I woke up Wednesday morning at 5:45 to the sound of Mom making phone calls. I stayed in bed, reliving the night before, until 6, when Dad's alarm clock began to ring with the sound of bluegrass country music from the local station. Blinded by tears, I made my way to the radio and finally got it to turn off. Not to self, I thought, have B figure out how to turn this thing off.
As I looked at the faint numbers on the digital face of the clock, I remembered what Dad had said to me the morning of the wedding. "Something happened to the clock last night," he said. He'd used it as a stereo to sing me a song at the rehearsal dinner, "Daddy's Girl." "It used to light up but now the face is off." I looked closely and realized that a dimmer button had been hit. "I'll fix it," I said. I never did.
Once the alarm was off, I wandered down to find Mom, then started getting ready. I put on yesterday's dress because I had no clothes with me, and the only items in my closet include college rejects (hello tiger-striped corset) and bridesmaids dresses. And they say you can't wear them again. B was arriving later with a bag for me. Bless his heart-- 10 days in and he's packing clothes and picking out things he never had to think about before.
True to the immortal mindset that is an M.D., Dad hadn't wanted to think about things like burial plots, so Mom and I headed off to the cemetery at 7:30, arriving at 8 for our first unwelcome appointment of the day. Already the phones were ringing off the hook. My office, Dad's friends, and family called for updates, news, and to express sadness. We walked out to see the available plots, located near other family members, and picked the one highest on the hill. "Dad would like that," Mom said, with a small smile. "He's looking out over everyone else."
After the ceremony, I cried to B that I hated thinking of Daddy alone, even though I knew he wasn't in the casket. "Well," he said, thoughtfully, "that's why you pick spots near family. He's not alone. He has him Mom and Dad, your cousin, and his aunt. He's not alone."
With the plot picked out, we headed to the funeral home, where we went over the details of the whens and wheres, then went to select a casket and signing book. Mom and I so needed that. First, that was the only room in the place above 60 degrees, so we stayed in the showroom for some time, looking at the baby blue Caddy-like options and debating the merits of pine verses steel for a good 20 minutes. Once decided, we headed toward the book section, which amazed me. These books, filled with lines for people to leave their names, started at $300. And they featured floating Jesuses on watery backgrounds on the cover. "I'm not leaving you with one of these," I told her. "In the car!"
So we finished our business and headed to Hobby Lobby, where we picked a black scrapbook that we would later fill with pages of Daddy and signatures of his friends and family. Finding moments of levity where we could, I had to laugh when Mom marched up to the Hobby Lobby lady and asked her where she kept her funeral scrapbooks. Mom and I must've been quite the pair. Me with a calendar covered with lists, Mom with a Baptist hymnal she forgot to leave in the car.
We headed home after that, where Mom went to work greeting friends that stopped by loaded down with food for the family and I got to work on Dad's obit, due by 4 pm that day to the paper. "You're talking to a writer," Mom had told the funeral home man earlier that day when we learned of the time constraint. "She loves a good deadline."
I sat down at the computer and began composing, calling my sister to have her start with the intro while I filled in the skeleton of the copy. I skimmed my calendar, now covered with intermingled lists. "First Dance: Stand by Me, My girl?; Wednesday, wedding announcement due to newspaper." "Thursday: program due to church; hymns selected, guest book finished." It was almost impossible to tell that the second note was for Dad's funeral, not my big day.
Moments later, B arrived, toting a bag full of freshly-washed clothes (amazing) and everything I'd need to get through the weekend, including big big hugs.
He sat with me, doing the final edits to the obit so that I could make calls to the Reverend and keep track that Mom was eating something while she visited, until the siblings arrived, then he went to help with the kids so the siblings could give the obit a once-over and final approval.
That night, Mom wanted to get out of the house, so I called Turtle Point and set up a private room so that we could get dinner. They were so kind-- Dad spent most of his free hours out there playing golf or visiting with the staff, so they were understandably heartbroken for not only us, but also themselves. When B and I arrived, I hadn't realized how hard it would be to walk in the doors, to see where the chair had been that Dad sat in beside the dance floor, to remember the rush of family photos on the steps, to think back to seeing him propped on the front gate when the limo pulled away-- I hadn't gotten to hug him that night. Thank God for the brunch the next day.
B was amazing, catching me when he knew I was about to lose it, or sometimes cornering me to make me calm down enough to just be. I hadn't expected to need this much of his strength so quickly, but he's been there every step of the way, even the ones when I needed to be carried.