by Anna Arnett
This morning I feel drained, and rather sad. I know it needed to be done, and I’m ever so grateful for two of my daughters who came to help, but it’s still sad. The last couple of days we cleaned out the section of the closet and the chest of drawers that once held my husband’s things. A few items have been discarded, but most of the clothes and keepsakes are down in the living room, waiting for the kids to gather and see what they want.
His flat, field cap has suffered a few moth holes, but the blue air force jacket still looks great, with his ribbons, wings, and major’s gold leaf. He never bothered to purchase new insignia when he received his Lt Col rating in the AF Reserves.
Draped over a chair lies his mess dress uniform, sans cummerbund and black bow tie. The pleated shirt is yellow with old starch and the cuff links currently elsewhere. I remember clearly the day Charles finally capitulated and purchased 'the wole she-bang' because he simply had to wear mess dress to the big promotion party at Yokota Air Force Base, Japan. After all, he was one of the honorees, since he now wore the field grade rank of major. He wore mess dress to a few air force functions and at least a couple of our daughters’ wedding receptions. My heart still swells and my eyes mist, as I recall how handsome he looked in such formal attire. He said he felt like a monkey.
The white dress cap especially touches me, as I finger the braided black band and shiny leather visor. The metallic grey embroidered AF emblem shimmers, as does the silver chinstrap. This cap would look nice, displayed on my bookcase shelf. I’m just made a decision to keep it.
I see a plethora of shirts and ties (mostly gifts) but only a couple of suits. Whenever I talked about buying him new clothes, he insisted he had all he needed, or wanted. (We once even purchased a new white temple suit, but he returned it, saying his old one was still useable.) My side of the closet took up many times double his space, but he never complained. I wonder sometimes if he even noticed.
Charles’ wants were simple. A car that would run and be comfortable, a good roof overhead, sufficient food to eat (preferably home cooked because to him one need only eat at restaurants to fulfill social obligations or when nothing else is available), enough clothes to keep him warm and decent, and indoor plumbing with plenty of hot water. All these were important, but church, family and friends headed his list.
Charles claimed he was basically two things—a tightwad and a draft dodger—and about as successful at one as another. He spent little on himself, but was generous to others, both with money and possessions, but especially he was ‘generous to a fault’. So much for being a tightwad. As to draft-dodging, he joined the National Guard in college, but waited to be drafted in WWII. He also joined the Air Force Reserves at BYU, and then decided to stay for retirement after being recalled to active duty during the Korean conflict. Maybe I said this before. Oh well . . . .
Believe it or not, just writing this much has cheered me up considerably. I can even look for a brighter side. My clothes have more room in the closet, and I have double the drawer space. Besides, what must be—must be. Memory and agency are still two things that cannot be given up nor taken away, though both obviously can be lost. I only hope to use each one wisely, and keep the two of them forever.