Sometimes when they cremate people they put them in cardboard boxes. At the crematory, we signed a release form and got a hundred-pound box in return.
This suited Daddy fine. He thought fancy urns were ridiculous.
“When I die,” he said once. “Don’t keep me around, collecting dust. Turn me loose, let me be with the Lord.”
After he died, he was anything but loose. He came tightly packed in what looked like Priority Mail. We kept him in the laundry room for a few months. I sat beside him carrying on one-sided conversations.
He didn’t have much to say.
He passed during the worst possible time of year. It was football season—weeks before the World Series. I listened to games on a pocket radio, sitting beside his cardboard mortuary.
“Touchdown,” I’d say.
Eventually, we scattered Daddy in the mountains. Only he didn’t scatter. His remains were too compressed. They stuck together like a gray brick.
There were no dramatic wind gusts. No orchestras. He fell seven-hundred feet like old mud, then crumbled.
And that’s how it happened. I was supposed to set him free, but I didn’t. His ashes might’ve been loose, but I kept him around for years. I brought him along for fishing trips, dates, weddings, barbecues, and baseball games.
Because there were few things worse than watching baseball alone.
Anyway, last week my wife and I walked the beach. I saw a man and his family having a funeral near the surf. He held what looked like an elaborate coffee pot. People stood in a semi-circle.
Strangers along the shore quit walking when they got close. Folks folded hands and bowed heads. We did the same thing. There must’ve been ten of us.
The man flung the dust into the waves. The wind caught it and whipped it into a big pattern in the air. It was poetry.
Some folks get all the luck.
The man embraced a woman—his wife, maybe. They cried. Most people kept their heads down. My allergies started acting up. My wife asked if I was okay.
“Pollen’s bad this time of year,” said I.
The thing is, it’s been a long time since Daddy left. I’m an adult now. I have arthritis in my feet, a mortgage, a pair of reading glasses, and I can’t eat pizza past five.
But one thing’s remained the same. I’ve kept a tight grip on him. The good, the bad, and the repulsive. I guess what I’m trying to say is:
Daddy, you’re missing a good World Series this year. But I don’t mind watching it alone.
I’m ready now.
Go be with the Lord.