The personal in personal style

My grandmother’s passing was unexpected, and it was heartbreaking in its suddenness; I missed seeing her one last time by a matter of hours. I’m still having trouble believing she’s gone, because she’s been an enormous presence in my life since the beginning: Ever more diminutive in stature as her extreme arthritis ravaged her limbs and caused her to shrink from a height that even in her youth never quite reached five feet, but a towering pillar of charity and love not only to her family but to all around her. The truth is, I had planned this trip with the intention of seeing my grandfather for very likely the last time, assuming my grandmother — ever the fighter — would be around for a while longer even as Alzheimer’s takes its toll on my grandfather. I suppose the one upside to her loss is that all the family activity around Grandma’s memorial has helped him cut through the fog of illness and be himself, something all too rare in recent months. Needless to say, I’m soaking up every minute of my time with him, every snatch of conversation we share.

I take a lot of crap from people who think I’m pretentious for having taken to wearing a hat over the past year or so, but those people are cordially invited to to shove off. They don’t know the reasons behind the change, and frankly they don’t deserve to know. The hat here is the one that started it all; Cat found it as we were walking through Nolita while spending Thanksgiving 2010 in New York. She and her brother encouraged me to try it on, even though I figured I’d look like a complete twit in a hat. I put it on despite my misgivings and they both assured me it worked. I checked a mirror and sure enough, it actually looked OK. Later, I saw a photo of myself and realized why it worked: I looked an awful lot like my grandfather.

Grandpa always cut a dapper figure. It’s something of a generational thing, of course, but even after other men his age had abandoned wearing a proper hat and dressing well, he continued to cover his head when he went out, to wear French cuffs, to don slacks. Even after he retired — and really right up until the past few years, where his health has diminished — he continued to dress in a nice shirt and slacks to do nothing more than sit around the house and nap in his favorite chair. When I see myself in a hat (and, subsequently, in dressier clothes to properly match my headwear, because wearing a hat so nice with a screen-printed T-shirt would make me look like a twit), I see him reflected. I remember always being able to tell if he and my grandmother were at church when I arrived late, because his hat would always be sitting by itself atop the coatrack in the entry vestibule.

I was told that Grandpa recently saw my favorite portrait of Cat and me from our wedding, the one in which I’m standing slightly to the back in a suit and the hat, and asked, “Is that a picture of my father?” I gave it a closer look, and I really do look a lot like my great-grandfather in his younger days there. (No doubt Grandpa was also wondering why his father had posed in a suit with a lovely Vietnamese lady in a beautiful dress.) It’s a resemblance that no one ever noticed until I adopted a different mode of dress. It’s a connection that means the world to me — now more than ever.

Yesterday I had to borrow a tie from my grandfather for the memorial, because the ones I’d packed (unaware that I’d be saying my farewells to my grandmother) seemed inappropriately cheery. Not that Grandma would have minded my wearing a colorful tie in her memory, but sometimes it’s OK to step in line with social mores. I selected the one pictured above.

“Does it look OK?” I asked.

“Turn and let me see,” he replied. He looked for a moment and nodded, then told me to keep it after the memorial. I found myself suddenly choked with emotion and thanked him. It’s a great tie. I’ll be wearing it often with the hat Cat gave me, and not just because they look good together. I don’t know how much longer my grandfather will be with us, especially now that the love of his life is gone, but I will always keep a part of him with me in how I present myself.

27 thoughts on “The personal in personal style

  1. I’ve been reading your texts for a long time now, even though I’m more than a bit of a lurker. But I can relate to what you’ve been through (having lost my grandparents not long ago) and I just wanted to give you my condolences.
    Don’t be bothered by those who just want to judge your choices. I guess the thing I like most about your texts, no matter if they are about games or hats or whatever, is that they ooze personality. They show how it is to be yourself.
    (Sorry for the bad english, I guess I have to practice More).

    • It’s ok, the portions of the Internet I serve tend to describe anyone who wears anything but a T-shirt and jeans as a hipster. Sometimes even then. I think there’s something to be said for taking pride in your appearance, no matter what you look like or what form that self-expression takes.

  2. Brother, I empathize with you over the loss of your grandmother. Your words nearly brought me to tears. Condolences to you and yours, and thank you for all of writing: they are always a delight to read. I always look forward to them. God bless.

  3. Really enjoyed the blog post. I lost my last grandparent, my maternal grandmother, a few years ago. I had never really had much of an attachment to my other grandparents because my maternal grandfather died before I was born, and my dad’s parents when I was fairly young.

    My mother and her mother had not gotten along so well when they were younger. I’d even go as far to say that she treated my mother in a way she would likely regret later on, as she doted on my uncle and seemed to take out a lot on my mother. Although growing up, she had seemed to try to make up for it. She was a wonderful grandmother who was always generous, kind, and even if she would complain in the quaint ways grandparents often do, she was able just as easily to listen and offer understanding back.

  4. It’s blog posts like one that demonstrate the power formerly private diary entries can have on many people, instead of just a select few or only the writer.

    Thanks Mr. Parish, very moving and made me take a step back and re-evaluate some important things. Best wishes to you during this difficult time.

  5. I wept as I read this. I recently lost my grandma, leaving my grandpa as my sole surviving grandparent, so what you write sounds very familiar.

    I’m so sorry for your loss and the timing of it all.

  6. Thanks, Parish. Only after both grandfathers had died and one grandmother had developed Alzheimer’s did I really start to regret never getting to know my grandparents as well as they’d deserved. I’ve got to call my grandma as soon as she’s back from vacation, just to say hi.

    But all sentimentality aside, journalists should wear hats. It’s sort of a badge of office.

  7. Thank you Jeremy for taking the time to write during this difficult time for you and your family. It brings back memories of my grandparents. My condolences and prayers are with you. The passing of both of my mother’s parents was very sudden as well, so I empathize with you in your loss.

  8. I never know what’s an appropriate generic greeting to send someone, who’s essentially a stranger, in a time of distress without sounding horrible and disinterested.

    To wit, a canned response that’s still sincere.

    I haven’t thought of one, but, “Best wishes.”

  9. I’m going to drop a cliché and mention that I’ve been reading your personal website and its iterations for several years (since some time before you started writing for 1UP. Naturally, I wound up “discovering” 1UP– and thus, the 1UP Show, etc.– through you. Thanks for that), but this is the first time I’ve fired a communication of any kind in your direction.

    More often than not, my tastes in video games don’t align with yours. You will praise games that, for whatever reason, I can’t bring myself to enjoy.

    However, I hold your wonderful writings in the highest esteem because they are consistently accompanied by a unique and incisive point of view. You might describe a curious design decision in a game, or perhaps an interesting story about the events leading to the game’s inception. Whatever the subject, you always encourage a look from an different angle, a fair shake, or pause for thought.

    You’ve given personal context as to why you feel a way about a given game, you’ve submitted a comic strip as a legitimate game review, you’ve given a great game a less than perfect review score because– as you put it– you knew the developer was capable of much, much more. For a medium defined by strict programming, you often manage to bring into the limelight the flawed, unique– and sometimes inspiring– human side of video games.

    It’s that kind of affectionate criticism that has given me a more meaningful appreciation for my pastime of choice. Whether or not I enjoy the majority of games you favor isn’t important, or I wouldn’t keep coming back here. I can state– with authority — that the way I approach scrutinizing, discussing and celebrating video games has been enriched and made better because of the infectious spirit of you and your work.

    I feel that you receive a disproportionate amount of negative, mean-spirited feedback from a vocal crowd of gamers who express their passion for the medium in a misguided way. You typically weather these attacks like a champ, but this week has seen you become the unfortunate victim of a heartbreaking series of events.

    I’m not sure exactly why I decided to write this (and I certainly didn’t intend to go on for so long), but I suppose I wanted to reach out to a human being in a bad place and let him know that he doesn’t just dump words into an ambivalent ocean for a living. That he contributes to the lives of people he will never meet in a way that is damn meaningful, if you ask me. And those people don’t need to know him personally to say that they sincerely care about him, and wish him well.

    Thanks for everything, Jeremy. And keep up the good work.

    • Thank you for writing this. Second to my grandfather quietly telling me he loves me, this was the nicest thing to happen to me all day.

  10. Thank you for sharing a bit about yourself and what kind of person you are, Mr. Parish. May the year be kinder to you than the last.

  11. I recently lost my grandpa. I’m sure my grandmother will be going soon since the person who she built her life around has moved on to something else.

    They were married for 68 years. I miss my grandfather in ways I can’t express. Reading your blog has redoubled my efforts to get up and see my grandma.

    Condolences, sir.

  12. It is strange, isn’t it, the idea of there always being that one last time, suddenly taken away from you. I went through with, ah, all of my grandparents. Not a whole lot of fun to be had there, I know. On the plus side, a nice picture of macaroni.

  13. Another longtime lurker here Jeremy (hint: I remember toastyfrog splash pages), and I don’t have much to say other than: you have my heartfelt sympathies.

    I’ll just say, I’ve been there, so I can, at least somewhat, understand what it’s like.

    And I’ll close with this: for every person spouting hateful crap, remember there’s probably twice as many people who have positive things to say… who just never get around to hitting the “Submit Comment” button. But they ARE there. (And, if the comments here are any indication, more often than not, they are nice people who really do care.)

    Take care man.

  14. My condolences for the loss of a loved one, Jeremy.

    That was a very touching piece that brought a tear to me. I admire you for following in you’re grandfather’s footsteps. There is something powerful in recognizing such personal heritage. I imagine it goes beyond simply the way you dress but to the way you carry and conduct yourself. With class.

  15. Thank you for sharing this Jeremy, it made me tear up and think about how much I miss my grandfather.

  16. You’re fortunate to have gotten to your grandparents well. My parents had me late so all of my grandparents were either near the end or already gone, and we didn’t live close to the one who was left.

    As Tennyson said,
    ‘Tis better to have loved and lost
    Than never to have loved at all.

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