When my dad died at the age of 85, it fell to me to sort out his possessions. There were the household bits; toaster, crockery and so on. Some more precious items, like his watch and St Christopher. But then there were those items which were like an actual personification of the man, immediately evoking his presence, before starkly underlining his absence.
To open a wardrobe and become faced with the sight, smell and the touch of a departed relative’s clothing is heartbreaking. In order to ensure that I would not be reduced to a crying mess on the floor, a friend offered to come round and help me sort through everything. My father had a modest amount of clothes and now it was my job to do something positive with them. In retrospect, I wish I had been more imaginative at the time, using some of the fabrics to to make a quilt maybe, but for me, overwhelming grief did not prove to be conducive to creativity.
My dad was a very smart man who set a lot of store by appearance. Everything in that wardrobe was washed, ironed and perfectly wearable, except perhaps a couple of kipper ties he had kept from the 70’s. Mostly it was his collection of shirts, hanging ready to wear. Some for gardening, some for casual everyday, and of course; crisply aligned Sunday best. Even now, I sometimes see a shirt in a shop and think; “Dad would like that, it would really suit him.”
Everything eventually went to the charity shop except for a jumper that I had bought for him in Cornwall. I have a photograph of him wearing it. A broad smile on his face, standard glass of red in hand. (Later on I found another jumper in my house which I had ‘acquired’ from him in my university days.)
I have made this series of prints as a reminder of my dad, and lots of dads, who had shirts for work and shirts for best, and although they are gone, you can still see them and feel them in the things they left behind.