My Dad was a businessman…a suit man. He wore tailored, hand-made, hand sewn suits…shirts with the collars starched from a spray can Mom kept on the ironing board…fancy leather shoes he purchased a few times a year.
Each morning, he picked out his suit from the several pieces lined up in his closet…he chose a shirt from those mom had lovingly ironed and placed there and a tie to match his mood. Ties that most likely, had been given to him by one of his children on any number of occasions…but most especially on Father’s Day.
When Dad was finished tying his Double Windsor Knot, he added a sentimental tie clip…a solid gold round disc etched with the image of a child handing her father a rose. A gift my Mom had given him for Father’s Day, 1974.
Dad was a businessman…but first and foremost, Dad was a family man.
By the time my father retired, he had over 125 ties in his closet and I had watched him carefully tie them and push the knot up to his neck on thousands of weekday mornings. There were the very basic ties, the fancy floral ones, ones that were purchased for a particular suit, ones just right for the holidays, and ones gifted to him by corporations. There was a tie that when you looked carefully, you’d see the ears of Mickey Mouse as it was purchased on a family trip to Florida. There were so many ties that you could guess the “decade and era,” just from the width of the tail alone.
Weekends, with the exception of church on Sunday morning, were a little more casual. Dad would throw on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt to do a little yard work, paint a room, build a deck, fix some electrical work or a little plumbing. I loved the “casual dad” most of all…the one who was home, tapped in and engaged with his three children…cooking bacon and eggs in the kitchen or BBQ’ing in the backyard, helping us with our school projects or packing up the camping gear for a weekend of adventures.
I recall going to the mall with Dad one Saturday afternoon when we ran into one of his staff members. Surprised to see him outside of the office, the only place she’d ever seen him, she shockingly (and loudly) exclaimed, “Oh Mr. O’Dea, I hardly recognize you with your clothes on!” She of course meant that he was wearing a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt and not a suit and tie…but proceeded to turn bright red as she was horribly embarrassed by the realization of what she’d said!
Dad and I chuckled about that for a long time afterwards.
When Dad retired, he packed up his suits (with the exception of one suit and one sports-coat for funerals and weddings)…and he gave the rest away.
The ties he kept…as they were gifts, memories…stories…and then, a few years ago my Aunt Betty made the most special gift imaginable…a quilt, made from those 125 ties! The ties that are no longer hidden away in his closet but displayed in a way that will allow my father to cherish them forever.