A Sad Hatter’s Delicious Birthday

Aging is a process. Of course. And like any life process, there are aspects we like and others that bother and surprise.

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I only had one!

I had a delightful 67th birthday yesterday–hearing from family, leafletting for Obamacare on Cary Street (politics never leaves my blood), a Reiki session with JR Adams, dinner with Jonathan (in his office so we could do the next thing), laughing my way through a fabulous performance of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” at the Richmond Triangle Players, a delicious gluten-free cupcake and Ben & Jerry’s “Cherry Garcia” frozen yogurt, and the gift from Jonathan of a volume of poetry by Mark Nepo, Surviving Has Made Me Crazy. And somewhere around 200 of my Facebook friends–folks from my youth in Michigan, and in Virginia, and all the other places I have lived, and some folks from far away–shared good wishes (one of the joys of Facebook and other social media).

What’s not to like about all that? And oh yes, tossing the ball with Cocoa and feeling his delight–and in some ways, the true high point: being sung to by my 2-year-old granddaughter, Juna, and her beautiful parents, on FaceTime on the iPhone!

Juna and Papa

Juna Gorsline Knox and her adoring Papa

And later today, October 11,  the day after my birthday which always is National Coming Out Day, we drive to Williamsburg for an overnight and a daytime stroll around historic Jamestown. I am feeling very blessed.

But, the inevitable “but,” something happened yesterday that reminded me that things keep changing. The stream moves on, and sometimes, just sometimes, it does not feel good. Or right. Or at least it creates, or touches, some sadness. And offers a challenge.

I have this hat, a black fedora. I bought it years ago on West Fourth Street in the Village (that’s Greeenwich Village for non-New Yorkers and non-LGBT folks–actually, the store may have been too far east to qualify as being in the the village, but I always think of it that way). I paid $175 for it, an extravagant sum for me to spend on much of anything, let alone a hat.

But it is good quality, a Dobbs hat, and it serves me well. I wear it pretty much whenever I go out into the world from October until April or May (whenever the warmer weather feels right to trade it for a straw hat for the warmer months).

For the past two years, I have known it needed to be cleaned and blocked (shaped). This constant wear had caused it to look a bit shabby and the back was curling up rather more than I liked.

So my personal birthday present to myself was to arrange to take the hat to a shop in downtown Richmond whose sign I had seen over the years. They advertised cleaning and blocking hats.

Now you may have an inkling of the rest of the story. But here it is

I called the shop (Chic Chateau in some listings, Chic Chapeau in others) to find out their hours and to be sure of their location (I had noted a “We’ve Moved” sign in the window last year). No answer, in fact, no business message, just one of those impersonal, machine-generated “invitations” to leave my message after the tone. A woman called back a couple of hours later. “No, we don’t do that any more.”

I asked, “Do you know of another place I can take my hat?” She answered, rather curtly I felt, “No.”

Robin wearing fedoraI checked online. Lots of places sell hats–well, mostly caps with logos and pictures and the like. I like caps. I have quite a few of them. Wear them in the yard, walking with Jonathan and Cocoa, going to the fitness center. But in my 67-year-old-brain, they are not hats.

One business consistently came up in web searches as the place to call. “No, we don’t do that anymore.”

“Do you know……?’ “No, I don’t.”

It that moment, I realized something: An age has passed. A place as sophisticated as Richmond no longer seems to have a place to care for hats, real hats.

The old curmudgeon in me wants to flail about, in “high dudgeon” as my mother used to say. But really I am just sad.

I cherish my hat. I like the way I look in it. I feel a bit dashing. Yes, I have noticed that few men wear hats, at least fedoras and the like, anymore. Which makes me all the more happy to wear it. It is a trademark of Robin Gorsline. And I enjoy seeing other men in hats. We often notice each other, complement the other on his hat. It is a sort of fraternity.

So, I will find a place to care for my hat. In the meantime, I bought a brush to clean it up a bit. I realized that I am one of the few people who can see the soiled spot on the top of it–still, I care about my hat, and don’t want it to feel neglected.

So I will wear it this season, and then I will send it somewhere, in time for a good cleaning and blocking before next October 10. Somewhere in the world is a place to take care of my hat. Or maybe I will buy a cheap imitation now and send it away for “treatment.” I don’t know if I can bear that. But my hat might feel better.

An age has passed. I am a year older. So is my hat. I too could use some cleaning and blocking–that’s partly why I work out at Snap Fitness.

We, my hat and I, shall carry on, of course. I have miles to go, I hope many of them. I am just getting started.

Robin holding fedoraI want my hat to go with me, preferably cleaned and blocked. But, either way, don’t count us out. There’s plenty of life left in both of us. Surviving has made me crazy, as the poet Mark Nepo (a cancer survivor) has discovered (see reference above).

For me, and if I read Nepo correctly he would agree, it is the craziness that makes it possible to do more than survive, to thrive and change and shine and meet the challenges of living.

So I thrive. And my hat is going to thrive, too. Oh yes, my hat is going to thrive. We’re in this together.

2 thoughts on “A Sad Hatter’s Delicious Birthday

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