Dads, Dresses and Dysfunction

Hannah in a dress!
Hannah in a dress! (Not the one from last night.)

I’m not one to shy away from difficult things.  I tend to have a mind that says I can at least take a stab at a problem and hope to find a solution.

Still . . . finding clothes for a teenage girl who has no desire to find either girl clothes or, worse yet, dressy girl clothes, is difficult enough for a Mom.  If that same said teenage girl is looking for a classic black dress to wear for her grandmother’s funeral and her Dad is the only person she has to find a dress, well, you hear and feel the hormonal surge coming through every pore of her skin.

This was, of course, my night last night.  We spent forever sifting through store after store.  We went to Kohl’s, Penny’s, Lane Bryant and eventually Macy’s.  I have to take my daughter to the larger size sections because, like her mother, she’s near 5 feet 10 inches tall and because she also has my broad shoulders.  Add those together and suddenly regular sizes look like she’s wearing one of Houdini’s trick straightjackets.

I gave up on the dress fairly early.  Still, I found a nice black pair of slacks, a beautiful blouse and a jacket.  That’s right . . . I said that I found them.

When the jacket didn’t fit my daughter shrugged.  It was then I noticed . . . she was slouching worse than her father with the back problem.  That led to the realization that . . . she needed the jacket to be more fitted.  (Yep, I watched a few episodes of Project Runway, I know what it means, dammit!)  The same brand wouldn’t work . . . I found another, not Ralph Lauren like the other two pieces, and it hugged her sides and made her look so much better.

“That will do it,” I told her.

Hannah apologized that we had to run out and get it.  I told her I didn’t mind.  You see, I’d spent enough horrifically long and spectacularly boring days seeing her mother sift through rack after rack, enjoying the chase for the bargain that looked like the brand new that I knew what would work.  I’d lived with the woman for 18 years . . . been with her for more than 20.  Hannah is an almost darker-skinned, brown-eyed, black haired version of her mother.  Same smile, same twinkle . . . all of it.

I panicked in the middle of the evening when I thought I had missed her brother’s doctor’s appointment to shop for clothes.  I scrambled this morning and sent the doctor a message only to find I was off by a week.  I realized very quickly that the haze of the last week with the kids grieving their grandma was hitting me, too.  Their older sister called from college upset because she was still trying to process that her grandma wasn’t here any more.  Worse, she can’t come for the funeral because there’s no understudy for her play and by the terms of her scholarship, she has to be in the play.  She’s got to miss the funeral.  It’s one of her first lessons in adulthood: sometimes you have to deal with your responsibilities not just lead with your emotions.

On the way out of Macy’s we passed by a store I had thankfully missed on the way in – Express.  I felt my heart clench, just a little, as we walked by.  When I dated their mother she worked at the chain, shopping for her TV clothes there and taking the job just so she could get a discount on the clothes in the store.  She always looked spectacular.

During a summer trip to San Francisco my daughter strolled into an Express and dragged me in.  I made an excuse of needing a glass of water and left after about 5 minutes.  In reality, my chest had tightened and I suddenly was faced with my past hitting me in the chest like a cowboy slamming a chair against a gunfighter.  I didn’t think it would matter when we walked into the store.  It turns out that it did.  So much of my memory of Andrea lies in those early days, those wistful points where I would wait around in Omaha’s Old Market so I was close enough to pick Andrea up after work, even though I lived a good half hour from there.  I waited anyway and drove her home.

Andrea would have taken 3 or 4 hours to look for an outfit for Hannah.  I did it in about 1 1/2.  It is a good outfit, she’ll look great.  But I couldn’t help think, passing by the Express on the way to the car, that Andrea would have taken all that time but spent 1/4 of the money.

And it would have been spectacular.

But those are the compromises we face today.  Dad knows what will look good . . . and knowing Hannah the way I do, Hannah looking great . . . and that just might be good enough.

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