Saturday, August 11, 2012

Lighten Up

Gosh, was that last post maudlin enough for you? Sorry, but in case you hadn’t guessed, my sudden departure to New York had to do with a family emergency—the kind that ends at the cemetery—and introspection sorta comes with the territory.

My visit—despite the reason, and the rain—was really quite nice; the usual family squabbles that erupt when things like this happen only lasted a day or two, and the anticipated planning and attendance of the wake, funeral, post graveside get together and the drunken rowdiness that was sure to follow (this is my family we’re talking about, after all) never materialized, so for the vast majority of the time, I was on my own and able to do as I pleased. It was rewarding on many levels, one of which was the opportunity to slack off.

Think about it—how often do you get to do nothing? When was the last time you were able to lounge in guilt-free leisure?  Holiday? Not a chance; those are precious days, and need to be savored with an itinerary in one hand and a stop watch in the other. When you’re sick? Well, I grant you’re not doing much, but it’s hard to enjoy those sort of days, isn’t it? And, truth be told, you’re kept fairly busy trotting to the little room to expel various semi-solids from one end or your gastrointestinal tract or another, depending on just what type of sickness you have. When you’re on the dole? Yes, you can sit around watching Eastenders and The Real Housewives of LA, but isn’t there a niggle always present in the back of your mind, sucking the joy out of your day by reminding you that you ought to be down at the Job Centre filling in forms and adding another layer of hyperbole to your CV?

True down time is as rare as yeti scat, and I was handed a basket full of it as a final gift from my father.

Unbeknown to me (and, I expect, just about everyone else) my father had drawn up a list of last wishes. Getting over to the States was a scramble, and I managed to arrive just in the nick of too late. Then, as I mentally prepared myself for phase II, the final requests were revealed: immediate cremation and burial in the family plot without ceremony, memorial or fanfare of any kind. This was accomplished in a startlingly short time and without need of my involvement, which is, of course, what he wanted.

Lounging at Lyon's Lake on one of the few sunny afternoons.

So this left a span of days wherein I had nothing to do but ramble around, drink beer, listen to WTRY 98 All Oldies All the Time and catch up on what has been happening in the quiet countryside during my absence.

And it was nice, but I did wonder about dad’s chosen method of dispatch. I mean, he had himself cremated and buried. Granted, he already owned the plot, but it is still a lamentable waste of prime real estate. If he’d had himself scattered around the bar at the VFW, that would have been more appropriate, and then he could have sold the plot and thrown one last party that he might have enjoyed. And even as it stands, he’s only taking up half of the plot—he’s in an urn, after all—so he might have arranged for a sub-let of the remaining half and put the money to some use while he was still around to benefit from it.

But that was not my dad’s way. He was a taciturn man who just wanted to live life his way and not impinge on, or depend on, anyone else. And that was how he ended it.

So thanks for the free days, dad, I really enjoyed them. But I wouldn’t have minded if you had leveraged that plot while you had the chance. I would have happily scattered your ashes for you; I had plenty of time.


  1. Free time is a gift, and I'm sure that your father would be happy knowing that you enjoyed your time off.

    Perhaps the urn and grave were meant to provide a nice place for people to drop by and leave flowers. Getting a drink at the VFW might have been a better form of remembrance, though.

    1. "...Getting a drink at the VFW might have been a better form of remembrance, though..."

      Ah, then you knew my dad ;)

  2. There is something to be said for a Funeral "Lite". It certainly reduces the stress and social obligations on the survivors. I agree that there is little reason to bury the cremated remains. In fact, it sort of misses the whole point of cremation. And as far as your postings, if ever there is a time when you're entitled to be introspective, it's when you are dealing with the death of a parent!

    1. I have to say, realizing I didn't need to get involved in the whole planning thing was a relief; and the fact that it left me a lot of time to spend with my grandsons was a big bonus.

  3. Mrs Baum12:44 PM

    Sorry to hear about your dad. I agree though that there is something to be said for a funeral 'lite'. I don't think I want much fuss made when I die. I'm off to a funeral this afternoon (a friend's) - really not looking forward to it.

    I think the best funerals, if there can be such a thing, are those where it feels personal to the person who's died. So from that point of view, your dad should have gone for the bar option!

    1. Thanks.

      My immediate family will be doing a memorial when I go back over in a few weeks; that should be nice and easy, and involve copious amounts of alcohol ;)

    2. Grits4:01 PM

      Are you SURE you don't have a wee bit o' the Irish in ya? I'm just a British mutt, myself - English, Irish, AND Scottish. Which means I'd love a drink, but I don't want to pay for it. I just read your books yesterday. Kept turning the pages, and before you know it...really enjoyed them, and also enjoyed the development of your British terminology with each successive one. We were near Saratoga Springs for two years, and when we brought our son home from hospital April 17th (30 yrs. ago!) there were still pacthes of snow everywhere. Loved it though. Understand feeling as if you were home in England. You could have gone halfway there by traveling to the American south. We're overwhelmingly settled by Northerners, Irish, and Scottish. Next one? "Even More Postcards from across the Pond? P.S. Read your snark about Alabama. That's where I was born, bred, and raised. American by birth, Southern by the grace of God. I'm not upset, we' re used to it. But I would like inscribed copies of your book. :) :D :O

      P.S. The text verification is as readable as Old English, and the sound? Pfft! :(

  4. My sister has been going around our family over the past few years, writing down all of our funerary wishes - it has been quite a revelation. I'm not surprised by your father's request in any way, my father's mother did the same thing as your Dad, and then as her children died, they too had their ashes buried in the same plot. That generation too has now all gone, but at least we all know where they all are!

  5. Grits: Thanks for reading my books, and liking them ;) Sorry about the text verification; the only reason it appeared is because you were commenting on an old post; I have reset it to allow this now (up to 90 days). And thanks for the alert--I hate word verification.