This will be my first Christmas holiday without my father. Sadly, he passed away this past spring. He was 89. Recently, I went into his closet just to look around. It was something I did as a boy and even as a young man. He loved clothes, and there was always something in there I wanted.
I loved clothes as well. But this time seeing his wardrobe was different. The allure was now from a different source. Over the last few years, my father preferred sweatpants to trousers, tee shirts to starched shirts, toboggans to fedoras, but the good stuff still hung neatly in his closet. It reminded me how exquisite his taste was, but more than that, it reminded me of how strong his values were. The clothing reminded me of the values, traits, and traditions I want to hold onto myself.
Dad had wonderful ties hanging in his closet and tucked among the classics were loud, zany holiday ties. Life needs to be interspersed with laughter. Making each other smile in life may be one of the best gifts we can share. Many of the suits and sport coats that hung in the closet were 30 or more years old. They were all well made.
Integrity applies to the making of a suit as well as the making of a man. Integrity never goes out of style. The shoes that still lined the floor of my father’s closet were vast in number and variety. It reminded me of my father’s empathy for others. He often stated that you never know a man until you walk in his shoes. And finally tucked into the corner of his closet, almost hidden from view, was my father’s Navy dress blue uniform. He wore it in WWII. My father was a humble man who believed in sacrificing for others. Humility and selflessness were integral to the fabric of his life.
And so this holiday season, I am reminded of the man my father was and the lessons he shared by the way he lived. Humor, integrity, selflessness, humility. These are the gifts he shared every Christmas, every day. These are the gifts I cherish most. These are the gifts I will hang onto forever.