Giving Away my Father’s Clothes

When Grief, Anger and Guilt Collide

Laura Friedman Williams
7 min readMar 20

Photo by Waldemar on Unsplash

When my father dies, he leaves behind an assortment of items with which my mother cannot part. Mostly, these are objects he created: handmade vases from his glassblowing phase; ceramic bowls and mugs from his pottery period; collections of poetry from his chapbook days; a replica of the Taj Mahal built from plastic pieces so tiny they make Legos look gigantic; papermaché creatures he built with us when we were kids.

Years earlier, as a gift, I had bought my father a subscription to The New York Times Crossword Puzzles. My mother was thrilled: here was a hobby he could dive into that wouldn’t fill their house with more stuff. Within days, he had stopped the Monday puzzles and then the Tuesday ones too, deeming them too easy. Months later, when he could easily solve the challenging Saturday puzzle, he retired from crosswords altogether. He was a man who liked to master and move on.

My father was large with a booming voice to match: well over six feet tall and broad. He had struggled with weight most of his adult life and his size swelled and shrunk depending on whether or not he was able to resist sneaking candy from our Halloween baskets or driving off to Nathan’s for hot dogs when my mother was occupied and wouldn’t notice.

In the last months of his life, diabetes having ravaged his kidneys, he decided he would eat only what he was told by doctors to eat. This was a surprise, as before his rapid decline he had declared that he would rather eat whatever he wanted and die than restrict himself to stay alive. He soon was eating pieces of chicken breast the size of his palm and small mounds of steamed broccoli. The weight came off in sheets, leaving his features sharper and more prominent, his eyes suddenly huge and sad.

The clothing he leaves behind is as plentiful as his art projects. He loved concert t-shirts and gag t-shirts and silly holiday t-shirts. In those last months, he was always cold, so there were flannel pajama bottoms, zip-up fleeces, non-skid socks.

My mother directs the children and grandchildren to take what they want and so we leave with vintage AC/DC and Led Zeppelin concert tees. It makes my mother too sad to see the most recent clothing purchases, all meant for…

Laura Friedman Williams

Author of AVAILABLE: A Very Honest Account of Life After Divorce (Boro/HarperUK June ‘21; Harper360 May ‘21). Mom of three, diehard New Yorker.