Aug 21, 2012

"Get Dad Out of the Closet"

When my dad died last year in March, my mom, brother and I made a point to keep our wits about us. The base of my sense of humor is sarcasm so strong that it's a wonder I even have any friends. My dad's sense of humor was was more widely accepted and always felt genuine. He loved to tell stories and make people laugh, yet wasn't averse to poking some ribs with a good round of shit-talking.

A perfect example. My dad with Jamie's dad before our wedding in 2007.
image credit: Noble Images
During his final days, while still responsive (though with a lot of effort), he challenged me to arm-wrestle. After grabbing his hand, he jerked mine around for a second then seemingly fell back asleep. A few seconds passed then he squeezed my hand and whispered, "I win." There were times like this during his last week with us that, I think, helped me stay grounded. He held on to his humor until the day he could no longer speak to us and so we felt comfortable seeing the humor in things.

We met with the funeral home to proof his obituary and sign the cremation papers. Sitting in a showroom of urns and coffins is really awkward. They gave us tissues, but I don't think we needed them. We weren't crying, or maybe we were, but it was because we were laughing so hard at the usage of the words "pulverize" and "tumble" when it came to signing off on Dad's cremation. It gave us the best/worst mental image that we couldn't help but laugh at, and we're certain that my dad would have been laughing as well.

There wasn't a funeral; we're not that formal. Dad's memorial service was the always emotional playing of Taps with the 3-volley salute followed by a reception full of eating and drinking at the VFW. None of us wanted to speak or have anyone speak. We all knew who he was and what he gave to us and we really didn't want to exhaust ourselves any more than we already had, emotionally. After a couple hours at the VFW, we continued on into the evening back at my parents' house to fully celebrate my dad's life with more PBR and peach schnapps (two of his drinking staples) than you could shake a stick at. We partied in The Bar, a place rich in drunken family history. A place with a real bar bar, and also a workbench. A place for drinking and fixing things.

An example of my ass-hattery and the bar workbench in 2009.
The bar half of The Bar. Yes, it's like a full-on bar, man, in 2010.
Ohio in early March is gross. There may or may not still be snow, there will be rain, the ground is always soggy. We decided to stow the ashes and spread them later in the year during warmer months. I returned to Ohio the following August, "I'll get Dad out of the closet." Dad had spent the last five months on the top shelf of Mom's bedroom closet. Pulverized and tumbled, he was still heavy.

We spread Dad with an old measuring cup and a plastic spoon. (Like I said, we're not formal.) First was the large burn pile that was to be burned the following evening.

Next, we put him in the pond, where after more than half a century, he finally learned to swim.

Then, it was into The Bar where we put him in the brass foot bar as well as in his seat behind the bar.

(I like to tell people who sit there not to fart on my dad.)
We added a little to his green house (which now lives at my cousin's place) then finally put the rest of him beneath a new tree we planted.

Did I mention that we poured beer and peach schnapps everywhere (outside) that we put him?

Pouring "Papa's Peachka"

Okay, we didn't pour all of it!
My mom had spent the spring and summer cleaning out my dad's old junk. He had an I Might Need This mentality when it came to stuff, and it showed in his cabinets and boxes full of miscellaneous things. Being that she has her own separate workshop off the front of the garage, my mom was set on transforming our half bar/half workbench into one cohesive partying space. She was secretive about it, but then again, my being across the country made it difficult for me to spy on her progress.

The night after we spread Dad's ashes was The Grand Re-Opening of Darrell's Bar. The new name (Darrell's Bar replacing The Bar) came with the new look, yet wasn't a purposeful change. We all just started referring to it as such and was natural in transition. It was the beginning of a new era and there would have been no better way to kick it off than with a big party.

Where The Bar had tools on the walls and stuff on the workbench, Darrell's Bar had pennants, signs, and photos on the walls. The workbench was now a clean surface with photos on display under a clear coat of people from parties-past. Mom created added seating space with a counter top and vintage bar stools on the previously full-of-junk third wall as well as finding a cool booth for the center of the room.

This new-old space is a place to both carry on and move on without my dad. "To Darrell!" can likely be heard echoing through the neighborhood when we have a party, and if my dad were around to experience the nearly-constant toasting, he'd relish in it. He was just that kind of guy, so we humor him with toasts, stories and remember-whens.

Remember when Dad took a shot out of a beer mug that had a bicycle bell on it?
 Dad isn't physically with us, but when we're in Darrell's Bar, there's no escaping him.

1 comment:

  1. I love every single minute of this post. How incredibly sweet to spread your dad in all the places he loved ... you have a great family.