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In the half-light of the morning as I sit at the computer, I find myself reaching for my coffee cup as I start the day catching up on emails and blog posts with eyes that are not completely focused and still clouded with sleep.  It’s my ritual.  My time to sit and collect my thoughts and ponder the day ahead quietly.

And I sneeze, groping somewhat blindly past my coffee cup to the dim pile of white to my left, coming up with…

One of my daddy’s handkerchiefs.  Soft and worn, not a brilliant white but a bit on the grayish side after all these years, the turned hems somewhat frayed, the fabric almost see-through after all the years of use and washings.  The touch of that handkerchief on my face triggered such a flood of memories and emotions and caused me to remember.

When my dad died 12 years ago, my brother and I each took a few things of Dad’s that were important to us to keep.  I don’t know if my mom realizes that I took two of his handkerchiefs, but for some reason not known to me at that time those two handkerchiefs were one of the things I chose.  I brought them home and tucked them away in a drawer with my “important things”, running across them occassionally during a fit of cleaning out drawers, always stopping to finger the fabric and think of him for a few moments.

These were the handkerchiefs that could always be found in his back pocket… some with his initials and some without.  They were the handkerchiefs that wiped my face, my nose, my tears.  These were the handkerchiefs my mom taught me  to iron on.  She probably even taught me how to do them in the laundry too as I picked them up between two fingers, holding them as far away as possible proclaiming EWWWWWW!!!  These were the handkerchiefs that covered my chest when I had a cold after Dad rubbed Vick’s Vaporub in at night before bed.  They were the handkerchiefs that wiped off seats before I sat down on them and put one heckuva spur-of-the-moment spit shine on my patent Mary Janes.  These were probably even some of the handkerchiefs that I was certain to have bought him each Christmas from the time I was old enough to go shopping in the special store for kids that Macy’s set up for children to shop in without their parents because DAD USED HANDKERCHIEFS!

They were part of my dad.  They symbolized comfort and safeness and security and love.  They laid tucked away in my drawer until the day last April when I was packing for my trip to the hospital for surgery.  When I saw them I couldn’t help but think back on the only other time I’d had surgery at the young age of 5.  Both my parents were there every step of the way but what really stands out in my mind is my daddy always being there whenever he could… sleeping in the chair by the bed at night so that my mom could go home and be with my brother and get some rest and I wouldn’t be alone, insisting that the nurses find someone that could make me a cup of cocoa that was fit for human consumption, tucking one of those handkerchiefs into the neck of my pajamas so I wouldn’t spill the cocoa that actually WAS fit for human consumption on my pj’s, driving me carefully home looking into the backseat and questioning constantly if I was ok.  And I was ok because I was loved and cared for and safe and secure.

46 years later I was just as scared but this time there was going to be noone there… just me.  Out from under the piles of soft flannel those handkerchiefs came to be tucked into the pocket of my pajama top.  Mom was with me every time I reached into my heart though the miles that separate us kept her from being there in person… Dad was with me every time I reached into my pocket to clutch those worn pieces of cloth.

The handkerchiefs never made it back into the drawer when I got home.  They now sit easily within my reach whenever I need them for whatever I need them for, whether it be comfort or just to wipe my nose.  All I have to do is reach for them and he is there.

The picture that comes into my mind at this very moment is one of a mass of white hankies being dangled from the heavens, each with a special monogram…. peace, hope, faith, comfort, love, security, a capital “J” surrounded by a crown of thorns.

All we have to do is reach for them and accept them for our lives.  For just as my father is there within reach. so is my Father!

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