Sometimes things sneak up on you and jump out of the metaphorical bushes to startle you all over again with what you thought you'd long gotten over. Sometimes those things find you weeping into a keyboard on a Tuesday night, on an inexplicable jag of emotion that's as impossible to ignore as a tidal wave.
This picture is one of those things. It is my Dad's gravestone. This picture was taken by a friend, a professional musician and long-time friend of my older brother, who had the good grace to play 'Taps' in my Dad's honor yesterday; a gesture that floored me completely and broke open a well-built dam of emotion I didn't think I'd built.
As you can tell, my Dad died over 18 years ago, horrifically precipitously at the age of 59. far too young, as I'm sure you'd agree. A long time has gone since he died, but there are wormholes in reality that can demolish years of time passing and bring you back to when new hurts were fresh and the world seemed beyond understanding.
See, even though I miss him and because I so TOTALLY wish he was here to be with the grandkids he never met, to offer advice in sticky situations, to hang out with the awesome Biff and share corny jokes, and to give out the Xtreme hugs of which he was the best purveyor ever... I'm mostly able to keep the emotions under wraps and focus on the good things he brought to this world because practicality and acceptance are things I'm very very good at.
Except that this is his gravestone, and at when I see it I have to admit that he is in fact, dead and gone. This marble slab is noble, but stark, and too sterile for him. Yes, he is in a PROUD place and if you're ever at Arlington National Cemetery you should stop and say 'hey' to him. This is the well-placed marker of where his body lies, and even though it is a part of the massive army that reminds us of the lives these people of service have led, I am saddened, a little, that all there will be for hundreds of years of tourists to look at his is a name, rank, tours of service, and date of birth and death.
These few engraved details are not enough, because under than cool white slab is a notable man.
There should be mention of his goofy sense of humor, or inability to sit up straight at the dinner table, or his deep maroon leather jacket or that he marched in parades in dress whites and a sword, or that he could make up words to songs on the spot or figure out insane math problems in his head as fast as a calculator. Someone should mark that he loved the constellations and that he had sailed to Spain as a young man and that he adored his wife for over 35 years. Someone should take note of the fact that he could draw silly cartoon characters with a few stokes of a pen and would let a little kid help him mow the grass even when they were for SURE not doing the lines right. Someone should record that he had deep laugh lines and husky-blue eyes and two brothers and survived hepatitis and that for a pie-delivery man's kid from New York City he did alright in life. Someone should mention that he didn't live nearly long enough; not to anyone's measure. Someone should mention how much he is missed, and how dearly we'd love to have him back, if even for one measly day.
That cool, regimented headstone doesn't do that. Not by a life-long shot.
So, I guess it's up to me.
Dang it, Dad. I thought I was done missing you. Guess love never stops. Happy Memorial Day, from the daughter who should have listened to that voice that said 'go out to the sea in ships' 20+ years ago. Even though my favorite color is black, I would have been proud to wear those Whites. You were a great man, and are a wonderful memory. I love you and can't wait to see you again on some distant shore.