I've been thinking a lot this week about the way that lives affect each other - how our actions become like pebbles thrown into a lake, rippling out and shifting the course of other people's lives without our ever knowing it. I've been thinking about it mostly because this week Mrs. H's father-in-law, "Gramps," passed away very suddenly. I didn't know him, but he's been on my mind.
His obituary was in the paper today, and it mentioned a lot of wonderful things about him: he was a family man, a singer in the church choir, a craftsman, a volunteer, a veteran - a much-loved man who will be deeply missed.
What I've been thinking about is his hat.
At some point in his life, Gramps had a tweed hat. I don't know how long he had it, nor how often he wore it. I don't know if he would have recognized it as his own if he'd come across it last week. But somewhere along the line, he gave the hat to his daughter-in-law, Mrs. H, the woman who has been such an extraordinary presence in Bud's life this year, who has taught us both so much, and who is living and working in our town, it seems, because this is the town where Gramps summered for many years, and the place he chose to retire. Mrs. H brought his tweed hat to her Kindergarten classroom and put it in the dress-up area.
And Bud found it.
Bud wore Gramps's tweed hat almost every day this year. Perhaps it was the sensory input of the heavy tweed weighing down on his head that helped Bud feel anchored, and allowed him to use his hands for something other than covering his ears. Maybe it was because the hat reminded him of the one worn by Sesame Street's Sherlock Hemlock. Maybe the hat smelled like a grandfather and reminded Bud of his own beloved Papa. Whatever the reason, Gramps's hat became a touchstone for Bud this year. It grounded him; it helped him feel safe. He never asked to take it home with him, the way he did so many other beloved items in the classroom. To the contrary, at the end of every school day Bud happily returned the hat to its shelf in the dress-up area, its mission accomplished for the day.
It's hard to imagine Bud's year without Gramps's hat. It's impossible to imagine it without Mrs. H. And I think we were lucky enough to have both in our life because of Gramps. So this week I've been thinking of him fondly, and I've been feeling sad about his death.
I didn't know him... but he changed my life.