Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Consider yourself warned

My father couldn't have cared less about what was done with his remains. But for some reason, I was very concerned about it while I was growing up, and would ask him about it from time to time. His standard response: "I dunno. Just leave me in the incinerator." After some prodding, he decided it would be okay to scoop him up, just so long as I promised not to put him "in a creepy urn on your mantle, or make some big sappy deal about it." I'm telling you this so that you understand, as I continue on with this story, that this is how my father would've wanted it. Just keep that in mind.

I'm not sure who or why, but someone decided that I should be the one to get Dad's ashes. It took over a year to get them to me, though, and along the way they passed through a number of hands. One set of those hands decided to keep the original urn and pass on the precious cargo in a box wrapped in packing tape with the words "Gary's Ashes" scribbled on top with a black sharpie. Classy. I'd been expecting to burst into tears at the sight of what was sure to be a regal, dignified package. But this? This was as unceremonious as you could get. This was disgraceful. This was tacky. This cracked my shit up. My father - he who wanted simply to be left on the incinerator floor; he who despised anyone making any sort of fuss over him - would've loved it.

Having given me no real indication of where he might like his ashes spread, I put the box on a shelf in the spare room with the intent of thinking of something fabulous to do with them. For a few months I toyed with some ideas. Sneak him into Fenway Park? Nah, too far - I wouldn't be able to visit him whenever I wanted. Take him to his beloved Mexico? Nah, it'll be years before I get myself to Mexico. Spread him at Seahurst Park, where he and I used to spend many a sunny afternoon? Nah, who wants their ashes spread in Burien? Safeco Field, then? A distinct possibility. And then...

eventually...

I completely...

and totally...

forgot.

Years later (I'm not kidding - it was YEARS later), I came across a heavy box while in the midst of a Spring cleaning. I pulled it from the shelf, head cocked to one side, trying to place where I'd seen it before, why this box seemed important. And then I caught a glimmer of the sharpie and immediately shrieked out loud: "Oh my god, DAD! I totally forgot about you!" I comforted myself with the knowledge that, while he'd been adamant about the mantle, he never said anything about a shelf in a spare room.

Luckily, it wasn't long before Mrs. Hamilton (who wasn't yet Mrs. Hamilton) and Mr. Hamilton (who wasn't yet married to Mrs. Hamilton) offered me a spare ticket to Mariner's Fan Appreciation Day. The ticket included the opportunity to walk on the field. I saw my chance and set about figuring out how I was going to smuggle my dad into Safeco.

At this point, I'd already decided that I was also going to recreate my first road trip and spread Dad's ashes along the way, so I really only wanted a couple of handfuls for the stadium. So, like any sane woman, I set about the task of cramming my father into travel-size hairspray and pain killer bottles.

But wait. Let's back up. Before I could begin the cramming, I had to find him - and that took a couple of days. Why? Because I'd managed to MISPLACE MY DEAD FATHER. And then, once I finally found him, I had to chisel him out of the box, because apparently dead people turn into blocks of cement if ignored long enough.

I feel it's important to pause here so that I can remind you that my father would've found endless humor in all of this. Right, then. Carry on.

Also finding endless humor in all this was my favorite waxer ever, who excitedly suggested a pepper grinder or a flower sifter for the covert job. Neither seemed quite the right fit for a ball park, but I'm seriously considering writing into my will that anyone who wants to spread my ashes must do so through the use of one of these:

Sticking with my original travel hairspray plan, I smuggled dad into the stadium. And let me tell you, secretly spreading your father's ashes isn't easy. Here's me right after spilling him all over the stairs on the way to the field. Whoops.


And me trying to sprinkle and walk the bases at the same time, which just meant that I kept walking into his dust cloud.

Spreading ashes is messy. And allergy inducing. But I managed to do it, and no one seemed to be the wiser. He's also in the dugout (on purpose) and in various hallways and walkways (accidentally, because I kept dropping him).

Fast forward to April and find Dad tucked in a backseat activity organizer, wedged between a pile of sleeping bags and The Kid's butt. Accused of stinking up the car with his noxious Taco Time induced intestinal distress, The Kid shrugged his shoulders and responded, "Wasn't me. Must've been Grandpa Gary." And so began our trip down the coast to Disneyland, Operation Dad Dump in full swing.

My plan was to spread Dad's ashes gradually along the way, little bits here and there a handful at a time. This proved to be a bit more problematic that I'd originally anticipated, as I hadn't thought far enough ahead to pack small containers in which to transport said ashes. His box not being exactly air (or ash) tight, I was hesitant to plop it in my back pack and go for a hike. But against my better judgement, I tried it on a short walk down to the beach for his first dump. If only the crevices between the seams on the bottom of my pack had been the intended final resting place for dear old dad...

Dad Dump #1: A beach just south of Crescent City. This is where I learned that the best way to get a fist-full of your dead father in your eyes is to stand before the ocean and toss his ashes into the air. Still squinty, I figured out to kneel down and put my closed fist in the water before releasing Dad to the sea. The Kid made a game of playing tag with the ashy waves.


Dad Dump #2: Bear Creek, along the Avenue of the Giants.


My mom managed to get an action shot of the spreading here, which is great because now I now that I stick my butt out when I throw things off of bridges. By now I'd learned that it's virtually impossible to spread ashes without most of them flying right back in my face - particularly when throwing them off a bridge - and I think this is my ass's way of telling the rest of my body to get ready to run.

He's also at the base of this tree:


Dad Dump #3: Redcrest, still along the Avenue of the Giants. We stayed at Redcrest Resort, a collection of sweet little cabins that had once served as a logging camp. Dad would've totally dug it. In the morning we took a short hike up the hill behind the cabins and left a little of him behind in the burnt out stump The Kid is standing in. (You'll have to excuse the photo. My mom and the flash on her camera have yet to be introduced.)


Dad Dump #4: Southern stretch of the Avenue of the Giants. It's at this point that I realized I still had a ridiculous amount of ashes, and that we were about to head out of one of my dad's favorite areas. Without a word, I opened the box, rolled down my window, and let it fly. Startled, my mom gawked at the ashes spewing from the box. "He loved this road," I explained. That seemed to suffice, and Mom began to grin along with The Kid and me - but I have no doubt that, when the time comes, I'll find a provision in her will strictly prohibiting the dangling of her ashes out of the window of a moving car.



Dad Dump #5: On 1, between Carmel and Big Sur. See the largest of the three rocks? I'm standing on the other side of it. See how it's completely surrounded by frothy ocean? It wasn't like that 2 seconds ago. Obviously, I got a little wet. My mom and The Kid laughed uproariously. I'm sure my dad would have too.


After the fifth dump, we headed back into civilization and there we remained for the rest of the trip, which means that I returned to Seattle with half of my father still in tow. For some reason he found his way to the top of the television cabinet in the basement, and there he's sat since April, surrounded by cd cases, discarded bottle caps, and the same Netflix movies I've had since June.

So now you know. And, while this series of events would not trouble my dad in the least, I feel it's only fair to inform you that if you want your remains to be handled with any amount of respect, do not - under any circumstances - leave them in my care. If, however, you're looking for someone who will have a lot of laughs doing exactly what you would've wanted - regardless of how inappropriate and distasteful it seems to everyone else - I'm totally your girl.

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