Needless to say this weekend was not exactly my idea of fun however it was very memorable and provided much, much needed family togetherness. Here’s a recap of the good, the long, the funny, and the heart-filled events that were all in memory of my Dad.
My step-mom Jill and my niece Lexie (who is 4 as well) picked-up Madz and I on Thursday and we headed west, literally. For about 10 hrs we drove with every attempt to make it to Nashville, our mid-way point, that evening. We got close but didn’t fully make it. We stopped for the evening and picked up early Friday am to finish the first haul; finally arriving at my Aunt’s house in Lowell, Arkansas at about 8:00p. It was such a relief to arrive but no one could actually breathe easy, because our reason for being together wasn’t exactly gumdrops. All in all for the drive the girls did pretty well. We have to give them props for a trip that was about 18 hrs non-stop one way. Day one was actually really entertaining and kind of fun, but by the end of day 2 after more than 20 hrs in the car it was enough. Laughing was over, singing had stopped, little bunny fufu mysteriously “disappeared,” my eardrums were bleeding and the whining was over the top. I tried to explain to the girls why Jill and I were acting so awful but they would have none of it 😉
Friday night was just about the wind-down and settle-in, which was nice. I had only ever been to Arkansas one other time when I was much younger so there were many family members I had never met so really getting to be with everyone was great. Saturday the focus of family continued with a fun trip to the lake and some much needed time outside, but only after some VIP business was taken care of. We all gathered on Saturday morning after a big wonderful brunch, to open “the box.” I.e. my dad. (this is very weird sounding btw) There is a saga that has happened with my Dad’s passing and it only continued. See, his biggest fear about being cremated was that his three crazy girls would want to “take a piece of him” put him in a necklace or set him on a shelf. So, after agreeing and promising to not “split him up” (his words not ours) we open “the box” and the funeral home actual did it instead [yes, feel free to roll with laughter] THEY SPLIT HIM UP! I’m not even kidding. He arrived in two containers. I was mortified.
For me, there was only one thing to do …yup, that’s it. My sister’s and I went on a mission to get a creative container large enough for the big man, with the even bigger heart and put him back together. Being the wonderful southern girls that we are we took to our family’s favorite place…Wal-Mart. [feel free to continue laughing] It was a bonding event, if nothing else; and truth be told it didn’t take very long to stumble upon the perfect “urn” an oversized mason jar that screamed my Dad; and in true Frugal Fowler Fashion it was priced at only $3.54, yes, Daddy would be so proud. Sooo, after a long and very entertaining, albeit, grotesque, story short, he didn’t fit. And we wound up making a tin can container with duct tape [yup, keep laughing]. We told ourselves it looked like an oil can which was perfect for the truck driver Dad, but seriously?? I have to tell you in hindsight this whole story makes me smile and I can hear him telling it around the kitchen table, shaking his foot, shooting a straight hand out and laughing saying “I swear” lol Seriously, we cannot make this stuff up. Even together NONE of us are this creative.
Sunday, was my Dad’s funeral, enough said. We had all dreaded it for months but it had to happen and it was rough, but it was beautiful. I had the honor of placing his remains, or as I explained to my four-year old Grandpa’s memories, into his final resting place. I’ve never felt more connected to my sisters and family. We all told stories and buried some of our favorite memorial pieces with him. For Madz and me, we placed some photos of the infamous Banana Cream Pie incident, as well as some family pics and a softball signed by all members of the last Little League team he coached. The music was perfect and we closed with his favorite song Freebird. All-in-all the service was as good as one can expect and even the weather held out, but there are two standout moments that will forever remain with me and of course neither was planned. The first, as we pulled into the private, family gravesite, my nephew said to my sister “mommy, heaven’s not that big.” I melted into tears. What a precious and innocent statement only from the mouth of a child; and the second, it was Dad’s birthday and at some point after the service had concluded we realized we needed to sing, so we gathered all of his grandchildren (all under the age of 6) and they sang Grandpa Mark Happy Birthday one last time.