Grandpa's old cowboy hat hangs in the closet. I visit it sometimes. It is white and stiff and way to small for my head. It speaks to me in tones of Old Spice aftershave and sweat. It tells stories of hard times, of plaid shirts and muddy boots, and bone cold mornings and wood stoves and coffee. It reminds me of when I was afraid, and was comforted by strong arms and a quiet voice with reassurances of better times ahead. I smell the hatband, and Grandpa's soul is with me, around me, and inside me. I close my eyes and go back to when I was small, standing in my bare feet on the cold hardwood floor of the old farmhouse, and there is Grandpa, grizzled and tall and grinning, saying "Why don't you get some shoes on and help me build this fire, son?"
Ah, that famous grin, delivered with a twinkle in his eye, always warmed you up like an old quilt on a cold night and let you know that you were loved no matter what.
It remembers, this old hat. It waxes poetic about sadness and joy, of comings and goings and all the times in between. There is pain there in it's musings. This pain, it says, is the mortar of life, because without it the bricks that make us would tumble at the first errant wind.
It tells me, also, that although Grandpa cannot hug me anymore, he is with me nonetheless. Whenever I think, what would Grandpa do?, he is beside me. When my patience is tested, but I smile anyway, Grandpa is with me. When a person is angry and lashing out, and I try to look beyond the crusty, moss hung walls of bitterness and pain to try to understand what is really hurting them, Grandpa is there.
And when I strive to be better, yes, Grandpa is with me.
I used to smell that old hat and think about what I've lost.
Now, I can only think of all that I've been taught, and all I've yet to teach.
I hang Grandpa's hat back on the hook, where it will stay until it teaches me again.