| || As we kneeled by his lifeless body that warm June morning, Mommy put her arm around me and said,"Michael, you did good". It was the greatest honor, that I was chosen to be with my father in his last days, to have the priviledge of tending to him.|
Not knowing what to say or do, with my father lying dead in the living room, I stumbled repeatedly to the bathroom to splash water on my face, look in the mirror, and see if I was really there.
I phoned Miimii and told her the news. It was strange, thinking, feeling his spirit in the room around us, and knowing he was meeting Jesus. I kept thinking of all the deepest questions of life, which man has contemplated for thousands of years, questions I still had deep within me, and that Daddy now knows them. He knows.
Daddy laid there for an hour as we stroked his hair and talked about him. Then the Hospice people came in, threw him in a body bag and hauled him away. Mom and Brenda were clinging to eachother, crying, watching, but I was in the kitchen, giving Father John as much caffeine as possible. The night before, he'd stayed very late, and nearly hit a deer on the drive home. After he left, safely wired, we sat in the living room, dazed and bewildered, as the sun rose on the rest of our lives.
Brenda, Darrel, and I walked out to the front yard and ran into Larry Higgins, our neighbor since 1972, who'd had a very rocky relationship with Dad. From May 1979 to 1995 they didn't speak because of an argument they'd had. After a few years of Darrel and I urging Dad to make ammends, and be the bigger man, he told Larry one day,"I don't want to fight anymore". After that, we were neighbors again, and it's one of the things I'm most proud of for Daddy, for being the mender.
For most of the day, Mom sat next to Daddy, and I stayed to the rear of the funeral home, mixing it up with guests, some of which I hadn't seen in years. Baseball great Don Mattingly's father, Bill was
| ||there. Bill and Daddy had worked together at the Post Office since the 70's and were friends. My best friend Tom's parents came to the funeral home and as was my courtesy I asked,"How's Tom?" to which his father replied,"He's on his honeymoon". He'd married a Malaysian lady named Sue (not sure of spelling). I hadn't seen him in over four years.|
Above, left, you see the funeral display, Dad's favorite things: His family, the watch-repair optics he used (complete with duct tape) to avoid having to wear glasses, and in the middle, the signed photo from Gene Autry.
Father John gave the eulogy the next day. He talked about how Daddy loved his house and how it was his castle--everything just how he wanted it. Darrel's wife, Wendi, arrived from Indianapolis by bus and slipped in the back of the room. I heard what sounded like crying, and it kept getting louder. I looked back and Wendi had the strangest look on her face. I asked Darrel if she was okay, but he motioned for me to turn around and ignore it. Fair enough...it was a funeral after all.
Miimii arrived that night, and we had a family funeral the next day. Miimii took it especially hard when they closed the casket. She'd loved my father even though she had wanted to kill him many times. When she passed the coffin and saw his face she collapsed and I picked her up off the floor, took her to the hearse for our trip to Corpus Christi Catholic Church.
Nobody spoke during that ride. I silently stared at the floor of the hearse trying to hold myself together and wondering where I would go from here.
It was 27 years to the day when, on June 15, 1969, a young handsome father, two little boys, and a soon-to-be pregnant mother (house-warming gift compliments of the young father...hehehe) first walked up the aisle in Corpus Christi Church. And now two young husbands, a young wife, and a devastated widow pushed the man of their lives up that same aisle to offer him back to the loving God who'd given us to him so long ago. Father John gave the blessing, and we took Daddy to his final resting place. This book was closed.
Then I did a blistering bicycle ride to Illinois and back for the first time in 14 years. My book was still opened and I had to spice up the plot.