Monday, June 20, 2005

Father's Day Sucked.

But I did the best I could. I thought I would throw up my heart all weekend. It was worse than getting through his birthday.

We went here and did this and managed to have some fun, despite the giant lump in my throat the entire time, despite the fact that I stuck my tongue out at the aquarium photographer (and not in a nice way), despite the fact that I set off an alarm in the art museum (not on purpose, just not thinking straight...). Despite my best efforts Sunday came and boiled me in oil. I felt sick. I felt tired. My bones hurt. I couldn't focus. I couldn't drink enough beer. I didn't want to talk to anyone. I didn't like anyone and still don't today.

After we got home, I gathered from my own garden some hydrangea blossoms, lavender, chocolate mint and rosemary and tied them together in an informal bouquet and took them to Daddy's grave. Daddy was never big on store-bought things and I was quite sure he'd much rather have a bouquet planted with my own hands instead of the silly flowers dipped in food-coloring (who started that ridiculous trend, anyway?).

The little white country church where Daddy is buried with his parents was established in 1897 and overlooks a beautiful valley. Hawks usually circle above searching the fields for rodent-crunchies and there are some small farms with sheep, goats, horses and donkeys. It was a nice evening and fairly quiet except for an impatient rooster showing off his pipes and a big dog barking with some crazy redneck woman screaming at it to shut-up. I thought to myself, "I hope that dog bites you...hard." She was twice as irritating as the dog.

I noodled with the flowers and set them in front of the headstone and then worried that he couldn't enjoy them on that side, so I moved them to the other side. I set them down one way and then another; propped them up on the stone then decided to lay them flat on the ground. I crumpled some of the leaves to release the wonderful aroma of the herbs.

And then there was nothing to do. I paced around a little, wondering what to do, wanting to talk to the stone, but feeling weird and sick-hearted.

About 20 feet away, a grave had been dug and the vault lay haphazardly beside it waiting to be inserted. I walked up to it and looked at it, then stared down into the six-foot-deep grave. I was surprised at the exactness of the hole and wondered how they got the sides so perfectly straight. I wondered who would be laid to rest here in that hole.

I thought of that show I used to love--Six Feet Under--and how I never wanted to see it again. EVERYTHING is different now.

I toured other relatives in the cemetary, including cousins, aunts, uncles, great-grandparents. There were also little markers for several children who died before they even reached school age. One family had markers for three babies; one living just a day.

I wondered how many people were affected by all these loved ones buried around me. Some stones were heavily decorated; some were marked as if they had been transients...a tarnished metal placeholder with a number scrawled on it. A giant yucca plant grows over my great-grandfather's grave. You have to part the plant with both hands in order to find his stone. Between him and my grandmother is a mystery grave. My father was supposed to be buried there next to his mother, but they had to move him to the other side next to his father because there is an unknown grave there.

Eventually after pondering and walking in circles for about 30 minutes (or more) I finally got in my car to leave. I watched Daddy's grave the entire time I drove away--as I always do. Am I afraid that will be taken from me, too?

As I leave I always see his best friend's headstone on the way out of the cemetary--the one whose mother spent the entirety of his earnings he sent home from the Army in the 50's. He came home to nothing and had to borrow a cigarette because he didn't have the money to buy a pack. He re-enlisted and eventually jumped from a tall building window in Germany, staying in a hospital for months and barely surviving. But that's not my story to tell. There are always flowers on his grave as well, along with some small figurines.

I drive to the front of the church and wonder if it will always be there; taking care of Daddy's resting place. Then it's down the long driveway to the two-lane highway and I turn right. It's such a lonely feeling to make that turn, to leave him there. I want to stay there and lie down next to his grave but then I would find that, just as I couldn't get the flowers right, I wouldn't be able to position myself in a way that made things okay--because they're not okay.

I try to enjoy the scenery before I get back to the busy four-lane highway, mentally saying hello to a scraggly miniature horse who is still losing his long winter coat, two donkeys who graze in a distant field, a horse and goat who share a yard next to a trailer, another horse and large cow who graze side-by-side next to a large garden with several rows of corn and sometimes a fairly large flock of sheep with dark heads.

Then...then what?


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