Wednesday, November 24, 2010

my father's navy watch cap

It took my dad several months to figure out how to access my blog. I'm not exactly sure what was so elusive about it for him. But after sending him a link numerous times he finally got on it, and read it, this summer. He was pretty surprised, I think, that we both were writers and he loved the stories of my life that he found here. We had a lot in common. More than I realized for most of my life. Our looks, our love of photography and writing, our tempers. Our distractable minds, our cleft chins, and our love of family.

The poem below was my closing for the celebration of Dad's life we held on Sunday. I read it and then we followed it with a communal recitation of the Kaddish, the Jewish mourner's prayer.

My Father's Navy Watch Cap

I wear my father’s navy watch cap these days
when I go down to the pasture
on cold mornings

I knitted it for him early this year

He waited patiently for it
but I was otherwise engaged
-   a sweater for myself
-   a scarf for my sister in England
-   a neck warmer for my mother
taking precedence,
in line before his thick, navy watch cap

He waited patiently,
though I could hear his eyes glitter when we talked about it
a cozy hat
to cover his head
just like the one he had in the navy

When I finally finished it and
sent it down to him,
it was spring
and spring in Los Angeles is barely spring
in other regions
it is more like the long beginning of summer,
temperatures in the 70’s, as you know,
not much need for a thick, navy watch cap
knitted by your oldest daughter,
your biggest-tallest

And yet he wore it
proudly, I suppose,
when the moment required it
when the thermometer dipped
a bit low
and his balding pate felt a chill

He dug around in the basket of his scooter
and pulled out the hat
then tugged it snuggly over his head,
thinking, I hope,
of the love knit into each stitch

It was there waiting for me to take it home
when he died
in the basket of the lonely scooter
not even worn through one winter
his winter
an LA winter of sorts

These days when I don my mud-encrusted boots
and button up my flannel barn coat,
I also grab my father’s navy watch cap
and pull it on over my thick head of graying hair
like a hug
and the memory of our last conversation
and the words “I love you”

I want to tell you I have other hats
but this is the one that calls to me each morning

I open the door, pulling on my gloves
and think about the day’s list
-   what will occupy me
-   what I need to attend to
-   what takes precedence
and what will have to wait

And as winter approaches and fall fast becomes a memory
I tug my father’s navy watch cap down around my ears
and bring him with me to feed the animals
down in the pasture

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