My sister Janice called me and told me that dad was in really bad shape and that this could be the end. I called my friend Rob and asked if I could use his truck to go visit my dad at the hospital. He was fine with it. I was going to run down there on Tuesday to see what was up.
I was at work when I got the call from my middle sister that Monday.
“Hey Chaz. It’s April. Dad died.”
I was carrying some proposals and some client files and they fell from my hands to the floor.
I stepped into my editor’s office and of course my horrible sales manager was in there bugging the shit our of her for some inane reason.
I told them what had happened and they said: “Go home”
I knew that wasn’t option for me. I knew my sisters had everything well under control. There was nothing I could do now. I knew for months this call was coming. He had checked out a long time ago, and there was no coming back to us or anyone else.
I worked out the day, and kept in touch with my sisters. I had to keep working and I had to tell my daughter Lorelei.
I couldn’t stay home and do nothing. There was nothing to do.
I spoke with my daughter about it and she was a little sad but she just knew her grandparents as really old people that she saw once a year at the holidays like I did growing up.
My sisters took care of everything. They were in Jersey and were close to it. I knew this day was coming. It wasn’t a matter of if… but when.
On the phone with dad in his final days I would get him talking about something fun and would tell him I knew his life was still in there. That he wasn’t finished.
But he was. The only person that could keep him here with us was him and he’d already purchased a ticket on the last train to nowhere.
Janice planned the funeral and picked the day they would put my parents into the ground. My mom could finally get off the dining room table and into the Earth.
I was at the office the Sunday night I was to drive down to Cold Springs, Cape May where they were to be buried next to my grandmother and grandfather.
At that moment I remember my father once saying he wished he would fall off the jetty down at 2nd street where he used to go fishing.
“I fall in and the fish have at me to get back at me for eating so many of them.”
It made me think back to when he taught me how to catch a fish. Fond memories from a dark time in my young life.
I was there working on a proposal when I got a text from my bank. Apparently someone had gotten a hold of my debit card information and had withdrawn $800 from my account over the weekend.
Talk about insult to injury. I called my bank and cancelled the card. I then packed up and went to my friend Robert and Laura’s house up in Fairmount. They weren’t home so I was standing outside for a while. They finally came home and I told them everything. Rob handed me the keys to his truck and they paid their respects. I took the truck and put it in a parking garage near my house.
The next morning I dressed in black and went straight to my bank the moment they opened.
I told the girl at the desk what had happened and that I had to bury my parents and didn’t have time to dawdle and she produced the proper affidavits and I signed them. She was so amazing.
I later wrote a letter to her manager praising her outstanding performance.
It was a tough drive to the shore. Because whenever you go to the shore it’s always happy.
It was February, but surprisingly it was a warm and mild day. Almost eerily warm.
I pull up and park.
There are many people gathered by the gravesite. I approach and there is the sad outpouring of grief and quiet sadness of loss.
I see my co-worker Rocco came and it relieves me to see someone from the office there. I think he just wanted the day off but I’m grateful he came.
My friend Jim who I used to be in a band with that I’ve known since he was 14 was there.
Everybody was there.
I walk up to the site and join my sisters.
The sun is shining on a very dark and dismal day to dissipate our sadness.
I remember telling my ex-girlfriend Michelle many years before that I wanted to speak at my parent’s funerals. It was what I could bring to the family with my words. That’s really all I had left.
The priest begins and does his thing. I scan the crowd. I’m in bad shape. I feel unsteady so just like at my wedding I remember to put one foot forward to steady myself.
This is a bad day.
As I write this I’m listening to the band Steppenwolf for comfort. They were the first band I ever really fell in love with. My mom disapproved but later liked them when I got into a wilder band called Aerosmith. But that’s a different post. (A way happier one!)
I remember my mom always like Scottish bagpipes. I never understood that but her people were Scotch Irish and maybe that music was in her blood. She comes from a musical family and I believe that runs through me and Lorelei to this day.
The bagpipes were sad and beautiful as they played in the background.
Because my father served in the military they did the whole folding of the flag thing. That was very moving and respectful. I like how they handed the flag to Janice and not me, his only son. But what have I really been to him, Not much really. A disappointment for the most part.
But all is forgiven.
I know my sister Janice was worried about me saying that I would make a speech at our parents funeral because I wouldn’t follow through. I get it. Track record. I once was supposed to transfer all of the home movies from VHS onto DVD and never did it. My baby sister ended up doing it.
Another fail on my part about nonsense.
I’m sorry. I was busy surviving in Jersey City trying to hold it together in New York at the time. But I do love that there was fear that I would come up empty-handed in the final reel.
Janice read and it was good.
Really good. I’m sure there was so much else she felt and had been through with this that it was hard for her to express what she really felt, and you know what? Whatever that was, it’s probably not for this audience or this venue.
I was surprised when my middle sister April read. It was good to hear her words and interesting to see it from her perspective and what her experience was through all of this. I don’t think my baby sister read, because she was in bed for most of our family memories. (Kidding! Gabrielle you get the joke!)
It was my turn now. I looked at all of the friends and family that had gathered upon this sad but inevitable occasion.
I looked at the table before me. On it was the little wooden box with the pretty bird on it. That was mom in there.
Next to that was a Lionel toy train standard gauge train station. I remember my father telling me he wanted to be cremated and his ashes placed into that toy train station.
After he had passed, Janice was taking the station down from one of the train cabinets and found a note under it.
It said “Gang, It’s been a great ride, but it’s time for me to pull into the station for my final stop.” Dad
He loved his trains. Now it was time for him to rest at the station and be done with the life he had created for all of us kids.
The Priest turned to me.
“Would you like to say something, Charles?”
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