Saturday, August 7, 2010

Old Spice

My father's scent was Old Spice overlaid by pipe tobacco. He would clench his favorite briar pipe in his teeth, gently puffing on it. He would pull in fish still puffing on the pipe. He would talk sometimes with the briar in his mouth. He had about 50 pipes from around the world but would smoke only a couple of his favorites along with his Sir Walter Raleigh tobacco that he mixed with a cherry blend. I thought that he looked a bit like William Faulkner, only taller.

The Old Spice was what I would give him for his birthday. Later in life I tried to give him more sophisticated after shaves, but he gravitated back to what he was used to--something familiar and subtle.

Sometimes he added the smell of bourbon which I associated with times that weren't so good. When I was a child I would sample the watered down drinks left in the glass. They held no magic for me. They were just something grown ups drank.

When my father died, my mother held up through the funeral. She put on a brave face that soon crumpled with the weight of a deep depression. She went to hospital to stay for a month.

I began to pack up my father's things, thinking that it would be easier on my mother to not come home to so many reminders of his presence. I gathered up all the pipes, including his favorites. Their sooty bowls smelled of him. I could see the stem tips were worn by his grip. My eyes filled with tears.

I then moved to the clothes closet. As I removed his bathrobe the scent of Old Spice came to me softly and then with a flood of memories that overcame my senses. I sobbed as I held his flannel robe. I could feel him still there.

I hung that robe in my closet for years and would go back to put the cloth to my face, inhaling the smell of him as if that would bring him back. It provided a lot of comfort for me as I grieved his loss.

Eventually, the smell of Old Spice faded. And in recent years I can't smell it at all. The old bathrobe still hangs in my closet but my father has moved on.


  1. That is a beautiful memory. I know the feeling of the emotional and spiritual pull that comes with a familiar scent or item (like pipe tobacco and old spice)

    I sat in an AA meeting when I was first sober and the meeting was a smoking meeting, for whatever reason that day the smoke combined with other scents in the room WAS my grandfather (my mom's dad) it smelled exactly like his scent, the signature scent of grandpa, it was a wonderful and powerful moment, my grandpa was an alcoholic in recovery too, I didn't know how grateful I was for that spirit having held a seat all those years ago and the fellowship bringing his memory and the love I had for him back in that room in and that scent.

    Thanks for sharing this today!

  2. Well, we all know that smell is our most primal sense. The most evocative.
    This is a beautiful post.

  3. Beautiful snapshot of love that never dies. Some people live forever--in our hearts.

  4. How comforting that you still have his bath robe. Certain scents do affect us, don't they? This is a dear post about some things you share and it is great to know how much you cared for your dad.

  5. Wow, my dad too, Old Spice and pipe tobacco. He doesn't bother with the Old spice anymore now that he's retired, but he's 81 and still smoking that damn pipe.
    I cannot smell pipe tobacco without thinking of my father, no matter where I am or how far.

  6. i like the smell of old spice...i am glad you held onto that bathrobe to remember him...a touching post syd...

  7. I remember my father and the Old Spice I often gave him as a gift. I also remember his pipes and especially the scent of tobacco that had a cherry smell.

    Sweet memories.


  8. Beautiful post, it brought tears to my eyes.

  9. lovely memory Syd, thank you so much for sharing.

  10. What a caring, emotionally honest yet difficult story. Kudos for your writing this and thanks. My father also wore Old Spice.

  11. Syd, I had to send this story on to a relative whose husband died not long ago.

    Thank you SO much for sharing this...

  12. This is a beautiful post. Thanks Syd.

  13. didn't warn us that we may need tissues. this made me cry.

  14. what a fond memory... my dad used to smkoe a pipe, "Borkum Riff" or some such tobacco. As for the Old Spice, I grew up with it, my son is growing up with it...

    Thanks for sharing this with us today Syd!

  15. I did the same thing with my grandmother's bathrobe. It smelled of her, and I refused to wash it for a long, long time.

    This is a gorgeous post.



  16. My grandpa wore Old Spice. Scent is a really powerful mental trigger, isn't it?


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