Sunday, June 20, 2010
He knew how to wear a hat.
Trust... that’s not always an easy trick, when you’re a Black man, trying *not* to look like a pimp, a mack, a dandy, a fop or a player.
My father possessed that infinitely smooth gift of slipping on a chapeau and becoming this cool and mysterious character. Though barely 5’8, he always stood larger in his fedora. It seemed as if his posture changed and he became this whole other Larger Being , at least, in my eyes.
I was discussing this phenomenon with my mother, yesterday, as we were approaching yet another Father’s Day, without his presence. Because of this, she seemed determined to remember to be sad. And while I could only validate that emotion for her, an extended appointment with sadness was not placed upon my schedule. Instead, I spoke of a certain bronze-colored Oldsmobile Delta 88; how my father would take the family for long rides on Sunday afternoons, and how, from the backseat, in his fedora, he resembled some quietly Elegant Black King to my eyes.
When he died there inside the emergency room, a nurse brought his possessions into the waiting room. Perhaps she thought it would be too much for my mother, so she called me into a quiet corner, and she handed me his gold retirement watch, and his wedding band.
I tried like hell not to cry, especially there in that setting. Although my brother publicly lost it, I'd somehow retained my composure. It was a strange day. It was even stranger, holding those articles in my hand, as if the were supposed to represent this man I called, “Da.”
A day or so after this, at a more quiet time, I presented those articles to my mother, and hugged her tightly and for the longest time. I still hadn’t cried, but I wanted to.
After the funeral and after all the guests, and the food, and the stories, and the emotions, after the hubbub and the shows of sympathy, when everything sat quietly in its own haunted space, my mother asked if wanted anything of my father’s.
I thought for a minute about the car, which never was my style, and the clothes, ditto, and were way too small, and finally, I said,
“You know that black fedora? The one he wore back in the day, when he’d take us on those Sunday drives? I think I’d like to have that hat.”
Maybe it seemed like a strange request. But then, I was always her ‘strange poet son,’ and so she just shrugged and gave it me.
I’ve placed it on the top shelf in my closet. I hardly ever wear it. Over the years, I’ve thought of it as a kind of trophy to the modesty of his life, his quiet elegance; his one slice of mysterious cool, his subtle sense of royalty.
And so, on Father’s Day, in lieu of tears, and instead of episodes in sadness, I slipped on that black fedora, and tried like hell to mirror my father’s style-- not pimp, not mack, not player, not fop, not dandy.
You know, just a Black man, in a black chapeau, with a smooth gift for becoming a cool and mysterious character.
That’s it. That’s all.
Happy Father’s Day to YOU, Da.