educator, writer, speaker, devoted family man, amateur philosopher, chess enthusiast, basketball junkie, connoisseur of fine hip hop, and purveyor of wit and wisdom
After my grandfather passed away in 2004 (2½ months before son #1 was born), my grandmother had to decide how to handle some of his belongings–clothes, jewelry, tools, etc. My grandmother allowed me time to look through his neckties and I grabbed a few that I admired, but he was too big of a man for me to fit any of his other clothes. She let me have a silver ring of his and a slim, very beautiful gold Bulova watch that she purchased for him as a gift many years ago. And then she gave me a bottle of his cologne.
My grandfather’s death hit me hard. I watched cancer attack his body, mind, and spirit (seeing him cry for the first time was really tough). I was silently praying that he would at least hang on long enough to see the birth of my son, but he missed it by about 10 weeks. Even though I had been to probably three funerals before that time, my grandfather’s death was difficult for me to take because it was the first death of someone so close to me.
One day, shortly after I brought home the bottle of my grandfather’s cologne, I sprayed some on before going to work. Then I did it again the next day and the day after that. Day after day I wore that cologne a little at a time…just enough for it to be noticeable to me throughout the day. It was a small bottle, but a couple spritzes a day made it last a long while. After it was all gone, I couldn’t bring myself to throw the bottle away. Even today, years after the cologne is long gone, the bottle sits empty in my bathroom medicine cabinet.
In June of 2008, my stepfather Reggie was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Throughout that entire summer, the family watched him deteriorate rather quickly and in the middle of September, he passed away. His death hit the entire family pretty hard because the tumor seemed to come out of nowhere. He was a former professional athlete and he kept himself in excellent shape throughout his whole life. He was a truly good man with so many people who loved him and his death blindsided everyone because it just didn’t make sense.
After Reggie passed away, my mother allowed me to search through a few of his belongings and I brought home a couple pieces of clothing, a Fossil watch, and a bottle of his cologne. There was a full bottle of Reggie’s cologne…probably twice as much cologne in this larger container compared to the small bottle that belonged to my grandfather. After Reggie’s death, I wore a couple spritzes of his cologne each day for a very long while until I realized that it would disappear if I kept wearing it daily. And I didn’t want it to disappear. So I wore it every other day, then sometimes a couple days per week, then only on special occasions, until I inevitably stopped wearing it altogether for fear of it disappearing. Right now the bottle is sitting half-full in my bathroom medicine cabinet.
I was thinking about all of this recently and it brought forth a memory of a time I hadn’t thought about in years. When I graduated from high school, on the actual morning of my graduation, my father taught me how to tie a necktie. He stood close helping me tie the tie, and I can remember smelling his very familiar cologne as he told me that he didn’t have a gift for me. I told him that it was alright because I wasn’t expecting a gift from anyone anyway. He always wore the same brand of cologne–the original Polo cologne in the classic green bottle. After finishing with the tie, he removed a gold ring that he was wearing and told me to take it. Right around that time, I got myself a bottle of that Polo as my first real adult cologne.
After reminiscing about all this a couple weeks ago, I went back to wearing Reggie’s cologne. However, I know that pretty soon I’m going to have to find my own signature scent for the sake of my sons. They say that smell is the sense that is most strongly tied to memory than any other sense, and I have to leave my sons with their own ways of remembering me years after I’m gone.