The sweatshirt

1 Jun


The Sweatshirt

by L. Stewart Marsden

Hey! Where are you?

Down here. In the basement.


Hi! Didn’t you hear me calling you earlier?

No, I guess not. What’s up?

I just thought I’d drop by and see, you know, how you’re managing.

Well, I’m managing, I guess.

Yeah . . . yeah. So, what’re you doing?


Where is it?

Oh, right. I came down to get the laundry basket.

That Mom’s sweatshirt?

Yeah, it is. It was in the laundry basket.

Um-hum. To be laundered?


And . . . it’s been down here how long?

Um, I dunno. For some time I guess.

Since before she went to . . .

Yeah, I guess. Before that.

You’re right. That’s some time.

You know how things’ve been, though. I just haven’t come down here since.

So . . . there must be a helluva lot of laundry to do, then.


Three month’s worth, I’d guess.


How do you do that?

How do I do what?

Go without clean clothes?

I don’t.

You have three months’ worth clean clothes?

Of course not. If I wear something more than once, then that cuts it down.

So how many months clean clothes do you have, then?

I dunno. Couple weeks, maybe?

Ah! So you definitely wear things more than twice.


Not underwear, I hope.

Oh, no. I don’t do that.

You have three months’ worth of underwear?

No. A couple of weeks, perhaps.

Okay — I’m not understanding. If you have a couple of weeks of underwear, and — let’s say you do wear them more than once . . .

Twice, at the most.

Okay . . . so, it’s been three months, Dad. Explain it to me.

Oh, I see what you’re getting out. Truth? I don’t wear any. I mean, if I don’t go out, why wear them? If I think that I’m going out, and might have a heart attack or something, I slip ’em on. That would be embarrassing. A sick or dead guy without underwear. Might think I was a pervert.

Dad! That’s disgusting!

No. That’s what they call going commando, I believe. Have you never gone commando, Kiddo?


I rather like it! Nice and airy . . .

Stop it! Too much information!

Okay. I’m just kidding with you. I have a couple pair of polyester boxers I rinse out in the sink.

STILL TOO MUCH! And I’m not sure I believe you about rinsing your boxers.

I’m fine. You worry too much.

Apparently not! Besides the laundry piling up, you’ve got a sink full of dishes. How long since you’ve cooked yourself a real meal?

You know, Stouffer’s has an excellent line of full meals . . .

You can’t eat frozen meals every day!

I don’t eat them frozen, I heat them up in the oven. And once the dishes were all dirty, I bought paper plates and cups and utensils. They don’t ever need to be washed. Although your mother would wash them anyway. Protects the environment and saves a tree, I guess. That’s what she said.

Why don’t you just get a dishwasher? Who doesn’t have a dishwasher these days? You can afford it! Randall can come by and install it for you. Plus do some of the other things that need to be done.

What other things?

The railing on the steps, for one. It’s real loose. That’s all you need is a fall down the stairs.

I can fix it. I have tools. Randall’s not the only guy who can do stuff like that.

Yeah, but he does it every day.

Right. Don’t remind me. A real catch, that one.


Sorry. But I never liked him from the start. Your mother did. And every other woman that meets him, too.

What’re you implying?

Nothing. I’m not implying a thing.

He’s a great dad.

I’m sure he is. But, just the same, I can do my own repairs. Every time he comes over here with his tools he asks me if I know what he gets for screwing in a damn doornob, for chrissakes.

He want’s you to know his skills are valuable and wants you to appreciate what he does for you.

He want’s me to know he resents doing the work for free, that’s what he wants me to know. And I’m tired of it. So don’t ask him to come over, okay? Okay?

Okay, I won’t. But he’ll ask me if there’s any work to be done.

Jerry and I will get it done.

The screens, too? They need to be taken down and washed for the winter.

Yes, the screens, too.

But Jerry’s nearly eighty. And he has that heart condition.

Goddamit! Just because a guy has a little age on him, everybody’s ready to put him in the deep-freezer! And don’t worry — we’ll both wear underwear when we do the work!

Sorry, Dad. I didn’t mean anything by it!

I know. I’m just . . . well, you know. It’s a goddam adjustment, it is. Your mother took care of all these things and I played golf.

So, can I see the sweatshirt?

Oh, sure.

Wow, there sure are a lot of memories in this rag.


Ummm. It still smells of her.

Yeah, it does.

She would never let us throw it away. She liked to hang on to old things.

Like me, for example.

She loved you.

I think she loved that sweatshirt more. More reliable. More comfortable.

I mean, even the logo has faded almost entirely. And look at the elbows — it’s worn to mere threads. And the grease spots.


Mind if I put it on?

Put it on? Sure. Put it on.

Whaddaya think?


I think you look like your mom. A few years ago, of course.

You’re sweet. So, what shall we do with this? Can’t take it to Goodwill it’s so old and ratty. We could cut it into rags.

Cut nothing! Why the hell would you do a thing like that? Jeesh! Cut it into rags . . . No, we won’t!

I have an idea.


Yeah. Let me have it.

Let you have it? The one who wants to cut it into rags?

No, I won’t do that. I’ll wear it. When I garden — like she did. When the weather’s cool and I’m sitting by the fire. When you come over.

You won’t throw it away?

No. It will be a legacy sweatshirt, and I’ll pass it down to one of the girls and teach her all about Mom.

You will?

I will.

That’s nice. I like that idea. A legacy. Kind of a living memorial.

Except the sweatshirt’s not alive.

Yes it is.


Yes. It is. (Pause) Say, wanna go for a short walk?

With you?

See anyone else?

Sure. Let’s go for a walk.


So, do you have underwear on?

Hmmm. I’m not telling.



The sweatshirt conversation was inspired by a delightful poem I read on Bhartithewriter’s blog, entitled “My Old Sweater.” You can read this rich work by clicking here.
— SM


Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 31 May, 2014

3 Responses to “The sweatshirt”

  1. Bharti Athray June 1, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

    I can so completely relate to this conversation. You had me listening from the beginning. I love the humour between the father and his daughter – tells me that they have both learnt to live without Mother and yet not quite.

    The idea of a living memorial for someone you really love – that is a fabulous concept. Sure, I like having pics of people who are no more but something like this – which you touch and connect with everytime you wear it or use it, I think that keeps the person alive is so many beautiful ways.

    Great interaction, and thanks for the refer back to my poem. This piece has done a completely different take on Comfort Clothing! As usual, very well written, but that you already know 😉

  2. nimslake June 2, 2014 at 9:42 pm #

    A touch if ache, humour, exasperation and love. Lots of love. Love it!.

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