from Reflections on a Life, writings and paintings for my father
I can’t listen to Chet Atkins’s song “I Still Can’t Say Goodbye” without going to tears. It’s a song about missing his dad, and in it, he tries on his dad’s hat. I first heard the song when Tommy Emmanuel performed it three months after my dad died. I had to leave the theater.
Years ago, my dad left his hat at my house. I called to say I’d return it, but in the meantime I was wearing it. He said, “Aw, you keep it. It looks better on you than it does on me.” So I kept it, wearing it or hanging it on a doorknob or a hook in the different places I lived. My dad had a handful of those hats.
After he died, his friend Bradley brought a pie to the house. He was all broken up, and we asked him to sit with us. So he sat on the couch and told stories about my dad, peppering his memories with, “Aw, I loved that guy.” He cheered me up. As he was leaving, he saw one of the hats on a shelf. “That hat. He always wore that hat.” His voice held wonder and amusement toward this quirky man he loved. He turned toward my brother. “You’ve got to take that hat!”
My mother piped up, tipping her head toward me, “She already has.”
Later, my brother carried all the hats in his hands. “You want these?” I took all of them.
An earlier version of this writing and the above painting were part of an exhibit honoring my father shortly after his death.