Saturday, January 12, 2013

a card and a box

I was not going to post this morning.  There are still too many areas of the house to be cleaned before can put it on the market.

Then I read Felipe's piece on tombstones.  About death, sadness, remembrance.

I have had an essay idea running around in my head since late November.  While tossing some old correspondence, I ran across a post card of Timberline Lodge -- a WPA-constructed resort on the slopes of Mount Hood.

At one point, it must have been in a scrapbook.  A tattoo of Scotch tape offers a clue.

But I did not keep the card for its artistic value.  The note on the other side is what made (and makes) it worth keeping.

It is from my mother and father.  The year was 1957.  From Portland.  Our family was living in Powers at the time.  From the address, we must have been staying with my grandparents.

I initially thought the two of them might have been at a logging conference.  Logging was the family business back then.  But my father had the foresight to see that felling trees offered a limited future -- as are all jobs dependent on natural resources.

That was about the time he decided to move the family to Portland.  But that would be a year away.

The card is special because it is one of the few notes I have from him in his handwriting.  The message is simple: "Hi, men. I wish you could come up.  I miss you a whole bunch.  Love, Dad."

I don't remember receiving the card.  But three things would have been special to a boy of eight.

His father called him a man.

His father missed him.

His father loved him.

Those are thoughts worth saving.  And save them I will.

My father does not have a tombstone.  He died in 1996 and was cremated.  His ashes sit in my dining room (right next to one of his favorite candy dishes that I doubt has been refreshed since his death).  Awaiting some yet-to-be-determined adventure.

No fancy urn or marker for him.  His home is the same cardboard box that we received from the crematorium seventeen years ago.  Complete with what looks like a UPS label.

He would not have wanted anything more.  It reflects perfectly his modesty.  And his readiness to pull up stakes.

But he does have a stone -- of sorts.  His life lives on in the memories of people who knew and loved him.

And he lives on in a note he sent me (and my brother) fifty-six years ago.

Dad --

You are a man.

I miss you.

And I love you.


Joanne Dueck said...

How about a nice box for your Dad? It could still be modest. My Dad's ashes are in a biodegradable pressed paper box, but they were buried nearly a year after his death. The price of cremation urns is ridiculous, look on line for a better price. Did your Dad wear a suit and tie to work? Mine did, and I told my Mom that he should have a nice container since he had always taken pride in his appearance. He loved ties, cuff links etc. (When he died all 28 of us - kids, in laws, grandkids - wore his cuff links, tie tacks, tie bars, what have you, but we all wore something as a tip of the hat to him.)

Steve Cotton said...

My dad was a stranger to ties. That is one reason I get great pleasure out of putting one of my ties around his box when I take him to church for Father's Day.

Jose RPHS said...

My father died in May of '96. I see his rascal smile quite often in my mind's eye. I am only now beginning to understand his work and the family business at that time. His life was in many ways limited by the circumstances of a small town upbringing in depression times. Yet he died still owning & flying his beloved Piper Comanche and still active in high school wrestling, up until his sudden death at home. So his passion was not stolen from him

Steve Cotton said...

I didn't know your dad died the same year as mine. And both at home.

Felipe Zapata said...

When my father was cremated in 1991, the funeral home delivered him in a more substantial container. It was not cardboard.

Steve Cotton said...

My family has talked about other options. But the plain box has always won out as the most appropriate option. I do know one thing, though. The cardboard would not last in tropical Mexico.

Shannon Casey said...

My father died not long before I left for Mexico. Actually that was what spurred me leave Vancouver, as I no longer had important ties there. I bought him a nice, I think tasteful, urn. When I left Vancouver I gave him to my brother to house, and he now resides on my brother's mantle beside his wife's parents. They are slowly amassing a little graveyard there.