[Note: My blog isn’t usually a look into the goings on in my personal life, but this post is. Just a word of fair warning.]
T-shirts are one of my ‘things.’ I recently started posting photos to my Instagram and Facebook page of the T-shirts I wear when writing on Sundays. The characters, musicians, places, and pop-culture references they have on them all mean something to me – deeply. I take great pains when adding shirts to my writing wardrobe, and take care of the ones that do make it so that they will last for years. Take this one for instance:
Here, I want to talk about two of these shirts in particular. Both of them are from Game of Thrones. (No, I’m not a shill for HBO merch, but that won’t stop me from posting links below. You watch.) They have a story, sadly connected, and have proven a (figurative) suit of armor for my emotions during hard times. I’ll explain, but know that this is where things get personal.
Set the Wayback Machine to Labor Day Weekend of 2012. I made the trip to the mountains of Arkansas with my family to see my grandmother for her birthday on September 1st. There was no celebration this year, however. A few months before, she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and it was understood that she could go at any time. She was bed-ridden and on quite a bit of medication. She was far thinner than that last time I saw her, but she was lucid, and recognized me immediately.
The family found itself in that grey Sargasso Sea of waiting. We couldn’t do much more for her other than make her comfortable and tell her that she was loved. I spent the weekend with my family, but on Labor Day Monday, I had to head back to Texas. Believe me when I say that I didn’t want to; I wanted to be there until the very end. Just contemplating leaving made me feel like a galaxy-sized tool. But with kids and an office job, I had little choice but to return.
Life doesn’t always give us the opportunity to say good-bye to our loved ones, but this time it did. I knew I would be a wreck before, during, and afterward. You had better believe that I had plenty of my special shirts with me on this trip. For this last visit, I had my House Baratheon shirt on under my button-up. What can I say? It gave me strength.
She wasn’t so lucid on our last meeting, but smiled when she saw me. We visited, I told her how much I loved her (in great detail), and sooner than I would have imagined, it was time to go. She waved at me as I left, and that was that. She died six days later.
Fast forward to the beginning of October in 2015. My uncle, my grandmother’s only son, died in a motorcycle accident. This time I didn’t get to say good-bye, and his death was an utter sucker-punch out of the blue. One minute, I’m watching Little Einsteins with my son and the next my aunt is telling me what happened over the phone. It felt so unreal and, even after the memorial service, it still does.
Three years might seem like a long time, but when the family gathered for the funeral, it felt like only yesterday since we had all come together for my grandmother. I wore a suit to the service. It’s rare to see me in one since I dress casually most of the time (one of the perks of being a writer). This time, my undershirt was the direwolf of House Stark.
To some, it might seem really dorky, perhaps even disrespectful, to wear what is a obviously a fanboy shirt to something as solemn as a funeral. But at that moment it acted as a sort of emotional duct tape, keeping me together when I might have otherwise gone to pieces.
You see, I love those books – the A Song of Ice and Fire series. I can discuss them for hours on end, picking them apart, speculating on various bits of lore and how the series will end. I thank George R.R. Martin for writing them. I’m fairly sure he didn’t set out to write those books in the hopes that they would one day prove a much-needed bulwark for a man he’s never met, but he managed to succeed in that (admittedly inside) goal anyway. Thanks, George.
Life is short, so hold onto to those things that you love, whether it’s toys, books, video games, T-shirts, or whatever. Give the people you love a hug. Make a memory. We all say good-bye to each other in the end, so cherish the time you have on this Earth.
I know that may all sound like a Hallmark commercial, but that’s what you get for reading the blog of a hopeless sentimentalist.
Thanks for stopping by.