He wiggled it out of the basket and waddled over to me. I took it from his tiny hand and placed it on his head. My soon-to-be 1-year-old grandson tilted his head back and smiled almost as wide as the brim of that old cowboy hat. My heart skipped a beat.
For the past four years, the sweat-lined, straw-colored, cowboy hat held its place in the corner of my dining room, inside a basket, as a reminder of my dad. It was that hat and a pair of worn bib overalls he wore for much of my childhood. And in the moment, all I could think was, “Man, my dad would’ve loved that smile.”
As my grandson walked from room to room taking the hat off and trying to put it on, I gave chase as if to hear my dad laughing and saying, “Son, that’s a little too big for you. Bring it here; Grandpa will help you.” Instead, it was my voice.
It truly doesn’t matter how old you are when you lose a parent; there are events that happen — big and small — where you think, “I wish they were here to see this.” It’s not out of sadness, but out of pure joy knowing my folks loved our family. They gave everything to be involved in all aspects of our lives. And having them along for the ride, for this journey, would just be sweeter.
Unfortunately, my grandchildren will never meet their maternal great-grandparents in this lifetime, but that will not stop me from letting them experience a connection to them.
I encourage you, don’t idolize the “things” left behind by keeping them out of reach — making them seem more like a piece of prized art, never to touch, only to look. Rather, personalize your kids’ or grandkids’ view of relatives who have left this earthly home.
Let them touch, smell and maybe even slobber on every tangible piece of those memories you cherish. Then tell them the story, show them the pictures, and let them experience the love that spans the generations.
While some may keep that favorite hat placed high on a mantel or a mixing bowl on shelf display, mine are exactly where I think my parents would want them — in the hands of their great-grandchildren.