Friday, March 22, 2013

The strangest story I've ever told?

Okay, maybe this isn't the strangest story I've ever told. That would be The Tale of the One-Armed Tow Truck Driver. But this is a close second.

Onward and upward....

So 10 years ago, on the night of March 17, 2003, St. Patrick's Day, my father died suddenly as he was preparing for bed. (The doorman found him the next morning, after my always punctual father didn't show up for work and didn't answer any of his phones.) He had just returned from a long weekend in Florida, where we had joined him, and seemed fine to the friend he had just had dinner with. Indeed, according to the doctors he regularly saw, he was in perfect health.

But a sixty-something man in seemingly perfect health suddenly keeling over is not all that strange. Sadly, it happens all too often -- to both men and women younger than that.

After some discussion, we decided to cremate him. And, as my father loved golf above all things, except perhaps for me and my daughter (and my husband), we wanted to sprinkle his ashes on his favorite golf course, Deepdale, which he lovingly referred to as his Manhasset office. (My father was a stockbroker who conducted much of his business on the golf course. At one time a scratch golfer, he had a 5 handicap, I believe, at the time of his death.)

Unfortunately, though, the golf course, as much as they loved my father, refused to let us bury his ashes there -- though they did finally consent to letting me sprinkle a small handful on the 17th green.

So I wound up taking my father's remains, which had been placed by the funeral home in a stylish wooden box and covered with a velvet sack, home with me -- and placed them in our guest room, next to the ashes of our dearly departed cat Sylvester, who my father adored and who adored him.

But leaving my father's remains in the guest room just never felt right (though it elicited some amusing comments from guests -- the ones we told). While three of the people he loved lived here, it was never his home -- or where he would want to be laid to rest.

However, I had no ability or was not allowed to bury his ashes in the places he truly cherished and would want as his final resting place -- his rent-controlled apartment high above Park Avenue on 84th Street, his office at Bear Stearns (now JPMorgan Chase), the Breakers in Palm Beach (where he always had the same room, which he stayed in frequently), and, most of all, his beloved golf courses (Deepdale, National, Shinnecock, Loxahatchee, and Seminole*). So in our guest room he remained.

For years, I was weighed down with guilt -- and would have nightmares and become depressed around St. Patrick's Day, which was never one of my favorite days to begin with (for some reason the memory of drunken men peeing or barfing along Madison Avenue, just off the parade route, elicits no fond feelings).

Then a couple of weeks ago, as the tenth anniversary of my father's death approached, I decided to ask three of my father's closest friends for help in getting Shumer (yes, that was my father's first name -- don't ask) to his final resting place, or places, the places he loved most. And we devised a plan.

I cannot reveal the details of the plan here, as I do not want my partners in crime to get into trouble (though we are not sure if any crime will be committed), but it is brilliant -- and we believe Shumer would approve. But I will give you this hint: think garden gnome.

All I had to do was get Shumer to his former colleague (and devoted friend), R. Which proved to be less straightforward than you might think as R. works at a big investment banking firm -- the kind that has package-sniffing guard dogs. So personally escorting Shumer or overnighting him to R.'s office was out -- though R. and I agreed it would make good fodder for the New York Post. (Whaddya got in that box there, lady? Just my father, officer. We're taking him up to the trading floor.)

Instead, we decided to UPS Shumer to R.'s house. (We joked about sending him First Class, as that's how Shumer preferred to travel, but we chose UPS instead. I know, the indignity. Sorry dad.) Which entailed removing him from the guest room and putting him in suitable traveling attire.

As in life, Shumer seemed to have put on a few pounds while no one was looking. (I agree, R., 15 pounds does seem a lot for the ashes of a guy who was maybe 5'6" and of average weight.) Still, the spouse and I attempted to make him as comfortable as possible, placing the velvet-draped mini casket in a pile of styrofoam peanuts, in a box that wasn't too cramped. (Think of it as extra leg room, dad.) Then I placed a picture of Shumer swinging a golf club, his favorite activity, on top, and sealed the box.

So now, finally, after 10 years, Shumer is on his way to his final resting place(s).

To be continued...?

*What is it about naming private golf courses after extinct or forcibly removed Indian tribes?


Anonymous said...

This is a good story-waiting for part 2. Knowing you and Shumer...I expect shenanigans and high jinx!!

larissa said...

Now I want to send a gnome
Been thinking of you

J. said...

Received a note from R. that Shumer arrived in time for lunch. Had I known he would be dining with R.'s wife and daughter, I would have packed some herring in cream sauce (Shumer's favorite, which he brought with him whenever visiting friends).

Also, the spouse wanted me to mention a couple of things, which fall under "Things you never thought you would have to think about or discuss," like how much to insure your father's ashes. As I explained to him, while I understood the desire, it made no sense. If UPS lost the ashes, what would they do, give me some other dead person's ashes? (Receiving money for ashes just seems crass.) Also, what is it with funeral homes guilting grief-stricken survivors into paying thousands of dollars for a fancy casket that is about to go up in flames when a simple pine box would do? Despicable.

Anonymous said...

All we are is dust in the wind. Dude.

lindaroo said...

Oh yes! I've been part of sprinkling ashes in preferred places, sometimes with permission...
And I was once rescued by a one-armed man, one of my best childhood stories, and one that made me see "handicapped" people as capable and more.