Here Lies …

Posted: December 22, 2013 in The Roper Files
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I’ve been blogging on this modest little site for over ten years. Sometimes the light bulb above my head goes off and I sit down and start writing and a post I find entertaining appears. Other days I struggle to come up with some filler post about My Day At the Zoo. Real Life takes up most of my waking time: fulfilling my 40 hours-plus obligation/sentence at my menial job followed by shopping, scrounging up dinner, coming home after work and trying to rake leaves in the forty remaining minutes of daylight after which I take a shower and then fall asleep on my moth-eaten futon in front of some silly TV show about people hunting for Bigfoot or ghosts that never seem to find anything but I keep watching anyways….

Real Life is an exhausting affair; even on my days off I manage to stay busy. Since the last time I updated this site I’ve been on a Carnival Cruise to Yucatan and Cozumel but have yet to sit down and document it due to the inconvenience of having to contend with the whole business of Making A Living. Some times you have to take a step back and look around to put it all in perspective.

Last week after a hard day at work I had to go to the bank for some reason, then I took my sedan to the car wash and hosed it off. As I pulled out of the car wash I steered the car towards the cemetery just a few blocks north of the car wash and thought I would visit my father’s grave and pay my respects to dear old Dad.

We had just gone through a rather unseasonable week-long freeze here in North Texas; the forecasters had predicted a half-inch of ice. Instead the roads and highways were glazed with a solid four inches of frozen sleet. I wound up taking an unplanned four-day weekend followed by five days of working ten-hour shifts to make up for the two days I lost the week before. As I pulled through the ornate iron gates of the cemetery, large patches of ice still decorated the grounds mixed like a camouflage pattern with a large number of un-raked dead red and brown leaves from the surrounding trees. Then I pulled the car over to the curb near where I remembered Dad’s grave was and began to walk around looking for the plot.

I knew it was near a tree but hadn’t been here for a while; dead leaves were thick and I kicked them out of the way as I walked among the graves. The last time I was here they still hadn’t placed a marker on his grave and for some reason I was expecting to find one. Raking the leaves off of one new-looking marker, I was disappointed to see it wasn’t his. After raking dead leaves off a second marker that didn’t have his name on it, I began to fume a bit; this wasn’t right. I began to feel like Tuco in THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY looking for Bill Carsons grave during the “Ecstacy of Gold” sequence.

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After raking the dead leaves off a third marker that wasn’t my Dads my sense of frustration began to grow. I walked around in circles when I finally found what I realized was his plot, unmarked and barren. Now I started to get mad. It had been nearly five months since the funeral and here was my late father laying in an unmarked grave with less dignity than that of a homeless man; even they get markers saying: UNKNOWN.

I stomped back to my car and drove straight to the office of the funeral home nearby and even though I was still in my grubby work-clothes walked into their ornate lobby. Two women were at the desk by the front door and gave me their best “deliveries in the rear please” look.

“Yes… may we help you?”

As I had driven from my father’s grave-site to their office I was determined to give them a piece of my mind Lewis Black-style. But as I looked at the two women, something happened.

I just lost it; I couldn’t speak. The words began to choke me from within and no sounds came out of my mouth. And for the first time in five months I felt tears welling up in my eyes.

During the five months since my father’s passing I hadn’t once sat down and had The Big Cry. Not that I didn’t love my father on some paternal level, don’t get me wrong but the tears just hadn’t flowed yet. My father and I didn’t agree on very much; when talking to him I always had to pick and choose my words very carefully because it didn’t take very much to set him off in a less than desirable way. We both liked watching PAWN STARS and that silly TV show was one of the very few subjects I could talk to him about without getting in an argument. But when I saw my father I used to always hug him before I left despite our differences; it was important to me to let him know I still loved him.

But when the two women behind that desk asked me if they could “help me”  I tried to speak.

The words I had mentally rehearsed didn’t come out; it was probably more of a gasp. They probably thought they were being confronted by some severely challenged person. Finally with the greatest of difficulty I managed to spit out the words.

I … just want to know …. WHY … there is no marker …. on my fathers grave? …It’s been five months now; this is ridiculous….”

One of them got on the phone; a third woman who I recognized from several months prior to the funeral appeared from the back office. With all of my remaining inner strength I tried to regain my composure and explain to her what was wrong. She seemed sympathetic and told me she would try to get to the bottom of this matter and contact me as soon as she “knew something” I scribbled down my contact information on a piece of paper for her, thanked her and walked back out the door still frustrated. I bet it didn’t take them five months to cash my Mom’s check; was I being unreasonable to think there should be a marker on Dad’s grave by now?

It took them over a week to call me back but I missed the call because I couldn’t hear my cellphone in the noisy place I work at. Called them back but got an operator who couldn’t answer my questions, so I called my Mom since I had given them her phone number too since I figured they owed her an explanation as much as me AND she was the one who cut them a check. Mom told me that Yes they had called her and they managed to make her so angry (they actually asked her: “Are you sure you ordered a marker?” ) she told them Forget It and she wanted a refund for cost of the marker.

So five months after the fact my Mom is having an independent tombstone manufacturer cut a slab of granite and inscribe it with my Dad’s name, date of birth and death. I’m really hoping they don’t take five months to do it either; how are surviving relatives supposed to get any sense of closure if they can’t even locate a grave and pay their respects to a Loved One?

Standing under the mossy-covered oak in the cemetery, I look for answers but only get hit in the face by a cold breeze and yet another dead leaf. And I look at the unmarked plot where I THINK my father lays and I still struggle to know what to say to him.

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