A New hat for Winter by Peta Biggin
Poppy once told me that he was in the autumn of his life. That sort of made sense to me because I'd noticed his hair had been falling out for years, like leaves. Every Saturday he would come to visit me and we'd go for a walk. When we passed by the cemetery near my house he would always shiver. I guessed that was where the winter of his life was, waiting.
Once, while we were out walking, I asked him if he was afraid of dying.
'A man who's afraid of dying is afraid of living,' he said.
I really didn't understand what that meant.
'Life's too short to live in fear,' he explained. 'Life should be about taking a risk and following your heart. Never forget that.'
I promised him I would never forget. My Poppy was just about the bravest person I knew and I secretly wished that I would grow up to be that brave.
One day Poppy couldn't come and visit me. He was sick. He couldn't even get out of bed. No matter what anyone did, he just didn't get better. I wished and wished for him to be well again so we could go for our walks. He went to hospital instead.
Even in the hospital, the doctors couldn't help him get better. I went to visit him whenever I could but he never said much. The last time I saw him he was lying in bed with his eyes closed, shivering a little. That's when I knew that winter was coming for him and it was making him cold; and that made me scared.
The next day, he died.
The funeral was on a Thursday at our church. I got to skip school so I could go and normally that would make me happy, but not this time. I was sadder than I've ever been and, because I'd never been to one before, nervous about the funeral. Poppy was at the front and I could see him because the lid to his coffin was open. He looked the same as that last day in the hospital, except he wasn't shivering.
That's good, I thought. He's not cold anymore.
I was so wrong.
Dad took me to the front of the church so I could say goodbye and when I kissed Poppy's face, I could feel that he was cold. Really cold. I looked up at my Dad.
'Poppy's cold,' I said. 'He needs his hat.'
'It's OK,' Dad said. 'He's fine.'
'That's not true. He's freezing and he should have his hat on!'
Someone should have made sure he was warm. After all, he was in the winter of his life and going to the cemetery where he got the shivers. I couldn't understand why no-one else noticed; why no-one else was worried. Poppy wouldn't want to be cold and it soon seemed to me that I would have to be the one to do something about it. So, I ran, even though I didn't know the way to Poppy's house. I left the church and went down the street as fast as I could. I could hear Dad calling out for me but I knew, no matter how much trouble I got into later, that I had to keep going.
Pretty soon, though, I got puffed out. Worse still, I didn't know where I was. I looked all around but nothing looked familiar - even the dogs sounded strange. I didn't want to cry but I couldn't help it. I was lost! Poppy was going to be cold forever and I couldn't do anything about it.
Then, I saw Dad's car coming along the street. I knew I was going to be in Big Trouble but I didn't care because I'd never been so happy to see him in all my life. I climbed into the back seat and waited for him to start yelling, but he didn't.
'I know this is tough,' he said. 'It's tough for me too. But Poppy is resting now and this is your chance to say goodbye. You'll always regret it if you run away.'
'I know all that Dad,' I said. 'Really. It's just that Poppy always got the shivers when we walked past the cemetery. He's already cold and I don't want him to be any colder.'
'I understand what you're saying but I think it's too late to do anything about it,' he said.
'Pleeeease!' I cried.
'We just don't have time to go back to Poppy's house,' he said.
I started crying again. Dad was quiet. After a minute, he sighed.
'How do you feel about getting Poppy a new hat?' he asked.
I looked up at the back of Dad's head with a sniff.
'I think that would be OK,' I said. 'But where would we get one?'
'I passed a shop just around the corner that sells hats, let's go have a look. If we're quick, we'll get back while Poppy is still at the church.
We were really quick and we got a scarf too. When we got back to the church, everyone was waiting for us. I felt pretty stupid but Dad walked with me to the front of the church and we put Poppy's new hat and scarf on him together.
He looked much better, warmer. I looked up at Dad and smiled.
'Thanks Dad,' I said.
'Running off like that was a little silly,' he said. 'But brave. The sort of thing your Poppy would have loved.'
I hoped so.
Copyright © 2012. Peta Biggin