My grandfather Ted Twardzik passed away last Thursday at the age of 89. As so often happens, his passing unearthed many previously unseen photos of him as a much younger man.
Among these, one stuck out in particular: a slightly out-of-focus snapshot of him as a student at the University of Notre Dame circa 1950, at the dawn of the Ivy League Look. In it he is wearing an argyle cardigan vest, white OCBD with rolled sleeves, an undone bow tie, a watch with its face pointing downward, his class ring, and what appear to be tickets tucked into one pocket.
It’s that carefree attitude expressed by the clothes, from the hanging bowtie to the cryptically worn watch, that I find so fascinating. It suggests a character so different from the man I knew: “Dziazde” as we called him, in typically un-spellable Polish fashion, the meticulous retired businessman who allowed himself exactly one beer each night. Here he sits, taking a break from a young life that could go in a thousand different directions.
A little bit of that scene still exists, just a few feet away from me, tucked in a drawer. It’s his Notre Dame class ring, which was passed down to me a few years ago. I’ve been keeping it with my cuff links ever since, not knowing precisely what to do with it: I didn’t attend Notre Dame myself, and it’s too big for all my fingers save the middle. But I’m holding it now and marveling at that strange ability of clothing and objects to take us back to a time or place we once knew, or maybe never did. And that seems a good enough purpose for it. — ERIC TWARDZIK