Monday, June 13, 2011

Gone Away, Gone Ahead

Charles Lee Dennis
November 20 1947
June 10 2011

Well, that fight's done. At 12:28 am on the 10th of June, my Dad/Stepdad/Paternal Unit/recipient of ugly birthday ties Charles slipped off into the ether and left his diabetes and neuropathy wrecked body behind. Except for the pain and annoyance that body was causing him, he wasn't ready to go, and the trip out wasn't altogether easy. Several mini-strokes had made him only partially lucid. Once Mom figured out that he kept asking what date it was, she went ahead and told him he'd made it to their anniversary like he'd wanted, and he relaxed and drifted off. The fact that the anniversary is still a couple weeks away doesn’t really matter, some goals are too much to keep.



I’ve known this was coming for six years; if you’d told me two years ago he’d make it this long I’d’ve said you were nuts. I said my goodbyes and thank yous awhile ago, the last time I was sure he was on-board with the moment. We’ve done this gig before, and Mom did a good job again in spite of all the peripheral health issues, bureaucracy, and stupid drama that cropped up.

Major serious props to everyone who sent him cards and letters and so on from all over; it made him happy, and he really looked forward to getting stuff in the mail. When the postmarks were from places he’d been during his truck driving years, he’d remember them and talk about them; when they were from someplace he hadn’t been, out came the road atlas and we hunted them up. Later on as the strokes made things muddier, in his mind you all became fellow truckers, out there somewhere riding the road for him. It was like he was able to climb into the driver’s seat again through all of you, and see the landscapes and places he missed.

One of my obligations is almost over, and a chapter is closing. That probably sounds oddish, but that’s about the most accurate way to think of it. We’ll go back down a few more times to get Mom moved, and I’ll be done with Brunswick County except for a few friends who are too good to not keep up with. Charles and I weren’t each other’s kind of people; I’m actually sort of the epitome of almost everything he thinks is wrong with the world. He never really quit hoping that one day I’d straighten out and be the kind of girl he “always knew I was deep down under all that women’s libber mess”, but he did decide I wasn’t quite as “not right” as things went on. He did try to deal with me on as fair terms as his upbringing and blood sugar driven moods let him. He told Miles he considered him his third son, proving he’s mellowed a lot over the years and decided that what he thought he knew might be a bit off. He was the best man he knew how to be, and a lot of people with more wherewithal than he had can’t claim that.

Charles’ memorial services (one here, one there) will be for his Southern Baptist leanings, and I’ll probably behave for the most part and not even wear any jewelry that would send anyone reasonable into a tizzy. Unless someone just asks for it – I never carry the demeanor I’m expected to and the older I get the less patience I have for people who feel the need to address it. I did get the prod to step into my psychopomp shoes, so I had my memorial for him Saturday afternoon. I left two of his favorite things in the world, a bottle of Mt. Dew and a honey bun, out on the swing in the backyard. He can have them again now, even if the stupid things are part of what killed him to start with.

The swing was one of his favorite places. It looks out over the back of the house, the yard, the pond, and his workshop, his personal kingdom that he worked most of his life for. You can just see what’s left of the greenhouse and garden to the side where he planted crabapple trees to make jelly from, and the willow tree I got him for Father’s Day not long after they moved to the coast. That would be the one that got knocked half out of the ground when Hurricane Fran came through, the one he told me I couldn’t fix and would have to cut down. A lot of strategically placed rope, a Geo metro with a good bumper, and some unfortunately ground up turf was all it took to prove him wrong, and it’s twice the size now that it was then. I’ll cut a limb to make something from before Mom leaves for the last time.

He was doing the usual thing people do right after they separate out, drifting around the yard a bit, looking at things he hasn’t seen in more than a year since he became completely bedridden. I sat on the swing with him and told him he did a good job here, even if it didn’t work out quite like he wanted, and reminded him that he can make another trip to see the mountains now if he wants. He’ll hang around for a little while, and say goodbye to his house and his shop and his fishing pier, and make sure Mom’s going to be all right, and he’ll move on well enough. There are people he’s missed for years, like his father and sisters Martha, Shirley, and Mary Frances, and his aunt Thelma who partly raised him, waiting for him to show up.

There are plenty of us here to tell the story about you catching the flounder with your shoe, or the mullet joke, or why all your circular saws have cords that are mostly duct tape. Good journeying, Dad.