When John is invited to a wedding he discovers his nice Italian suits are a lot more convoluted than my stroke-friendly wardrobe of crew necks, polos and jeans.
A Unique Perspective on Survival by Stroke Survivor and Comedian John Kawie
When my cousin’s wedding invitation arrived I thought, “Fantastic! A chance to finally wear one of my Ermenegildo Zegna suits hanging lonely in the closet.” Sure, they were pricey, but definitely worth the splurge.
Why? Well, for sheer panache the Italians have it covered. Their unrivaled workmanship and style create a kind of understated 60’s cool. (Think Marcello Mastroianni fawning over Anita Ekberg in “La Dolce Vita.”) Any tailor worth his weight in pincushions will tell you this is the orchid of the haberdasher forest. The fit must be “perfetto!” If not, you might as well be wearing one of those tuxedo T-shirts and cargo pants. Take the trousers — there should always be a slight break at the top of the shoe. Too short and you’re Goober at the Mayberry church social. Too long and you’re saggin’ like a homie.
The last time I embraced my Marcello-ness was back during the “Balloon Boy” hoax of ’09. While I’m sure my waistline is still a svelte 31”, my wife (Miss Positive) reminds me of those bourbon balls I wolfed down during the holidays. Marilyn’s convinced my threads are going to fit me like an Italian sausage casing. One wrong move and the whole thing explodes like I’m a human party favor blowing worsted wool confetti all over the place. She starts quoting Burgess Meredith’s character from the first “Rocky.” “You don’t wanna be a tomato, do ya? So you better start breathin’ lightnin’ buddy, and doin’ some sit-ups.”
These suits are a lot more convoluted than my stroke-friendly wardrobe of crew necks, polos and jeans. So Marilyn has to help me get dressed, which is more Mommy-putting-on-my-snow-pants than Marcello-chic. Back in Kindergarten I pretended I was a knight with my squire suiting me up in my armor preparing for a joust, but at 63 a fantasy like that can land you in the rubber room.
Choosing a shirt and tie is like choosing between Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren.
Fortunately, this is a wedding and not a funeral, so there’s time for our own dress rehearsal where we can split up the duties and go over the playbook. Right off the bat, I pick out a suit. Navy. Boom! Decision made. Shirt and tie? Not so easy. As soon as I zero in on one combo I end up liking another. Apparently the CVA has left me with major DD (decision disorder). It’s as if I’m my 13-year-old self trying to choose between Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren (a conundrum that still stumps me). Finally, I reach a solution. I turn to Marilyn and say, “You choose.” And she does.
Slipping into the shirt, I immediately have a problem dealing with those Tic Tac size buttons, which make me feel like I’m performing one-handed laparoscopic surgery on a gnat. Next Marilyn hoists up the pants and holds them waist high like it’s a hula hoop. This way I can tuck my shirt in. Then I suck it up, she hooks, buttons and I’m in.
Lastly, the accessory that can make or break the whole look, as well as our marriage: the necktie. There’s nothing more exasperating than trying to teach someone else to tie a tie around your own neck backwards when you can’t remember how to do it yourself. It begins with kind, cooing, patient/caregiver speak: “OK honey, atta girl, through the loop and…Ooopsie! Just a teensy bit too long.” Soon we’re slinging blood-curdling rants at each other a la George and Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe.” PG exerpt: “NO, NO! HOLD it. THEN loop it... That’s NOT what you said!... DON’T TIGHTEN IT NOW!... YOU TOLD me to!...”
Somehow out of this bubbling cauldron a knot magically appears. I slide into the jacket, look in the mirror and there it is. That 60’s cool. Satisfied, we break open a bottle of Valpolicella, and as we toast to our success, the stroke slips away. Well worth the effort.