Mr Bentzman, wearing the Yaket.
107. The Yaket
Hanging among the sweaters was one that was a
beautiful slate grey. It was the only one of its
kind on the long rack with others that were flashy
or decorated with colorful designs. Drawn to it and
no other, I touched it and it was uncommonly soft. I
checked the label to see if it was 100% wool and it
was not. It was 100% Himalayan yak. Sixty dollars,
if I remember correctly. It was a bit high compared
to the other sweaters on sale in that discount
store. I checked the size and it was, most
unfortunately, a large. I needed an extra large.
I rejoined Ms Keogh sifting through women’s wear.
This is when Ms Keogh, my cherished companion, was
still alive and we were living in Pennsylvania. “Did
you find a sweater you like?” she asked.
“And was it grey?”
“And a cardigan?”
“Are you buying it?”
“No, but I gotta show it to you.” I led her over to
the men’s sweaters. When she touched it, she
declared it wonderful. I explained to her it was yak
She looked at the price and said, “For something
this nice, you should buy it. It is exactly what you
wanted.” That’s when I showed her the size. “Try it
on anyway. You never know.” I did and it fit. Oh,
maybe a trifle tight, but as Ms Keogh said, “It fits
you fine and if you lost a wee bit of weight, it
will fit you better. Meanwhile, it will probably
stretch.” We bought it.
The cardigan had a shirt-like collar and your hands
would naturally migrate to the slash pockets. It was
remarkably warm and the hair of the yak was not
itchy. I sometimes wore it with just a T-shirt.
Technically, the yaket was mine, MINE!, but I was
always having to take it back from Ms Keogh. It was
she who invented the name “yaket”. She would whine,
or being British, she would whinge, but ultimately
she would have to acknowledge my right to it.
Besides, she had plenty of other sweaters, including
the one her mother knitted for her AND the one her
mother had knitted for me, which didn’t fit me,
especially after Ms Keogh washed it.
Being a very slender woman, as the days grew warmer
and I was less likely to feel cold, Ms Keogh could
wear the yaket more often without argument from me.
Her pointy elbows eventually wore holes in MY yaket.
That was why the yaket acquired leather patches on
I had promised Ms Keogh that once I retired, I would
return her home to Britain and her family. We
arrived at Southampton in the end of August 2015
aboard the Queen Mary II with all our worldly
possessions as could fit into our cabin. Before
leaving Pennsylvania, we either sold or gave away
all we owned. We were both in our sixties, yet
prepared to start life over again. We arrived
without sweaters. What was the point of taking up
cabin space with sweaters when we could buy them
again in Wales? But the yaket came with us. There
are no yaks in Wales.
Ms Keogh suffered from chronic kidney failure. For
over nineteen years she was dependent on a dialysis
machine. Eventually, she had a successful kidney
transplant which served her for a decade. The last
few years before she died, she had to return to
dialysis here in Cardiff. Dialysis machines take the
blood from you and artificially do the job a kidney
should, then return the blood without first warming
it. She began wearing the yaket at dialysis. How
could I deny her? There was an accident and the
yaket became stained with blood. She wanted to have
it dry cleaned, but we never got around to it.
After I lost her, I did take it to be dry cleaned to
honor her wish, although I didn’t feel it was
necessary. It was her blood, so it never bothered
me. It was difficult finding a dry cleaner. They are
not as commonplace in Cardiff as they are in the
United States. Also, because of the leather patches,
it needed a special dry cleaner.
Just as Ms Keogh became fragile in her last years,
so did the yaket. It developed gaping holes my hands
would slip through before reaching the ends of the
sleeves. I bought a new cardigan of merino wool that
was thin, yet never wore it. It had an elegance
which didn’t reflect my nature. I gifted it to a
I continued to wear the yaket until it hung from me
in shreds. If I sat on a bench in the Hayes with my
hat on my lap, people were likely to toss change
into it. Keeping the yaket was becoming ridiculous.
A search online found me a replacement. No, it
wasn’t Himalayan yak hair, but more appropriately to
my new home, it was knitted from the undyed wool of
Black Welsh Mountain Sheep. It was chunky. I am
chunky. I ordered it.
It arrived Election Day, Tuesday, 3rd November. This
new cardigan has a shawl collar, patch pockets,
leather buttons, which the yaket didn’t have, and
the smell of lanolin. I had been wearing the yaket,
not just because I was cold, but because I had been
anxious for weeks about the US elections. It was an
idiosyncrasy of mine to wear the yaket, or my heavy
flight jacket, whenever I was feeling insecure. Ms
Keogh would laugh, but she understood.
The Saturday following Tuesday’s election I was
wearing the new cardigan. It was finally decided
that Biden was ipso facto the next President. My
friend Steve, a former foot soldier for the Labour
Party, came over with a bottle of his best Scotch.
It was the tiniest of celebrations, but heartfelt. I
opened my best Scotch. We drank each other's Scotch
and toasted President Elect Biden and Vice-President
Elect Harris. We were generally quiet at first,
exhausted from having lived through the anxious days
leading up to that moment. After a few sips, the
conversation came with ease.
“What did you decide to do with the yaket?” Steve
I could not discard it. First, I thought I would
store it. After I am dead, let others wonder why did
he save this? They couldn’t possibly know the
memories that are woven into it – although maybe, if
they’ve read this essay, they could begin to
suspect. For the time being, it hangs on the bedpost
on Ms Keogh’s side of the bed.
Mr Bentzman will continue to report here regularly about
the events and concerns of his life. If you've any
comments or suggestions, he would be pleased to hear from you.
You can find his
several books at www.Bentzman.com.
Inside Me, his second collection of
essays, is now available to purchase.