November 26, 2005

Dad, I'm Not Going to Burn Your Stratocaster

So my dad and brother and I somehow managed to have the Death Talk. I now know that when my dad dies, he wants bagpipes at his memorial service. I don't even want to think about finding and hiring a bagpipe player. But fortunately, that's a bridge I don't have to cross today.

He wants to be cremated --- with his Stratocaster (that's a guitar). I said, "Dad, there is no way I'm going to burn that Stratocaster."

This was obviously kind of an alarming turn in the conversation. Why would I object to cremating a guitar, but not my father? Sure, it's an expensive guitar --- but I'm not going to sell it and God knows I don't play it. Maybe my brother will, or we can give it to someone he loves who would really play it and play it well...

It's just that I hate to see it go to waste, I guess. I hate to think of something so valuable reduced to ashes. But shouldn't I feel the same way about my dad?

It's probably just that I don't think about cremating either of my parents as something immediately pertinent. I don't have to really think about it right now. And I wonder if, when the time comes, I'll have some qualms about cremation, if I'll be so distressed about destroying my father's tendons and bones, that distinctive ridge in his nose, the chin he gave me, that I'll consider going against his wishes.

And what if by then I have a different view of the Resurrection? Will I fight my mother and siblings to keep his body intact rather than sprinkling it over Tin Cup Pass in Buena Vista, as we have jokingly discussed?

On another, only slightly related matter, I'm working on a Father's Day compilation book at work, and having a dandy of a time reading the story submissions that have come in. I've noticed something pretty disturbing, or at least irritating: They're all about the writer's father's death or extended nursing home stay. The few that aren't are about how badly the writer's father sucked.

So does no one really come to get their father until he dies?

Fathers are weird, I think. They're just people, and yet we love and hate them as gods. All of us have to come to terms with our fathers, to accept their faults and fallings-short, or to just somehow make that jump between our father's lap and his feeble, outstretched, stretched-out hands. It's like a prerequisite for sanity or something. If you don't make mental peace with your dad, go ahead and purchase some time in a rehab center.

Anyway, for the rest of the day, I think I shall listen to the Elizabethtown soundtrack. Great movie, great CD. Actually makes me wistful to return to childhood memories, to take them out, study them in the light, and put them back. In them, my father is just a man, a collection of cells and soul. But he is also a force in my life, and even if his body is sprinkled off a mountain, I don't think I'll ever quite get away from him.