She bought the hat for her father as a last bit effort to do something interesting for her dad’s birthday. It had seemed like she’d gotten him a shirt for every Father’s Day, Christmas, and birthday occasion for the past three years, and she’d been trying to trying to mix it up She thought it worked well. When her father pulled the straw hat out of the box and run his fingers along the black band, she knew she’d done well.
Before, he’d never been a hat person, but he sure became one. She suspected it was mostly because the hat was from her, but she didn’t mind. He seemed happy wearing the hat and it offset the run of shirts she got him for the next few gift giving occasions.
He wore the hat to her high school graduation, which was a little embarrassing, but as she crossed the stage, she could look out into the auditorium of parents and pick out his head. He wore it when he and her mother dropped her off at college and when he hugged her, the rim brushed against her forehead, like the hat, too, was trying to say goodbye.
The hat was the first thing she saw when stepped off her plane at Thanksgiving break, and it was also the first thing she saw when she walked into the amphitheater to claim her college diploma. Over the past four years, when she was feeling particularly sad or lonely, she’d call up her dad to talk and if she tried hard enough, she could smell the crisp aroma of the hat, which now smelled more like him than anything else.
He wore the hat on the night he met Jeff and the day he saw her married to him. Her mother had complained that it clashed with his suit and it wasn’t formal attire, but she didn’t mind and at last her mother had given up. Her father had winked at her and they silently agreed that he looked better with it on.
He wore the hat when he met his grandchildren and when he brought them lunch at school, and when he started getting sick and couldn’t remember their names anymore, he still wore the hat. His caregivers tried to make him take it off when they bathed and dressed him, but he was adamant and they soon gave up.
And he’d been wearing it when he passed, the nurse told her. Even in the end, he wouldn’t let anyone take it off his head. And she sat there, in her father’s old room on the edge of the bed where he’s spent his last few days, holding it in her hands, and watched the brim, now frayed and stained, grow wet with her tears.