My Father’s “Funeral”

    The article below was written for a a college English class I took in 2006.  I had sent the final product to my mother and she printed and saved it.  She’s recently sent me some pictures that I wanted for an article, and included this article in printed form.  As my father is often a topic I wrote about, I thought it appropriate to recreate this document. I have maintained the text from the original document, added the photos my mother sent (this is the article I wanted them for), and expanded my writing to include other facets of the day described for completion and clarity.  I hope you enjoy it.

While everyone has a sad story to tell and every has a happy story to tell, not everyone has a happy-sad story to tell.  This is precisely that, a happy-sad story.  It involves life, death, miracles and love.  Often these are one and the same, as they are in this instance.

It was a warm July day that we spread Mannie’s ashes in San Francisco Bay.  He was born and raised in San Francisco and had always loved spending time there; so we lay him to rest in the one place he loved to be.  Now he can spend “forever” there.

The evening before this small and personal ceremony, there was a party.  Mannie’s childhood best friend, Butch (who had become “uncle” to Mannie’s children) and the children and grandchildren of both Butch and Mannie were together again for the first time in a decade.  They’d grown up together and were all good friends, and this occasion became a reunion of sorts.  They had all gone their separate ways, as is the case when adolescence leads to adulthood and the responsibilities that come with that portion of life leave no time for baseball in the park or a weekend in the neighbor’s pool. We reveled in each others’ company and told stories about not only Mannie, but about everyone; we remembered and laughed about the many fond memories.

A prankster since birth, Mannie was one of those people that everyone enjoyed to be around.  He would make fun of you and make you laugh about it, instead of feeling bad about the joke.

Mannie’s wife had the ashes, in the container in which they were shipped [to her, as well as to Alaska and back, a different post, already written], in the trunk of her car as she attended the party.  Knowing the jovial spirit of their father and in a successful endeavor to lessen the burden and pain of the upcoming event, Mannie’s children decided they would “take dad for a ride.”  With a cousin and his girlfriend in tow, we “abducted” Mannie’s ashes [from the trunk of moms car] and rushed immediately to a local supermarket and purchased a disposable camera.

They were set upon taking Mannie to the places he loved the most, to do the things he had enjoyed the most when he was alive.  Mannie loved to read, so once we had purchased the camera, we took him (he was in a little box wrapped in brown paper) to the row with the books, and placed him in the center of a shelf.  he was surrounded by the many books he’d loved to have been able to read… and we snapped a photo.

When my sister was young, she had asked our father to take her to Burger King.  She really wanted to go, and the “Principessa” generally got whatever she wanted… so dad took he took her to Burger King.  They pulled up into the parking lot, dad told her “We’re here,” and then they left… not ordering a thing.  So, we took dad to the Burger King drive-thru, but refused to buy him anything!

We all play a card game whenever we are together.  It requires 4 players (although can be played with 3, but it’s not as fun).  We’ve made it a tranportable game, playing it a hand here and a hand there during a family trip to Disneyland (you’ve gotta do SOMETHING in those lines) and we’ve made it a drinking game.  We play it ALL THE TIME… and dad used to love to be one of our 4 players.  So, we played Pedro with dad (link to rules in footer of this article).  It’s a game you play while sitting across the table from your partner.  You can see from the smiles on the faces of my brother and I that we won.  Our sister was clearly unimpressed at dad’s play that day.

Mannie used to enjoy taking his oldest son (me) out to have chicken wings and a beer when he was visiting (I am in the Army and have never been stationed anywhere near my family).  Each time we were together (Dad and I) we would go and spend hours talking and laughing, testing the tolerance of our taste buds with the most heinous recipes of “hot sauce” we could find.  Thus, Mannie was taken to a bar and we ordered him a beer… and took a picture.

That's me on the far right, with my brother and sister

When he was able, before being completely overcome with Rheumatoid Arthritis and subsequent complications thereof, Mannie enjoyed playing with his children.  We would climb on him, and wrestle with him… so next we took him to a park so we could “play with dad” one last time.  We put dad down a slide…

helped him to play on the swings…

and we even played catch with him.  We didn’t throw a ball at the box, we actually played catch WITH him.  My brother and I started playing with dad…

and then our sister wanted to play too, but we wouldn’t let her.

Dad used to spend alot of time in Golden Gate Park when he was a kid, and we had to assume that, being an active young boy/man, he was very likely to have climbed a few trees…

Dad was in very bad shape before he passed, and had a handicapped sticker.

The police showed up asking about the box that was “parked” in the handicap space.  We explained that our father had brought us there…

but they didn’t buy our story.

Dad would have thought this was hilarious, so no harm done.  As we “played with dad” at the park, our cousin took several pictures for us, as his girlfriend looked on horrified at our actions (particularly when we played catch!).  People in pain will do anything to relieve it sometimes.

After a garden (Mannie had loved to tend to his garden, spending hours meticulously watering.  He said it was a quiet and peaceful time for him, he enjoyed it very much) and a few other brief stops, the camera was out of film so the miscreants returned to the party and placed Mannie back in the trunk of moms’ car.  The camera of undeveloped film was given to our mother, with a promise that the pictures will be entertaining.  Mom had no idea what we’d been up to, but she then went outside to her car to check on dad.  Upon her return, she was visibly upset and wanted to know what we had done.  When she had placed him in the trunk he was on the left side of the trunk, and he was now on the right.  My sister (the baby of the family) and I glared at our brother (the “middle child,” and he never lets us forget that!), who had placed the box in the trunk; our cousin and his girlfriend just laughed.  What a fun party this had turned out to be.

The next morning was full of grief and tears as we went out on a family members boat and spread our fathers ashes.  the wind whipped and whirled, and dads ashes blew back into my face as I attempted to spread his ashes off the back of the boat.  It was certainly a unique type of “bonding” that my father and I did that day, as was the day before with my brother and sister.  The pain and loss brought us even closer than we already were.  Dad has missed much in the years he’s been gone.  He is merely a ghost story to his grandchildren but one (my oldest, who remembers him fondly).  He’s missed his baby girls college graduation and marriage.  We talk of him often, laughing at what he’d done… miss him a ton.

I am a very non-religious person (see also: atheist) so I don’t believe in spirits or afterlife or anything… but IF (and this is a giant stretch to me) I am wrong and dad is up there watching over us, I know he’s proud of the people we’ve become.  If he’s up there watching us, I have something that he really should know…

Dad, you taste terrible!

——————————————————

Pedro is a fun game.  If you have 4 players and want to give it a shot, here’s the basics.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedro_(card_game)


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