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The Black Coat

Updated on November 15, 2011


This poem is about one of the biggest losses in my life thus far, the loss of my father. For those who have read some of my previous articles, you know that we lost my father to Alzheimer's two years ago. The experience changed my family unimaginably, watching the strongest person we knew suffer in unspeakable ways. The grief was indescribable. The holidays are especially hard for me when I feel his loss most acutely. This poem is a true life experience, set to poetry and is dedicated to my father whose memory stays with me every day. His words, his deeds, his actions guide me.

The Black Coat

The Black Coat

Hung in my father’s closet

I never saw it much.

It was wool, full length and conservatively styled.

If my father wore a coat

It was corduroy with a flannel collar,

working in his shop,

raking leaves…

But never wearing the Black Coat

which hung staunchly and solemnly.

Sometimes I saw it hanging there

and wondered who it belonged to…

It couldn’t be my dad’s,

wasn’t really his style.

I came home from school

one dreary, dark day

It was cold

and I shivered as I hurried home

from the bus stop.

I walked into my house

Where the paneled den

was dark and dim,

No lights

I reached to turn them on

And a movement from the couch startled me.

It was my father

Huddled in a corner of the sofa

His face barely visible

He looked so small

And his face, normally blown pink by the sun

Was grey and pale

Above the collar of his coat,

the Black Coat .

His hands were folded in front of him

Very properly.

I noticed for the first time

how wrinkled and time-worn

they had become.

I was dumbstruck,

The silence hurt my ears.

After a long moment,

He raised his head

And said

Without looking at me

or even raising his eyes.

“Your grandmother is dead.”

I sat carefully beside him

And reached for his hand

It was icy cold.

And the sudden realization

my father’s mother was dead

And that my normally stoic father

Looked like a small child

huddled in the Black Coat.

I held his hand for a long time

and neither of us spoke.

After that day, the Black Coat

returned to the closet.

I didn’t see it again

Until one awful October day

When my mother’s huge heart

decided it would break

for the last time.

And her husband of 47 years

put on the Black Coat once again.

It was a long time before I would see it again…

The last time I saw it

Was after the day my sister called

And said, “You need to come.”

I left work immediately and raced to my father’s house

Where my family had gathered.

In a tiny room,

We listened to his labored breath.

Once again I held his hand

And prayed,

although I wasn’t sure what for…

His eyes flew open wide .

He sat straight up in bed,

and reached his hands up


“What do you see, Daddy?”

My brother begged.

In an instant,

His eyes closed again

And in a few moments

The room grew silent

Except for the sobs of his family.

Weeks later,

We gathered once again

At my father’s house to begin

The awful task of sorting through his things.

We marveled over every greeting card

That he had saved over the years.

Those signed from my mother, “All my love…”

I opened the closet

Where dress shirts hung,

Some never worn.

He was never much for clothes.

There hanging still and alone

Was the Black Coat.

I took it from the hangar

And buried my nose

In the smell of soap and Old Spice.

I took it outside and sat in the swing

Where he and I had sat

under the purple clematis and roses

Where he held my hand.

We needed no words.

I took the coat

and hung it carefully back In the closet.

I was comforted

knowing my father would never wear

the Black Coat again

But wishing I could hold his hand

just once more..



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    • DIYweddingplanner profile image

      DIYweddingplanner 6 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Jfay, that must be a mom thing, because my mom used it, too! I enlarged some old photos of my mom which I have hanging on the walls in my house. But the coat, I hadn't thought about bringing home with me, thanks, I may do that.

    • jfay2011 profile image

      jfay2011 6 years ago

      So very, very sad. I still have my father but lost my mother. I can relate to the scents and holding their objects. Possessing their things make Us think of them. Sometimes its a comfort. Take the coat so you can smell it any time you want. For me it is oil of play. I still have her old container of it. It captures her smell.

    • DIYweddingplanner profile image

      DIYweddingplanner 6 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Oh, Tess, I'm sorry. I think we've both done enough crying for awhile. May we need to learn to rejoice in the memories rather than dwelling on them...easier said, I know.

    • Tess45 profile image

      Tess45 6 years ago from South Carolina

      Now I am crying again. I remember the days following and trying to help you and feeling helpless. Beautifully written. Sadly, I neve3r got to meet your Dad before Alzheimer's but I love your stories about him.

    • profile image

      writeronline 6 years ago

      DIY, not sure I've got the 'physique' for cheerleading..

      Anyway, our commonality also extends to enjoying a smile, so if you feel like one today, I've loaded that 'slightly risque' Hub I warned you about. The topic is air travel, and funnily enough (groan) it's about the grief we encounter these days whenever we fly...

    • DIYweddingplanner profile image

      DIYweddingplanner 6 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Thank you, Adrienne. He was handsome and a character with lots of silly mannerisms and sayings that I catch myself saying to my own kids today.

    • DIYweddingplanner profile image

      DIYweddingplanner 6 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Oh, WOL, you are my best cheerleader! I value your opinion more than almost anyone's and we've never even met! How wonderful writing is to bring people who don't even know each other to realize how alike we are, even if our commonality is sometimes grief.

    • adrienne2 profile image

      Adrienne F Manson 6 years ago from Atlanta

      DIY, What a looker your father was, such a warm smile. He just looks like the type of person that would light up room when he came in. I bet he was a ball of fun. Your poem is so touching, every line that is written expresses the love that you have for your father. Very well written, have voted up!

    • profile image

      writeronline 6 years ago

      Anyone who's lost a father they loved as much as you clearly did yours, could not possibly fail to identify with every emotion you've laid bare on this page.

      Very few however, could convey those emotions so eloquently, so sparely, and so powerfully in a work that stops you dead.

      Reaches into your heart.

      And breaks it all over again.

      Where is the button for Superb?

    • DIYweddingplanner profile image

      DIYweddingplanner 6 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Thank you, hyphenbird. He was very handsome and when I look at the picture, I see the "devilment" as my mom used to call it in his eyes. To the outside world, he was a very reserved person, but to his family, he was a ton of fun and just our daddy.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      Oh he was SO handsome. His heart shows in his eyes. Your poem is just lovely and is a great tribute to your dad. We never stop missing them and needing them no matter how old we get. This is a great read. Bless you.

      If you want it in the contest, move it to Poems and Poetry otherwise it will not qualify in this category.

    • DIYweddingplanner profile image

      DIYweddingplanner 6 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Thanks so much, EMichael. I can barely still talk about him without crying. I had been thinking about writing this for quite some time, so this gave me the little push I needed. Thanks for reading.

    • emichael profile image

      emichael 6 years ago from New Orleans

      I was so moved by this poem. I understand how hard this must have been to revisit. But this is a beautiful tribute. I can feel your sorrow, but also the joy in your love for your father.

      Beautifully written, really, I can't say it enough.