Monday, April 23, 2012

Dad's Interment Ceremony

After six years of waiting, we have now fulfilled Daddy's final wish. He wanted to drift out to sea with the fish, and the plans had long been in the making in order to make that happen. However, this is a weekend that almost did not happen.

On Wednesday, we took two steps back with Damien and a self injurious behavior landed him in the emergency room for the first time. However, the specialists at the hospital saw no need for Damien to stay hospitalized since the first time in over four years we have had an incident. Damien agreed to go back on meds for now, and the doctors were satisfied.

I continued to plan to leave on Friday afternoon, but Friday morning Dyl was not feeling well at all. Dyl has not ben feeling well for a couple of weeks, but I thought he would be fine soon. However, Dyl's lymph nodes were swollen on this Friday morning. I took Dyl to Dr. Niebelski, who said that Dylan has a systemic infection. He urged me to keep Dylan home and start him on antibiotics. Dyl insisted that he would be fine and begged me to go through with our plans. He kept telling me that he wanted to go with us. So, against my better judgment, I went through with our plans. I picked up Dyl's meds, I picked Damien up at school, and we headed to Santa Fe, Texas.

The boys and I arrived at Mom's early enough to eat some of her delicious stew for dinner. I cuddled my Allyssa tightly, and sat on the couch with her. Allyssa straightened my hair and chatted about how nervous she is about her mom coming home in a couple of weeks. Scott and his new girlfriend, Monica, arrived, and we talked bout the upcoming birth of their child. Monica isn't really a "new" girlfriend, for he has been seeing her for over a year. However, Monica is new to us, as we had not met her before. Monica is due on September 23, 2012, and they will soon find out if they are having a boy or a girl. Scott is hoping for a boy; but Monica wants a girl because she already has two boys of her own.

When we awoke on Saturday, we prepared for our trip to Galveston. Mom and Gary cooked breakfast, and we had eggs, sausage, and biscuits. I felt very guilty for breaking my diet, but I was very hungry from sleeping hard Friday night. I was exhausted when I went to bed. By the way, I have lost twenty-four pounds on my diet.

The family and I made it into Galveston just in time to make the 9:30 a.m. ceremony. The captain of the boat informed us that it is too windy to go out on the water. The strong winds last night actually capsized one of his boats. The captain stated that he will reschedule us for ten thirty. Looking for something to do, we decided to take the ferry. Monica had never been to the ocean, so she was excited to see the ocean and go out on the boat. The wind was cold, and we had to cuddle close together to stay warm. The boys and I were not prepared, as the weather was warm when we left Abilene, and the the weather is always warmer in Galveston. We did not plan to arrive just before an unusual cold front. We just barely missed the ferry, so we had to wait for the next one to come back. I took this opportunity to photograph the roadside park for the ferry. I snapped several shots of Allyssa and she finally told me to stop.

On the Ferry, we passed many boats, ships, and dredges. To the north, there is the USS Stewart, Calvalia, and SS Selma at the Seawolf Park. I have only been to the park on three occasions, twice with my children, and once when I was a child myself. The trip when I was a child was taken over my 14th birthday. Mom and Dad decided that I could bring a friend with me, so I brought my closest friend that I had for the longest, Tonya. She is also my closest cousin. Tonya and I are only one month and one day apart in age. We have been raised together and actually shared the nursery together at the Haskell Memorial Hospital when I had my surgery. She was just a newborn.

The SS Selma is a concrete ship that was built for World War II. However, the war ended the day before the ship was set to sea, so Selma never saw battle. Selma was used as a transport, and she was outfitted to be a tanker. Selma hit a sandbar in the Galveston Bay, and she sank. Selma has never been moved and is currently used as a natural reef by the plants and animals that live in the bay.

The Robert Lanier reached the Bolivar Peninsula, and we rode back toward Galveston. The seagulls and pelicans chased the ferry, and there were no dolphins behind us today. Damien was drenched by the ocean spray when the ferry hit a wave from the choppy waters. Dylan was not feeling well, and he was dragging quite a bit at this point. I really wish I had stayed home, but there was no turning back now. We were already here, and a lot of preparations had been made for the ceremony.

When we departed the Ferry, Gary stated that we would have to find something else to do. The ceremony could not be completed at this time because the water was too choppy due to the winds not going down. Being a first time visitor to Galveston, Monica had never been to the Strand District. There was an art and wine festival, so we were in for a treat.

The booths were filled with many beautiful, highly priced, works of art. We came across the Be*You*tiful booth, where the artist had painted boots, shoes, and bras with pictures of women. Although her wares were cute, the highlight of her collection was her van.

There was a ghastly painted man promoting the local haunted house, and I had Damien and Dylan and Kinus and Allyssa pose with him. None of them were impressed with him, but they were all good sports.

We continued along The Strand until we found Bubbie's Army Surplus. During Hurricane Ike, The Strand District was underwater. Bubbie's was a total maze and very old, but that is not what I thought made it creepy. It was the fact that you could smell the mildew in the walls floors and ceilings of the building. It was that the ceiling and floor were bowed, and it did not seem that any repairs or renovations were made after the hurricane. Damien found a hat that he wanted to buy, but he backed out on it. I think that he looked very handsome in his garb.

Gary received a call shortly before noon. We would not be doing the noon memorial, and they were shooting for a 2:30 memorial. Needing to feed ourselves and the children, we moved to the Seawall for sandwiches and a soda. Here, we were surrounded by seagulls and pigeons.

After we ate, we went to the wharf for a walk and a look at the sights. We saw the NOAA Ship, but were too close to get an up close picture of the vessel. The above photo is the only photo of the ship that I could get. We walked by the Elissa, but the fence around the old sailing vessel made it difficult to shoot.  I spotted dolphins in front of the docked off-shore drilling rig across the bay. See if you can spot them in the photos. I photographed some shots of a new statue at the wharf and some flowers. I also photographed the old smoke stack of a building that has long been gone.

After coffee at Starbuck's and a snack for the kids, we are finally going to give the ceremony a try. We headed off for the bay, and I snapped photos all the while. I wish I could say that from here on out everything went off without a hitch, but I can't.

We made it out to the point where we were going to release Dad's remains. The waves were still choppy, and the boat bucked with every blow. Mom and Scott released the ashes; but they did not immediately hit the water because the wind caught them. Kinus and Allyssa were quickly covered in 'Dad,' and the engine sucked up some of the ashes. Kinus stated that she guesses that she is officially a member of the family now that Dad's ashes got in her eyes. The engine cut out, and the captain had difficulty getting the small vessel restarted. I know you may think me morbid or cruel for thinking that the entire situation was comical, but once I explain you will understand.

Dad was a fighter, and never did go down without a fight. He had his first heart attack when he was thirty-two; and it took twenty-four years of surviving strokes and heart attacks, some minor and some severe, before his heart finally beat him. Dad would have surgery and be back up the next week doing one project or another. He would have a stroke and within days be re-roofing his home. He was always a fighter.

Dad also handled everything with humor. When things got tough, he would laugh in the face of it. I guess that is where I kind of take after him. I laugh when I shouldn't because I know things can always be worse; so did he. Dad knew that he needed to survive, so the rest of us could have what we need, and he never complained. That is until the very end.

Dad had a quadruple bypass a little over a year before he died, and he was never the same after. He stayed sick all of the time, and he grew week over the last few months. The night before Dad died, he called me and told me things that made me think he was being silly then, but make a lot of sense now. Dad told me to make sure that the kids were well taken care of, and that they have fun. He told me to let them play and be children. He told me to take care of my mom, and he asked that I be there for her. He told me all of this because he knew he would not have the chance to tell me later.

In the middle of the night, Mom called crying. She said that Dad was in the hospital, and he was not doing well. She asked that Scott and I come down. Dad was unresponsive by the time we got there. They were preparing to do another surgery on dad, and I had to talk the surgeon into allowing Scott and me see Dad before they took him back. Scott couldn't get close to Dad left the room. He said that he couldn't see him like that. I grabbed Daddy's cold hand and bent down to kiss his cold forehead. I told him, "It's okay, Daddy. Scott and I are here. You can go now." I knew we already lost him, but I still had hope that I was wrong. Needless to say, I wasn't.

The day of the funeral, nothing went the right way. The fluids that had stored in Daddy's body after his first surgery had begun to release from his body, and the funeral home called. They asked that we bring more clothing for Daddy. Amidst the home full of friends and family, I was the only other than mom, that knew the way from the house to the funeral home, so I went to drop off the clothing. I realized that I forgot the music, and I had to make a second trip to drop off the CD. When I got back to the house, more friends and family members had arrived, and there was nowhere in the house for me to prepare for the funeral. I could not get dressed or even shower until an hour before the funeral. I was at the funeral with wet hair for two reasons. Once I got ready, I headed to the car. Under the car port, the sky was calm, but as soon as I walked from under the covered parking and got half way to the car the rain suddenly down poured. I lost it. I looked up to the sky and said, "Daddy, enough!" And, tears streamed down my face. Nothing seems to come easy to any of us in the family, and when things get bad, we seem to have to find the humor in the moment. Like when the preacher kept mispronouncing Damien's name, and he stood up in front of the church and yelled, "It's Damien, not Damon!" I knew Dad must have been up there looking down on us, proud of Damien, and smiling, maybe even laughing. See what I mean, it is natural that the interment ceremony was as difficult as the funeral, and I can see the humor in it.

Finally, the engine roared to life and we were soon on our way back to shore. We had a glass of wine (sparkling grape juice for Monica and the children), and toasted Daddy and his humor as we headed back to the dock. I took Dylan straight to Mom's in Santa Fe, and he got some rest before dinner. He ended up missing school on Monday because he didn't get the rest he needed over the weekend. I am very happy that we went, though. This is something we all needed to do, so we can all move on.


  1. Mary Carpenter BrownAugust 1, 2012 at 5:01 PM

    Beautiful story.

  2. This was great Pam. Often times very serious events that happen in our lives do not take place the way we envision they will or how we see them on TV/Movies..etc. Laughter is the strongest form of therapy. Your Dad would be proud! BB in TN