When Everyone Wore Hats

I inherited most of my personality and character traits from my father. My love of sports, however, came from my grandfather, instead. My grandfather played basketball during his days in school and avidly loved football and baseball, too. When we would visit him at his home, the television would always be on and more often than not, the Braves, Falcons, Yellow Jackets, or Bulldogs were on.

A young child, when away from his parents, craves regularity more than anything else. Anything that stays the same when mom and dad are gone and he is in a strange place is a little bit of comfort. So when mom and dad would leave my sister and I at my grandparents for a weekend, the voices of Skip Carey and Ernie Johnson broadcasting the Braves during long summers became a normal thing. Almost something you could count on.

Before long, I was learning the rules of the sports and could engage in lively discussion with my grandfather. Would Braves ever break out of last place? Would Georgia ever win the SEC again? Now when we visited I had something to talk about. A 10 year old could converse with a 70 year old man. Something we could share. His love of life and love of sports allowed him to go all sorts of games at all sorts of stadiums, much as I’m doing in my life now.

But watching sports with my grandfather did more for me than just comfort me. Learning to appreciate athletics inspired me to compete. I didn’t play organized sports (other than college intramurals), but during high school and college I played soccer, ultimate, football, and volleyball and I was _very_ competitive, even if I was playing with just friends. The instense, desire to achieve has carried me pretty far in life, and with a lot of guidance and grace from God, has gotten me where I am.

My grandfather died in his sleep at the age of eighty-seven years after living a long, full life. I think when he went into the hospital about a week ago, I had already come to terms that it was not likely that he would be with us much longer and his death almost came as relief because I would’ve hated for him to suffer much longer.

I’ve often written that I want to wring every drop out of life and he truly did. He was a wonderful man who worshiped God, loved Jesus, and gave unconditionally to so many people. He cared for his wife for 50 years (several years when she was disabled), fathered 3 children, 7 grandchildren, and many great-grandchildren. He helped build a landmark covered bridge in North Georgia, worked as an engineer on almost all of the freeways throughout Georgia, and was a charter member of the Optimist Club and the Boys and Girls Club of Gainesville. When I cross to the other side of the Jordan, I know he’ll be there waiting for me, asking what went wrong with Tech’s football team this year.

But if I could do it all over again, I’d be a young child, sprawled on the living room floor, watching college football (even if it was the Georgia Bulldogs) and debating whether Ray Goff should be fired.

I’m watching the baseball playoffs as I write this, probably a fitting tribute to my grandfather. The Braves are losing. My grandfather would know would know instantly what needed to be done to the team to fix the problem. I’m going to miss hearing the solution.

“To our dear, dead, dears, of there’s anywhere to be, then you must be there…”
Jeff Holland

When Everyone Wore Hats by Daniel Amos
Written by Terry Taylor

Here’s to the long-lost world of
Chain-smoking dreamers
War and baseball heroes
Ticker tape and streamers,
Cocktail drinkers, Bible believers
When light was still filling up a
New York river

They knew the grace of tradition
Possessed a love of decorum
Shook the hand of conviction
No one complained then of boredom

When everyone wore hats
They dreamed of ocean voyages
Believed in true romance
Found their hearts and voices

Here’s to the long lost hopes of
Those mothers and fathers
Of rags to riches
Of style and manners
To the American dream in a
Pledge to honor
Promises made to their
Sons and daughters

Threw off the chains of depression
Built up the arms of aggression
Left us a mixed impression
Some died before they learned their lesson

When everyone wore hats
In the land of immigrants and pilgrims
The world came rolling off their backs
And landed on their children’s

They knew the grace of tradition
Possessed a love of decorum
Shook the hand of conviction
No one complained then of boredom

When everyone wore hats
And innocence found simple pleasures
They built the cities, drew the maps
With clues to find their buried treasures

When everyone wore hats
And handed down their pride and prejudice
They dropped good fortune in our laps
We traded it for vice and avarice

When everyone wore hats
Would-be kings with ragged crowns
They say the style is coming back
What’s out-of-fashion comes around

Uncertain where the road was leading
But trusting God was on their side
They traced the moral chain of being
And filmed it all in black and white

And everyone wore hats…