My wife wears a green John Deere hat. It’s too big for her head, it’s ratty. It looks ridiculous. Long ago, she almost placed this cap inside her father’s casket. But at the very last minute, she saved it for herself.
I remember seeing her father wear the hat while riding his lawnmower. The cap sat slightly crooked on his head.
There’s something about the way old men wear ball caps crooked. It makes them look distinguished. Many times I have tried to wear my cap, slightly cockeyed. I look like the town wino.
I’m glad my wife kept this hat. It’s become her trademark. She wears it often even though it looks ridiculous on her.
She carries it in her beach bag. She wears it when she works outside. Or on long drives—like the long drive we took yesterday. We landed in a Birmingham hotel at ten at night.
And that’s is where I am now. I’m in a hotel room, still wearing my pajamas.
My wife just left me to meet a friend for lunch. I am writing. The television is playing a soap opera on mute.
And I’m looking at this dumb cap, thinking about things. Important things.
Like my friend, who just lost his thirty-five-year-old wife to cancer. Ten years they were married. He has two kids. He’s a wreck. He smiles when he’s in public, and it’s a phony one.
I also know a man who was diagnosed with a terminal illness in his brain. He is young. He has a good job, a magnificent family, and he’s been eating healthy for most of his natural life.
The doctor told him he needs to get his affairs in order.
There’s a man whose wife died nine days after her fiftieth birthday. Breast cancer. I stood in her funeral line and shook her husband’s hand. He cried so hard that he held up the line.
As old as I may get, I’ll never forget that day. Some things stick with you, I guess.
Like the time I sat in a UAB hospital waiting room, holding a stupid green cap. That sticks with me.
I wrung the hat in my hands. I prayed for God to remember his good old pal, Sean. I felt sick.
There were a few others waiting in the room. A television in the corner, blaring commercials about used-car lots.
I’ve never felt more alone than I did in that room.
When they wheeled my wife out, I placed the cap on her head. I kissed her and told her I loved her.
In the weeks that followed, I didn’t sleep. I laid in bed, wedged as close to her as I could get. She snored. I kept my nose pressed against her bare shoulder.
When the doctors told us it was benign, it was the greatest day of my existence—yet to be surpassed.
I don’t know what you call the most important thing in your life. And the truth is, I’m in no position to make remarks about what is and isn’t important—I have a hard enough time remembering to change my oil.
But I know what I have. And I know I’m grateful for it.
And I’m grateful for this stupid hat, too.