hats of our fathers

I remember my father standing beside the open grave, his head bowed, his hands clasped low in front, as the priest prayed for my dead uncle’s soul. My father was a funeral director, and he often wore a black fedora when attending that kind of scene.
I still have that hat. I used to wear it back in the late 80s (he passed away in 1984), although I had to pad the inside circumference so that it fit my head. Aside from a few lapel pins, it’s the only tangible thing I have left of my Dad’s. I’m not sure why it was his hat that I chose to keep. I think I saw it as a symbolic of all he was.
And so I was moved by the following poem, one of Jim Culleny’s daily poetry emails.

My Grandfather’s Hat
in memory of basiliso Morot Cordero
Judith Ortiz Cofer
I cannot stop thinking of that old hat.
He is wearing it in the grave; the last gift
of love from his wife before they fell
into the habit of silence.
Forgotten as the daughters chose
the funeral clothes, it sat
on his dresser as it always had:
old leather, aromatic of his individual self,
pliable as an old companion, ready to go
anywhere with him.
The youngest grandchild remembered
and ran after her father, who was carrying
the old man’s vanilla suit — the one worn to bodas,
bautismos, and elections — like a lifeless
child in his arms: No te olvides
del sombrero de abuelo.
I had seen him hold the hat in his lap
and caress it as he talked of the good times,
and when he walked outside, place it on his head
like a blessing.
My grandfather, who believed on God,
the Gracious Host, Proprietor of the Largest Hacienda.
May it be so. May heaven
be an island in the sun,
where a good man may wear his hat with pride,
glad that he could take it with him.

1 thought on “hats of our fathers

  1. Elaine. Catching a cold can sometimes be a healthy thing. Especially when it gives you time to explore women’s voices that you’ve heard in the distance, but only just now drawn near enough to distinguish the words. Your comments and presence on TGB caught my ear and eye, and I feel as if I have fallen into a brave new, exotic, archetypically feminine world. Thanks for being here–I’d love to come back and sit a while.

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