioned it here and there, but not nearly to an extent representative of the gaping hole he left in my life. I'm not alone in feeling his absence, of course. My father was not only the head but also the heart of our family - and, given how much time he spent yelling, I suppose he was the lungs, too. I cry all the time when I think about my father, not just because I miss him, but because he was so great. Great, as in large, larger than life. In hindsight, I realize my father expended a lot of energy throughout his life compensating for his tiny stature with the size of his personality. He left such a giant mark on everyone he touched - even people who only met him once were changed by having interacted with him, and I'm really not exaggerating. If tiny women who pack a punch are referred to as firecrackers, my dad was a hand grenade, yelling hello at mailmen from across the street, waving and shouting friendly taunts at neighbors, tooting his horn at passersby. Every time a waitress walked up to him in a restaurant and asked, "What can I getcha?," he'd respond, "A million dollars and a day off to spend it." Inevitably, even if she was having a bad day, the server couldn't help but chuckle a bit, to feel relieved by my dad's easy presence.
And boy was he present, my dad, always living in the moment, always expressing exactly how he felt when he felt it. His capacity to feel empathy was enormous, which is probably why he took me in like I was his own child. Not only did my dad never make me feel like he was my step-dad (a term that wasn't even considered for use), he told me from day one that he was my Dad. With a capital D. I'll never forget that moment, right after my parents got married. My dad ran his carpentry business out of our house, and so the phone was always ringing, especially in the evening when people knew they might actually have a chance to talk to the elusive, charming, cantankerous Mike Castiglia, Builder. One night I answered a call - like I liked to do, since it made me feel important as a young child - and ran to the garage to tell my dad who was on the phone. I opened the door and called out, "Mike! It's for you!" My dad walked up the steps, slowly and deliberately, bent down to my eye level and said, "You can't call me Mike anymore, kid. You have to call me Dad now." Then he patted my head and I went back inside, transformed. I had a Dad, and I got to love him the way only little girls can love their fathers. I spent the rest of his life giving him unwanted kisses and hugs, never fully being able to say thank you for that.
My daughter is now about the same age I was when Mike became my dad, and though she hasn't seen her grandfather in almost four years, I hope she carries a vague memory of him with her. She must know his imprint on her DNA on some basic, spiritual level, because she certainly was channeling him through her sleepwear choices the other day, so much so that I had to take her picture. So here's to you, Dad, and your ridiculous pajamas. I miss you still and always will.