My fathers jacket is made of Moose hide, and beaded by Indians. My step-mother gave his leather coat to me when he died. It wasn’t listed in the will. She could have legally kept the coat. He wore it hunting. On the left shoulder is a hole where his gun strap rubbed.
I am thankful she did not clean out the pockets of the jacket. In the left pocket are two bolts and a washer. The right pocket has a drill bit, a plastic clip, a bolt and a worn piece of paper with a lock combination written on it in his handwriting. 32-9-54. I keep the bolts in the pockets. I like to take the bolts out and hold them. My father put his hands in those pockets. I put my hands in the same pockets.
The day before my father died my step-mother , my brother and I went and sat in the lounge down the hall from my dad’s room. He had a rattling sound in his throat. The doctor said it would be soon.
” Would you like to split up your fathers ashes and each of you have some in an urn?” she asked.
” No. We would like him to be all together.”
I am content knowing my father’s ashes are in one place, and with the last woman he loved. His ashes were placed in a hand crafted wooden box that resembled a book, and propped up on a table at his funeral.
I wonder where he is now. Is he in his second wife’s closet under shoe boxes? Or in her attic stacked on top of Christmas ornaments, or maybe his ashes are sitting on the mantle next to the picture of her wedding to her third husband. I am glad his ashes are not interned in a cemetery. Then I might think that there is only one place to think of him, or to officially remember him.
My father was with me when I built the fence in California. He is with me when I look at something that is broken and I say, “I can fix that.” He is with me when I see a wooden bookcase and I say, “I can make that.”
Several months ago, I had a vivid dream. My father and I were in his backyard. His hedges next to the alley had died. He wanted to build a fence, where the hedges had been, to keep out the neighbors dog. I told him, “Hey dad, I know how to build fences now. I can dig the post holes for you. I have my own post hole digger.” I wanted to do something for my father. I wanted to work together with him. He was alive in my dream.
Last Sunday at church during announcements there was a video clip for Grief Share, a new small group that was starting. In the video they talked about how “With death you move from a relationship of presence to a relationship of memory.”
My father is alive in my memories. I think of him often. He died, March 17, 1998. I don’t wear anything green on that day. I wear my father’s jacket.