Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Gramps in the Drawer

Isn't that a hoot, as someone I once knew used to say - okay I still know who uttered the quote, but I haven't seen her in years and am unlikely to have the opportunity to ever meet again. Back to the title. First of all, it wasn't my grandpa - it was my father-in-law, but of course once the grandchildren started arriving his moniker went through some not so subtle transformations - and second, I didn't bind and gag him into submission before putting him away. Not that he had any choice, since it was his ashes which took up residence in the bottom, right hand drawer of my desk for close to a year.

No great mystery why I ended up as the keeper, the memorial center which handled the cremation had me as the family contact. So, once the deed was done I was requested to pick up what was left, a couple of weeks later. It still amazes me how the reductive process enables all that remains to fit into a container about the size of a two kilogram jar of peanut butter. Not being the type to have a nondescript vessel sitting in abject loneliness on the fireplace mantle, besides not wishing to engage in conversations regarding its provenance, it seemed simpler to just stick it in the drawer until the time for final disposition was agreed upon. Six weeks or a couple of months and I thought all would be gone. However, no one else in the family was ever too anxious to discuss the matter, so there he rested.

Forgotten totally what else sat in that particular drawer, all I remember was getting something else out from time to time. Not sure when it started but I vaguely recall offering a greeting such as 'hello' or 'how are things' at some juncture. Now don't get me wrong - I quite respected the old fellow and he did have a sense of humour so my tone was entirely jocular. What is amazing is I never would have guessed myself to participate in conversations with the dearly departed. As the year wore on, the topics discussed ( one-sided, of course ) included recounting of old fishing tales, repairs to a variety of boat engines and a general debate on the vagarious nature of life. And in some unknown way, I discovered answers to questions in these quiet moments, as though Gramps was actually sitting in the same room polishing off his six pack before falling asleep watching the hockey game.

The following summer, I finally decided to discuss whether a final spot for the ashes should be considered - spending eternity in a desk drawer just doesn't provide closure, no pun intended - and an agreement was reached. So on a lovely summer morning, we traveled up into the mountains where the ashes were released into a mountain river a scant quarter mile up from some falls. Cautioning him to be beware of the first step, we said our goodbyes to Gramps while wishing he could spend the rest of time out on the ocean listening to the hum of the engine.

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