when my daddy died; Father's day, 2001. I was almost 45, he was almost 75. I thought, at that time, nothing worse could ever happen. In reality, that wasn't the worst thing that could, or would, happen. I just didn't know quite what to do with the notion of Daddy not being around. To whom would I turn for computer advice? To whom would I turn when I was all. fired. up. about social injustice or local political idiocy?
I made it through the next few days in a haze. I remember laughing as my daughters declared the next day a 'tear-free day.' (Good thing. I was cried out.) As we met with the funeral director at the funeral home of Papa's choice, our family's gallows humor was evident. I'm not sure Mr. Funeral Director understood, however. For example, discussion was being given to containment of Papa's ashes. What sort of urn did we wish to purchase? As we perused the veritable Sears & Roebuck catalog of urns and caskets we briefly pondered the bronze-books-as-urn but I believed firmly that if we spent $1500 on an urn for Papa he would haunt us all. I could hear him saying, 'JHC, Kathy, what the hell are you doing? There are plenty of coffee cans in the garage.' That's when Marc, my brother-in-law piped up and said, "Gee, we have that big Tupperware bowl. Couldn't we use that?" Mr. Funeral Director gulped and struggled for words. (Poor man. What an awful way for him to start Monday morning, with the Heckman family.)
Ultimately, we left Papa's ashes in the box in which they'd been returned from the crematorium and later, after Mother died, we scattered them in a location which must remain secret as our actions were so very illegal that day. (Nancy and I had commingled Mama and Daddy's ashes, put them in zip-lock baggies and took them to the...the place we had decided to scatter them...but as they no longer owned that locale, we had no right to do what we did. I'm such a rule-breaker.)
And now, twelve years later, I look back at the fun stuff with Daddy. I remember him teaching me to drive, in the '65 Chevy Apache half-ton short-bed pickup. It had three-on-the-tree, a manual choke and no synchro into first. ('JHC Kathy, you're going to rip out the goddamn gearbox.') I look at the new relationships with cousins from Ohio (and California) - most of whom I've never met - and I look at the restoration of a relationship with my sister from Daddy's first marriage. All these things would have caused him such delight.
Thanks, Daddy. There's not a day I don't think of you or hear you in my head (or worse, coming from my mouth.) Thanks for the lessons you taught me, ('JHC, shake hands like you mean it') Thanks for loving our mother and sacrificing as you did for us. You taught us great and valuable lessons. I miss you Daddy. See you, well, not soon, I hope, but I'll see you someday. Til then, ANTICIPATE!