I’m sitting out by the pool at the Jameson Inn. It’s about 8:30 in the morning. I can feel the heat creeping up on the back of my neck and just a hint of moisture in the air. No clouds in the sky. It’s going to be hot and humid today. Crickets, air conditioners, birds. Sounds like the south. It’s killing me that I can’t talk to you about my experience down here. There are so many stories I want to share with you and things I want to ask you about.
In a few hours Rhonda and I are going to go back over to Richard’s house. Yesterday he couldn’t decide if he was going to go to church or not. I’ll bet not. I’ll call him around 10 and see what he figured out. It’s hard for me to get a read on what’s going through his head, but I think this weekend has hit him hard. He may have had enough of God for a few days. Or he may need him. Hard for me to tell. My bet is that he’s not going to church.
I hope you’re happy with what we did here. I feel good about it and you’re my beacon for what path needed to be followed so…I bet you feel good too. Sixteen people gathered in the church yesterday to say their goodbyes. Not bad, I didn’t think, for someone who has been gone for 50 years. I think the list of people who would have been there but have already passed away is pretty long. That’s sad.
This memorial was 100 times harder than the one in Denver and I said as much during the eulogy. You know, the one in Denver was about putting your life in perspective in a way that people who didn’t know you as a child could understand. It was about explaining why you were the person you were. This memorial was just the opposite; it was explaining who you grew into after you left the south, when you transformed from a boy to a man.
Before everything started I took a walk down Main Street to get my head together. I wanted to walk the streets you used to walk and immerse myself in my surroundings. Not much going on in Great Falls anymore, as you well know. In fact, I only saw a couple of people – some woman who was running a second hand store and an older man who, like me, seemed to be taking a walk. Eventually the two of them wound up talking to each other and when I finally passed them, you know what they said?
“Hey, we was just talking and… You wouldn’t happen to be Bobby Joe Nunnery’s boy now would you?
How about THAT? The man was Henry Granger. The woman’s last name was Kitchens and you know, I don’t think she gave me her first name. I stood there and talked to them all the way up until the memorial was scheduled to start and then Henry and I walked over to the church together. It made me so happy. He called you a man among boys on the football field and said I must have been one hell of a football player with you as my daddy. I didn’t want to tell him that I really wasn’t, so I just said I played in college too and left it at that.
How about Speedy Starns being there? I found it surreal that part of my Denver eulogy was referencing coaches that served as mentors to you when you were a boy, that I described these nameless voices that guided you and ended up being pivotal variables and huge ingredients to your character. Then in South Carolina – there he was. I was able to use his name and thank him in person! And Henry Granger and Olie too. People I had heard about from you but never knew. How about that dad? That’s amazing. I want to talk to you so bad…
One of the greatest things happened afterwards. One of your cousins…Sarah Dixon I think, came up to me and said ‘Boy you got him’ – meaning that I had really captured you in a way that people could relate to and understand. I took that as a huge complement and it made me so happy to hear someone in Great Falls say that. That’s because I knew your life in Colorado. I was a part of it. But your time in the south came long before me. I listened to YOU dad. I listened to all your stories and I tried very hard to put everything I knew and everything I heard into one place and really make sense out of your life. I’ve learned a lot about you. Me too. I’ve learned a lot about me.
A big part of this trip has been dealing with Kim. And actually, I know you know this…that’s always a part of any trip if she goes. I really don’t know what to do with her Dad. I am so exhausted. She’s floundering and I don’t know how to help her. The level of bitterness that’s taken over her life is something I haven’t seen before, and it seems to be getting worse. She’s not honest with anyone. She thinks no one can see what’s going on with her when, in reality, everyone can see and they’re concerned. No one knows what to do. She never lets anyone in.
Even for this trip to South Carolina, she told me weeks ago that she didn’t want to come. Now don’t take that the wrong way, Kim just doesn’t like dealing with anything that drums up uncomfortable feelings for her. But I told her, don’t go then. Then she got mad at me. Then I said it was her call and I thought there was no wrong answer. Then she got more mad at me. She was drunk at the time and lying about it, mad at me because I didn’t want the girls around her, so I doubt if she even remembers the conversation.
But she did decide to come and didn’t do anything to be helpful since she’s been here. Nothing. She didn’t pay for anything either, which just irks me. Just like Mexico, Kim pretends like she is there as another equal adult but ends up being everyone’s financial liability. From what I can tell, she bought Kathy fried chicken for lunch one day and put 9 gallons of gas in the rental car. She didn’t pay for a plane ticket. She didn’t pay for the rental car. She didn’t pay for the hotel and she didn’t pay for anything when we went to dinner or to get drinks. In true form, if confronted she’ll just get pissy and say she was prepared to pay but no one asked her or gave her the chance. Such bullshit.
So my point… There were significant things to put in place for this memorial. When I arrived 24 hours before it was scheduled to start, there was no program, no idea how many people would attend, no anything. We had a key to the church and that was that. And really, I’m not looking for credit here because I know that it was precisely MY job to make sure everything went well with both your memorials. I was supposed to do it. And in that role, I was trying to be deferential to Richard since this is his town and I assumed he wanted more ownership over everything; it didn’t seem right that I would come here and take the lead on anything. But now I actually think that’s what he wanted. Ok then, so I did. But there were challenges after challenges: I don’t know the area, no one felt comfortable speaking, we didn’t have a power cord, didn’t have sound in the church, etc.
Here were a million things that I needed to handle or the event wasn’t going to happen. So I am dealing with all that and, at the same time, trying to make sure that I have something to say that makes sense for your service in Great Falls, and Kim comes out of her room, fresh from watching TV, and says “Where’s the address to the church?” I’m loading the car, literally my arms are full. I tell her she should just map it on her phone. Then there was a moment where an incredulous look spread across her face…right before she told me to just look it up myself and then email it to her. Then my incredulous look, right before I asked her if I looked busy or not. And then…she laid into me. “Fuck you! You’re just being a dick! Just fuck off!” Whoa. right there in parking lot. People were loading up their cars and kids and it was impossible to not see her erupting. So… I got in the car, drove off and I haven’t talked to her since.
Just weeks ago she called me crying like crazy because some random guy at work told her to fuck off. We had this long drawn out discussion about how to cope with it, what to do etc. She was really upset. In fact, here is an actual quote from her: “I have NEVER had anyone talk to me like that!” Then she went on to cry. Then there were hours of discussions and texts to make sure Kim felt better. Per usual. And I’m sure the irony of her screaming at me in the parking lot is obvious; she fundamentally feels like she has the right to say whatever she wants to whoever she wants whenever she wants and still expects to be treated like a princess. I’m over it. Mom may feel like spending her 60’s and 70’s raising a child again. Me, I’ve got my own kids to worry about before I let my 36 year old sister suck the energy out of me. I don’t feel good about it either Dad. I feel guilty. But I don’t know how to help her. I don’t think anyone does.
Anyway…sorry for that. After the memorial we went to the football field to spread your ashes. It’s actually a baseball field now. It was Kim & Kathy, Rhonda and me, then Richard and Susan. I’ve never been a part of anything like that…but it’s a somber event. I told Rhonda, I thought it was interesting to watch each person have their moment with you. I thought, if you knew a little bit about each one of us and/or the relationship we had with you, it made the observations very interesting. For example, I feel like we were (for the most part) resolved on the issues of the past and I felt good about our relationship. So I spread your ashes feeling sad but feeling content too; I think I am on the road to putting this event in its rightful place inside my head. Richard is very hurt that you’re gone. He threw his handful of ashes like a baseball. Kathy was mulling through all the memories and sadness; she took slow, methodical steps across the field, quietly talking to you the entire time. Kim threw a handful into the wind and they blew back into her face.
We ended your memorial at the Fish Camp. Every one of us knew that you wouldn’t prefer it any other way. I got the all-you-can eat flounder. Why wouldn’t I? Got some shrimp too…and sweet tea. Everyone was a little exhausted from being at peak emotion levels for three hours or so, so there wasn’t much chatter over lunch. But we knew Dad…we all knew you were around us, happy that the circle had been completed.
I miss you Dad. I miss you so much. There isn’t a day or an hour that goes by without me thinking of you. I try and stay strong. I try and force different thoughts onto myself. Sometimes I want to hurt. Sometimes I need to be depleted, need to be full of sadness and full of you. I don’t know whether I want things to get better or stay the same. I just want you back. Come back.