Have you ever had something so long that it lost its meaning? Only to be hit with a wave of feeling on a random day for no good reason?
I have this t-shirt. It’s nothing special, just a simple navy blue t-shirt with writing on the front and back. The front bears my first name on the left breast side and the back reads “Fritz Carlton Hotel”. It’s faded from its original deep blue to a somewhat purple-hued dark blue. The lettering has been washing off for years now and there are small holes in the armpits. This shirt is approximately seventeen years old.
The obvious question here is, why do I keep it after all of this time? The answer is not as simple as telling you it’s for sentimental reasons. The three people involved and/or were the reason for its creation are all gone. They are also the three people whose besides I have sat beside and watched as they’ve taken their last breath.
In 2000, my Grandmother succumbed to breast cancer in August. That summer, my Grandparent’s home was overrun with a barrage of guests and visitors. People visiting for days or hours. Everyone wanting to come and say hello or goodbye…it was a revolving door. Thinking back on it now, perhaps we should have tempered the steady flow of visitors. My “Aunt” Lauren was there through most of it. Helping with my Grandmother’s care, helping around the house, and just being generally wonderful. Somewhere along the way she had the idea to make us all t-shirts that read “Fritz Carlton Hotel” after the family name and because the revolving door of guests made it feel like we were in a hotel.
My Grandmother passed and life moved forward.
In 2004, Lauren was told that her liver disease had progressed to the point where she would need to make the appropriate arrangements. While I was somewhat removed from my Grandmother’s day to day care, I was not so from Lauren’s. I spent an inordinate amount of time helping her. I spent nights there. I more or less moved in to help her when I wasn’t at work. Aside from nurses, in the end, I was more or less her primary caregiver. I don’t know how many people even know that about me. The nights I stayed up chasing the morphine demons away. The time spent on floors holding her as she cried because she was scared to go. The screaming matches about whether or not she should be allowed to drink. I was not mentally equipped to handle that at the age of 23, and yet no one stopped me from doing it. Or rather, I don’t remember anyone trying to stop me. I remember some things and others I don’t. I know I still have a bit of anger left over from then and it’s been thirteen years. It cost me two of my three jobs, an attempt to go back to school, and a six year relationship. I include the relationship because Lauren’s passing was the push I needed to end it. That “love” was dead long before I pronounced it as such.
The shirt has followed me all this time. My Grandfather, the last of the three, passed away a few years ago. His passing, if I can write about it at all, will be in a separate post.
So now I have this old shirt. I don’t wear it often, but it ended up in the rotation this week. It doesn’t really fit anymore and it hit me yesterday that it’s the last thing the three of them have in common outside of my head. It has so many memories wrapped up into this one tangible thing. Now that it’s clicked in my head, it feels like a sacred object. I know logically that it’s just a t-shirt but my worrisome brain is concerned that when I’m old and gray, that I’ll have forgotten all these thing that helped shape who I am. That maybe this one simple t-shirt will be the thing that helps me remember those I’ve loved and lost and the strength I learned from knowing them.
Am I alone in this? Does anyone else have an object like this? Does anyone know of a way to preserve cloth for the next forty years or so (half kidding)?