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February 19, 2024

The Miracle of the Dark Suit

By Harvey Silverman

That old suit, a conservative brown, had been good enough. The need to wear one was infrequent; the fifteen year old suit -- the only one I owned -- and the brown ones that preceded it had always sufficed.

But the color was wrong. I needed a dark suit; attending a funeral and giving the eulogy while wearing a brown one would not do.

I did not yet know when the funeral would be. Tomorrow, next week, perhaps in a month? Date uncertain made no difference; I best be ready, at least so far as a suit.

In the local department store I wandered about until locating the men's section, explained to the salesman I had come for a dark suit and quickly chose one, stood still while the alteration marks were placed, and a few days later hung it in my closet.

I was relieved that was done. I was prepared, with regard to clothes if not otherwise, for the funeral and my delivery of the eulogy.

My folks were elderly and for my dad the outlook, both intellectually and physically, was particularly grim. A gradual and progressive deterioration had accelerated. He was losing his mind to dementia and could no longer be left alone. Months earlier, when my mom was out one evening, he thought he saw dead bodies in the living room. He called the police who arrived to find no bodies; only pillows arranged neatly, as usual, on the sofa. The confusion that episode evidenced had since become more and more profound throughout the day.

His physical deterioration had likewise rapidly progressed. He was frail and failing; he needed assistance getting in and out of bed and going about the house, often he sat quietly in one place most of the day, frequently dozing. In December he somehow ended up on the floor and was unable to get up, became incontinent, and was finally admitted to the hospital. Stabilized, with life's end appearing clearly within sight, from the hospital he was to go to a nursing home.

There was an excellent facility half a mile from my folks' home, one with which my mom had long been involved as a fund raiser, committee chair, and board member. It was the logical and desired spot for my dad.

He could not go there. Not right away. The dementia unit, "the fifth floor" as it was called, was full. My dad would have to stay elsewhere until a bed became available. As nobody was ever discharged from the dementia unit that meant he would have to wait until somebody there died.

My dad was transferred from the hospital to a nursing home that could accept him on a general care unit where he would stay until "the fifth floor" had an opening. This facility was unhappily inferior -- dull, poorly lit, residents left to sit alone for long periods in the hall, grim faced attendants doing their jobs with little enthusiasm. The mournful environment made our visits to him even more depressing.

So we waited for somebody to die. Somebody. Anybody. The death, whosever it was, would be no great tragedy, more a release from a dark silent prison of dementia. But how was that person any different than my dad? What a strange and confusing wait it was. Should we have been happy when finally the inevitable happened and a bed became available? My dad was transferred.

My mom visited him daily. I visited often, whenever I came to town from my home in the neighboring state. The care was wonderful, a bright and tidy unit with cheerful and dedicated staff. He seemed content enough where he was, he recognized each of us whenever we visited, he did not ask to go back home.

Then, gradually and hardly noticed at first, a strange thing happened. My dad seemed to be getting better. After a few months he was able to get up from a chair by himself and walk around a bit. More remarkably he became less confused and could carry on a normal conversation. It was an amazing turn of events in what had been a progressive course over the prior few years. Was it the continuous care he received, the good food -- better than my mom's? -- or perhaps, and more likely so, the change in his medicines? Whatever the explanation, he improved to the point that my mom brought him back home, unheard of for a patient from "the fifth floor." He still needed care, he still could not be left alone, but he was back home, back in his own house, back with his wife.

Late that summer, a couple of months after my dad had come home, the nursing home scheduled an awards dinner/fundraiser. My mom was one of the honorees because of her many years of service. She hoped we, my wife and I, would attend. Of course we would.

The theme of the dinner was "Denim and Diamonds." What did that mean and how does one dress for that? My mom thought I should dress appropriately which to her meant a suit. On matters such as this, with her scheduled to receive an award, my mom's opinion was edict.

Since returning home my dad had been reluctant to go out, anxious as to how he would do. When we asked him if he would go to the dinner he had said "maybe." A week later, I in my new suit and my wife lovely as usual, on the evening of the dinner we arrived at my folks' home. There was my dad, neatly dressed and ready to go, my mom coiffed, attractively dressed and excited as could be. I expected my dad would last for a while and then want to return home; I planned to bring him back and leave him there with an aide who would stay with him.

Off we all went the half mile to the big affair. The one hundred twenty or so guests were outfitted in jeans and denim skirts and such -- except for us. But that was okay. It was a good time. There was a lively country band and barbeque style food. My mom was so happy receiving her award in front of many prominent people, so happy to have her family there to see it and so happy, I am certain, to have us seen there with her.

As for my dad, he did just fine and stayed the entire time. After the dinner was over the band encouraged folks to do some line dancing and a few people did even as others began to leave. We got up to return home and were slowly working our way toward the exit when my mom, pleased with everything and enjoying herself, began to dance a bit as we gradually worked our way further.

"Come on, dance with me," my mom said to my dad. He stood still for a moment or two and then handed me his cane and began to "dance" with her. He shuffled his feet a little in time with the music, swayed a bit, moved his arms, and had a big smile on his face as did my mom.

I stood there watching this rather extraordinary scene and thought that here I was, in my new dark suit, purchased with my dad's death and funeral in mind. Yet there my folks were, for a few moments at least, as happy as kids in a picture unimaginable to me when I bought the suit. The irony of it all did not escape me and is why I think of that time as The Miracle of the Dark Suit.

Originally appeared in Freshwater.

Article © Harvey Silverman. All rights reserved.
Published on 2021-11-01
Image(s) are public domain.
1 Reader Comments
Carol Airasian
09:16:37 PM
Wonderful reading! I can picture Ben and Lillian dancing!
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