For nearly as long as I can remember, my dad would comment on how cool it would be to have a REAL bow tie. He once said that he thought being able to tie a bow tie was a skill that classy men had and seemed to be a dying art.
My dad didn’t own a bow tie when I was a kid. As my dad’s 50th birthday approached (January 28, 2011) I was in full-scale wedding planning mode and decided that I wanted to give my dad that opportunity to be the man in the tuxedo, tying a real, bow tie.
I searched a few stores and ended up in the men’s department at Macy’s. They had a wide selection of bow ties, including the classic, black satin bow tie. The cashier asked me while ringing up the bow tie, “does he know how to tie this?” He didn’t know who it was for, what it meant or any of the back story but I answered, “He will.”
Dad’s surprise party 50th birthday party had to be changed from a surprise party in Ohio to a planned party at my parent’s home in Pennsylvania because my dad’s cancer treatments were taking a toll on him, making travel tough. For his birthday, I gave my dad his bow tie and a link to a how to video on YouTube.
A week or so after his birthday, I received an email from my dad with several in-progress photos of him tying the bow tie.
Here was his message:
I have now done something I never thought likely. I know the bow tie thing sounded crazy, but it has such class.
Accomplished the goal. Thank you.
My dad wore his bow tie to my wedding. Many people who attended my wedding and then learned of my father’s death a few months later made the comment that they couldn’t even tell my dad was sick.
On an early April morning in 2007, I dropped my dad off at a gastroenterologist’s office for testing “on my way” to one of my last days of high school. Later that week our family got the diagnosis that no one ever wants to hear: Dad had cancer. Over the next four years, dad and the doctors fought stage four, metastatic colon cancer. Regardless of the situation, dad was there for all of us whenever he could be. My senior prom, my high school graduation, my college graduation and all three of his kid’s weddings. Only on the rare occasion could anyone who didn’t already know, tell that my dad was “sick.”
My wedding was the last big event for our family that my dad was there for, and he was really there. He had just come off of a round of treatments and postponed the next in order to be able to walk me down the aisle and to dance with the women he loved at our wedding reception (me, my mom, my sister, his granddaughter).
When my mom asked if there was anything of my dad’s that was special to me, I asked for the bow tie back.
I’ve been holding onto his bow tie and the boutonniere he wore to our wedding (that I made) for more than a year. Last week I decided it was time to give my dad a place in our house (a house he never saw but I know would love). I learned to tie the bow tie myself and arranged those memories in a shadow box.
Certain times of year are harder than others for me, but Father’s Day is probably the toughest. I know that I am not alone in missing my father. For me it is important to remember my dad and impossible to forget the example he set and the lessons he taught.