Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Queer Eye for the Old Guy

A month and a half before my father's ordination we had to have a chat that I knew was going be difficult for both of us. We don't often have these types of heart to heart conversations but I knew something could go horribly wrong if I didn't step in to stage an intervention that only a gay son could.

I was a little gun shy from failing at this in the past, I decided to test the waters with my mother. I was hoping she could give me some guidance or to at least give me some support for what may need to be double-pronged attack. Even before all the words were out of my mouth she got tense.

"What is Dad planning on wearing to his ordination?"

"Scott, things have been so stressful I haven't been able to go down that road with him nor do I want to, we had to may fights with him about what he's wearing. I think he is going to wear the suit he bought for Grandpa's funeral. If you want to talk to him about it, be my guest. I'm not ready for it."

"What about shoes?"

"He has black shoes."

"If they're the shoes he wore to Aunt Sis's funeral. He's they're to casual."

The suit in question was bought in 1999 the year my grandfather died. When it had become clear my grandfather wouldn't be coming out of the hospital my mother forced my father to buy a new suit. I lived on the west coast and was spared the thrill of this event.

"Grandpa wouldn't dyinging if he knew what he was putting me through," was what he said in the store. He meant this with no irony. None of the men in my family know what is appropriate to wear to a formal event or how to wear it. They'd rather have gum surgery than go to the men's section of Macy's.

When my youngest uncle still lived at home he and my grandfather shared the same tie. It was as system that worked for years until they were both expected to attend the same wedding.

"Can you believe we had to buy a new tie for this?"

While formulating my plan of attack I decided to start small then work my way up, first the shoes then the suit. Day one of operation "neatly dressed" was planned for the day my parents were leaving for their summer vacation. I knew he'd be in a good mood and wouldn't expect it, then if he complained to my mother she would only reinforce what'd told him for two weeks they were away.

I fired my first shot, "Do you have shoes to wear to the ordination?"

"Oh right, Mom told me I was supposed to show you the shoes," It was going to take more then sarcasm to deter me.

He went left the kitchen and brought back the shoes. They looked even worse than I remember. These are the type of shoes your see little boys and old men wear, soft leather that doesn't hold a shape with thick laces so they're easy to tie. They had a black rubber sole, the kind that marks up a wood floor, wears in the corner when you drive after the first time you drive with them on, and are always dirty.

"Dad these aren't dress shoes."

"What do you mean they aren't dress shoes they're black?"

"I mean they're to casual for you to wear with a suit."


"What about a suit? Do you have a suit to wear?"

"Yeah I have a suit. I'm gonna wear the suit I have the tan and black checked one."

"You should really think about getting a nice black suit. One that's really conservative, that way if you have to do a wedding or a funeral you'll be able to wear it. If you take care of it you'll have it for years."

"Ugh." He was as exasperated as old man Costanza from Seinfeld.

"When I was an alter boy Fr. Mullen's always told us it was black pants and black shoes, not brown or blue pants, black pants with black shoes."

When my parents got back from vacation I stopped by to drop off their keys. It was time for phase two. I brought up the clothes again. It worked he gave in with out much resistance. But not before I told him his old suit was just ugly, but hey this is war right?

We, or I decided a single breasted, two button, single vented suit would be best for him. Five times he asked me why, five times I gave him the reasons. He would have it and not have to worry about being under dressed for anything. We made a date for shopping.

The Sunday before we went to the store he and my mother did some pre-shopping, she found a dress for herself. She and my father just looked for him; she wouldn't let him buy anything with out my approval. She did let him know what she liked.

When my father and I got to the store I headed straight back to the suits.

"46 regular?"

"Were you in my closet?"

"Yes, 46 regular right?"

Sigh. "Yes"

We went thought the suits. I picked one out he said no, he picked one out he I said you are going to a Deacon not a pimp. That didn't go over so well, but I laughed. He showed me the one my mother liked. It was a no it was cotton and would fade. Actually he got into the spirit of what we were doing it made it fun. After trying on 5 or 6 jackets we nothing was right. I was willing to settle on something a bit different, but there was no changing plans for my father he was getting what I suggested nothing less would do. The next one he tried on was it.

I sent him over to the tailor, "Oh this fits you nice." The tailor was from West Africa. Actually he wasn't American and that's all I cared about, I don't trust American born tailors, it's not rational I know a foreign makes me feel he was taught his trade from men who had been tailors for generations. The tailor marked the suit and looked in the mirror as I nodded my approval.

"Why did they take sleeves up?"

"Your shirt cuff is supposed to show."

"What if I'm wearing short sleeves?"

"Short sleeve dress shirts are for 5 year olds and copier repairmen since you're neither you don't have to worry about it."

He had his suit in his hand and started to head for the door, I made a left toward shirts.

"17. 34-35"


I picked up two blue shirts one darker the other. He chose the lighter one, but was kind of the size.

"Should I ask Kenny to measure me to make sure we get the right one?"

He wanted to do it righ and I loved that he called the tailor by his name. He didn't call him the guy, the black guy or the tailor he gave him the respect of learning his name.

The size was correct he chose the lighter of the two shirts.

Next we were on to ties. He didn't like anything I held up and went to the other side of the rack to see more. The tie he brought over matched the shirt. I didn't like it, but I figured he should be able to choose one thing on his own. We got him a belt as well.

In a little more than an hour he was almost completely outfitted. We stopped for a bite to eat and to regroup. Just one pair of shoes stood between me and completing my mission.

The shoes turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. All of his enthusiasm was gone when he parked his pick-up in the parking lot. I practically had to drag him into the store. He stomped his feet and whined. Reassuringly I put my hand on his should and pulled out the big guns. I didn't want to do it, I have him an extra little shove. I played the guilt card.

"You know this has nothing to do with you. I am doing this for Mom she wants you to look your best. It's one less thing for her to worry about. She has done a lot for you to get to the ordination you can do this for her."

He cut his eyes at me, but made not more protests.

Walking up and down the isles I explained to him what we were needed, "We are looking for a shoe with a leather sole and wood heal not a rubber one. That way you can have the soles replaced if you really like the shoes. If you buy rubber soled ones they'll wear out quicker."

I found a pair of lace ups oxfords that I liked and had him sit down on a bench to try them on. My father has a high arch so he can only wear shoes with laces. It makes buying shoes a major pain for him and why he hates it.

"What do you mean they wear out to quickly? These are fine."

I picked up the shoe he had just taken off to show him were it was starting to fall apart and were the dirt was caked on it. He sighed at me again.

The shoe shopping was a failure nothing fit him properly. We made a date to do it another night. Much to my surprised on the second shopping night he bought the first pair of shoes he tired on. I'd prepared myself for the worst, but it was painless.

He told all of my relatives how I lectured him on the shoes and how they were supposed to be. They all thought it was hilarious, and that I was clearly out of my mind. However I won in the end.

Two days before the actual ordination he started to understand. The Deacon in charge of the program told all the candidates that they could only wear back pants and black shoes to the ordination and nothing else. Before we went shopping he didn't have black pants.

During the ordination he had to kneel and lay on the alter with the soles of his shoes facing the congregation. The day after the ordination when he celebrated his first mass my Uncle and Aunt said to me, "Gee his shoes looked so nice. You don't realize you're gonna see them when he's standing so much higher then everything on the altar".


At 3:25 AM, Anonymous Nicole said...

oh! You are a good son.

I love your parents

At 10:16 AM, Blogger The Persian said...

Awww...that was such a cute post. As Nicole said, you are a good son.


At 12:09 AM, Blogger Hanuman1960 said...

What a good son.

You've certainly earned a place in Christian Heaven for all of that! ;)

At 11:53 AM, Blogger Will said...

OK, this is just to make it unanimous--You're such a good son!

And patient and kind, too.

At 3:43 PM, Blogger David said...

You deserve a medal.

I can't even fathom a male relative that opposed to clothes shopping.


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