My Dad died two days after Cora turned 2 and two days before our 5 year wedding anniversary, on a Sunday, at the age of 57. He squeezed himself right in there just so we wouldn’t forget.
We packed up the truck with everything but the kitchen sink, prepared to stay at my Mom’s for a week and headed out. This is the part where I could tell you how the week went. I can tell you how many home cooked meals were dropped off, bottles of wine handed to us, and how many farmers just pulled their combines right over next to my Mom’s house to stop in and pay their condolences on the way to the next field. I could tell you how he looked, how we planned the funeral, the family drama and the off-handed comments that people made. The thing is, I have talked about that over and over. It is what I talked about in passing with only my sister and husband that brings me here.
The thing is I spent a week in that small town, the same place I grew up, the place of country songs. I saw people I haven’t seen in years, friends, family, old neighbors, and the like. A huge line streamed through for visitation and then the next day for the funeral and luncheon. We all stood, hugged people, shook hands, accepted their words of sympathy, and listened politely as they told stories and memories of my father. All those people, hundreds of them, that knew my Dad for one reason or another. They all said something yet not one of them said the most important things. Not one person looked any of us in the eyes and said You know, your Father loved you kids. He lived for his kids. You know, your Dad loved your Mom more than anything. Your Dad was such a family man. Not one person that whole weekend said anything in regards to my Dad and his own family.
What did they talk about? His love for hunting, fishing, and all the times they shared a good beer with him. The beer stories were normally followed up with a story about how they all got into trouble over something.
I hope at my funeral someone says how much I loved my child, how much my husband meant to me, followed up by how I was a good friend. Isn’t that the end goal? Isn’t that the basics? Because isn’t that we walk away with?
To make matters worse for all of us, my mother suddenly turned my father into the picture of perfection. Not a man who never helped her, not a man she almost divorced several times, not a man who drank too much but instead, a man who just loved hunting, fishing and America. She, also, forgot to mention herself and the three kids but I didn’t point that out. She was riding some sort of weird death train.
I walked away, not having shed one tear, even as some stood and sobbed in front of me. It isn’t that he was a horrible man, he just was there and then he wasn’t for me. People don’t have to understand that.
I will say, this new normal my family has, the one that doesn’t have an Alzheimer’s cloud over it, is refreshing. Years of this weight holding us down is gone. Someone at the funeral, who understands this disease, said there are worse things than death. This is so true and we have known it all so well. We can now move freely without guilt and stress. I would say, together, we are all starting a new chapter as a family.