Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Daddy's Little Girl
Mark moved into his new apartment complex in the springtime of last year. While moving, he left behind all sorts of things....things like boxes upon boxes full of family snapshots dating back to the 1950's. All of our family's memories captured on film were gone. He left behind other things, too, like our mother's wedding dress from 1945, our grandmother's confirmation picture from the turn of the century, and probably a million other things that would break my heart if I knew about them or thought too long or too hard. I've tried not to recall what he must've left; it hurt too much. I kept telling myself they're just things. Memories still live in your head and in your heart, Susan. No one can leave them behind or take them away.
And then one day I did remember something he might've left that I couldn't push aside or forget about: Our dad's ashes. I called Mark to ask, panic-stricken. "Oh," he nonchalantly says--as if I were talking about an old VHS tape or a raggedy sweater. "I didn't realize they were there."
My heart sank. Where did my dad's ashes go? Did someone throw them away? I knew the house had been bought at auction. Could I call someone? If so, whom? I knew where they'd been (on the top shelf of the master bedroom closet), but I wondered if anyone knew what they even were before tossing them out. (They were in a box from the mortuary, not an urn.)
The part that bothered me the most was that I was fairly certain Mark had left them intentionally. He and my dad had never gotten along, and I think it was his way of "getting even" one last time, sick as that might sound. Because, let's face it--he is sick.
One day, as Erin and I were driving by, we saw several men working in the yard and obviously gutting the house since there were things like bathroom sinks and countertops outside. I didn't know what to do. Should I stop? Would they think I was strange for asking? Admittedly, I was embarrassed. Erin lectured, "Mom, you KNOW you'll never forgive yourself if you don't stop to ask! Just turn around and go back. Right now!" She was right. It's kind of sad when your 5th grader has more sense and nerve than you do at 41 years old.
So I went back. I got out, briefly explaining who I was and why I was there. The man right away explained that it wasn't his house--it was his sister's, and she lived out of town--but he did remember her mentioning the ashes. He called her right away on his cell phone; yes, sure enough, she'd put them in the garage just in case the home owner stopped by! I was elated, and so grateful. My heart was light again. He and I talked quite awhile and then Erin and I went on our merry way, Dad's ashes clutched close to my heart...never to be forgotten or left alone again.