My Father’s Ashes Came in a Pill Bottle

pillbottle

 

A few weeks ago my siblings and I got an e-mail from my brother telling us that my father’s wife was offering up some of my father’s ashes to us, his children.    I didn’t want to experience what people describe about little bone fragments that you have to touch 0r do what Keith Richards ostensibly did with that whole sniffing of his father’s ashes thing.

“Uh….sure?” I answered back and we decided to do something together.  We wanted to pick a spot that meant something to our father and it came down to his beloved Syracuse University or the spot in New Hampshire where he and my mother met.  Selfishly I decided that the trip to Syracuse was WAY too long, and that New Hampshire, between my brother in Vermont and me in Boston would make more sense.

My parents met at a now non-existent resort.  In its heyday, it looked like this:

laketarlton

Now, it looks like this:

foundation+

That’s where the main building stood.  Even though it is still situated on a lake, it’s devastatingly sad that now it’s on the side of a busy road that didn’t exist back then.  It’s flanked by two run-down houses in a very run down town.  It’s hard to imagine that it was once a thriving resort town.

My father who had been a chorus boy in a Broadway show that not many people have ever heard of and was sort of a C-list performer at the Copacabana was hired by the resort  for a summer to entertain its guests.  He looked like this:

dadheadshots

My mother was the receptionist.  She looked like this:

momtarleton-2

So you can guess where this is going.  Magic was made and the rest is history.  Okay, so the marriage ended and my father remarried a woman who he had been with for 35 years before he died who made the choice to put a small amount of his ashes in an empty prescription bottle.  My father was a lifelong hypochondriac so when my brother and I unwrapped the yellow tissue paper that it had been folded into, we burst out laughing.  But really???  What the fuck?!  I later called my husband and begged him never to pour my ashes into a prescription bottle.  Maybe a can of Diet Pepsi or an empty K-Cup, but COME ON!  You can’t make this shit up.

My brother, daughter and I trudged through some incredibly overgrown, dense and dead grass that was covered by crusty snow to get down to the lake.  It’s the closest I’ve come to hiking in my life.  My brother’s wife stood at the top of a steep hill and cheered us on as we stood on a concrete slab at the edge of the water.

“So…what happens now?” I asked my brother.  He volunteered to go first and unscrewed the (childproof) cap of the bottle.  He somehow managed to get his share to do a lovely swirl in the air, while mine just sunk to the bottom, not moving or swirling at all.  He then shook the rest into the wind, where like every movie you’ve ever seen, they almost blew right back into our faces.  It wasn’t exactly the poignant, teary ritual I had expected.  It was actually rather funny.

We trudged back up the steep hill to our separate cars before heading off to have lunch in a rather bizzaro restaurant called Calamity Jane’s. As far as I can tell by doing a quick Google search, Calamity Jane had no connection to this little town and along with her pictures everywhere, there was a huge Teddy bear sitting on a chair.

We hugged in the parking lot and there was a flicker of sadness when my brother and I looked at each other.  A year after our father’s death, this ritual seems to be a wrap-up, the grand finale to his life.  For me, and I’m sure for my brother, it was very moving to see, for the first time, the place where our parents fell in love and take in the same views that they did.  My father would probably have found our decision for the location to be all wrong and even a bit inappropriate,  but for us, it was the only logical choice.

 

 

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3 Comments

  1. Mark

    Actually, I think ‘he’ would’ve been somewhat pleased with the location! As we can be, now, too. Nice capture, Gayle.

  2. Your ability to hold the sad and funny in one piece is magic. Wonderful essay–with photos!!!

    1. Thanks David!!! I was JUST saying to Rick today how I wanted to send you a little note just to say hello. So, HELLO!

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