The Immortal, Comforting, Feel Good Overalls
“You have a nice jump shot.” They were the first words spoken to me by Oliver Dale Gibboney, aka my then boyfriend’s grandfather aka “Pap.” I quickly deemed my first impression a success. Without doing much, I executed my girlfriend duties flawlessly. Unbeknownst to Pap, the man Ben (my boyfriend) admired most, he had just given his blessing. He liked me.
For the next 7 years, I came to learn why Pap was held in high regard. He had integrity. Stories of his work ethic consumed family gatherings. He was a dairy farmer, working 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. milkings every day. He also was a local auctioneer. An Amish Market required his auctioneer services every Wednesday. He didn’t miss his post for 50+ years. He didn’t freely give out affection. I remember my first hand squeeze. Ben and I were leaving Pap’s house after a summer visit. The squeeze was warm and eternal. It meant something. It made me rethink how loosely I give out hugs.
I was not there for Pap’s final breath. Ben, now my husband, was there. His brother, sister, mom, dad, Pap’s caretaker and a family friend were there too. The family friend prayed over Pap during his final exhale. As hard as it was to be present in death, Ben is glad he was there. Pap had always been there for him. It puts my heart at peace for both of them.
Following his passing, the family was tasked with cleaning out Pap’s house (Ruth Gibboney, his wife, aka “Gam” had passed away a year prior). Dividing small assets, such as furniture and clothes and trinkets, is weird. We clung to the nostalgia. We wanted to keep Pap’s spirit alive by blending his possessions with our own. We also felt unsettled, a bit acquisitive.
I don’t remember how the conductor striped bib overalls appeared. I do remember my instant attraction. I held them by the suspenders in front of my body. I was a real-life paper doll and the overalls seemed carefully cut out to fit me. How overalls owned by a 5’7”, 120 lb. man fit a 5’9”, 165 lb me is bewildering. The fit didn’t lie, though. Ben’s family offered me the overalls. Seeing the glee on my face as I circumvented around the jumbled house wearing the overalls, they had no choice.
Pap’s overalls are a permanent piece to my style identity. I can dress them up with white pointy boots and a white kimono robe or pair them down with a baseball tee, sneakers and cuff the pant legs. Either way, I always feel good. They hold his integrity, his work ethos in this world. As I pull them from my closet, Ben smiles. It is a proud smile. When people ask me, “Where did you get those overalls?” I am delighted to answer. They give the right amount of comfort, the right amount of warmth. And, I can even shoot a nice jump shot in them.