My Grandpa Sonny was quiet, one of those people that when they had something to say, everyone would listen because of its rarity. His skin had valleys marking age and wisdom and his eyes told stories of pain and triumph. He was strong-willed, I mean he had to be if he was going to last with my lovely, loud and sometimes demanding grandma.
In early 2011, he was diagnosed with lung and prostate cancer and was living near my aunt in Dallas,Texas. When we went to visit him, we figured it would be best to get all of the important memorabilia from his apartment since he lived in hospice care at this point.
We gathered the most valuable keepsakes. Silk moo-moos belonging to the queen herself (my grandma), jewellery, priceless photographs, family Bible, trinkets from my grandparent’s world travels, letters etc.
While sorting through my grandparent’s belongings, I found the perfect thing that I just had to have. It was a beautiful, comfortable weathered pullover. Not carefully knit, cashmere or even for women really. I might also add I lied about the pullover part. It was actually an extra large, extra old Sports Illustrated sweatshirt with the lingering smell of a pack-a-day my grandpa wore all of the time. Nothing except priceless sentiments were taken from their apartment; all packed up into their vintage luggage they used on their worlds travels.
After we packed the car full of memories, I decided I wanted to sleep in the sweatshirt I found, so I brought it in the house along with a gold locket my grandma used to wear.
The next morning, I saw something catching the light of the sun on the street near our car. The back window was reduced to a million pieces of shattered glass and all of the luggage was gone. We were devastated to say the absolute least. The items would have no value to any pawn shop, yard sale or street vendor. The thief did not care to look in the luggage they stole before they took it all with them. The tangible memories new home became a dumpster rather than carefully placed on display in my house.
Though it hurts to know I would never see the things I saw my grandpa wear when I was little or hold the souvenirs from the stories my grandma told me about, I had slept in the oversized sweatshirt so the thief did not take everything from us.
Quite honestly, I could care less for the sweatshirt’s American football label (how un-American it is for me to admit that), but after everything was taken, I treated it like it was a designer brand, not like it was made out of cotton and mass produced.
Towards the end of my grandpa’s gruesome chemical and radiation treatments, he had the option to live longer, but die slower and with more pain, or risk a last-resort surgery to remove the cancer that spread to his stomach. There was a 50/50 chance of success or failure.
He chose the surgery for me and my family; he chose it for us to have the closure of knowing we tried everything. I remember him telling me he loved me for the last time.
He chose the surgery and I chose to wear his sweatshirt almost every day to high school after he braved his last fight with cancer treatment. Though it may not seem the most fashion forward, I would dress-down even the cutest dress and bootheel outfit with this oversized sweatshirt. It was obviously a special article of clothing to me, a trend only I followed. I strutted it with pride nonetheless (or I did until someone else picked it up at school).
It actually wasn’t until a year later from when I saw the girl wearing my sweatshirt that I was reunited it. She kept denying it was mine and I kept missing the one thing I had left of him. However, in my last year of high school she walked up to me with plastic bag in her hand and said “this belongs to you.” Although it came back with a new cigarette smell and a few more stains than before, I was more than grateful when I put it on and felt his hug again. It can still be found snuggled between me and my bed in the States after five years. I proudly represent Sports Illustrated whenever I think about my Grandpa Sonny and need a hug.