Four of my dad’s high school friends came from all different parts of the country to attend his service today. One came from San Diego, two from Michigan and one from North Carolina. I had met all three of the men and their families at different times in my life. We visited them in their hometowns of the moment and they came to see us in New York. It was sad and fabulous all at the same time to see them at the service. We talked about the time we flew into Denver with my dad to stay at one of his friends houses and he asked if we could borrow one of his cars. His friend thought we were going to tool around Denver but we went to Santa Fe. I didn’t know until today that my dad never asked if he could take the car that far. The same friend also told stories of my dads signature forging career that started at age 10. I guess it became quite a business as he used to line report cards up on the floor boards and sign them for everyone. We spent the morning remembering.
During the afternoon we had the ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. My dad was a member of the Air Force and the Air Force Guard (I think that’s what they are called) did a fantastic job. The chaplain read a beautiful homily and made us feel so welcome and made my dad’s life seem so special. The 21 gun salute made all 6 of the grandchildren jump and the fact that there were men with guns made Ethan behave all day. And then they played Taps. A single bugle player playing Taps for your father is one of the most beautiful and sad moments that can ever exist. Somehow your whole heart can get wrapped up into the notes of that song and be expressed so beautifully without words. We then walked to the Columbarium and placed my dad’s ashes inside. The only thing I have been concerned about is the possibility of Dick Cheney being buried at Arlington. I know I have mentioned before that politics meant a lot to my dad. I fear a natural disaster of some sort in the Arlington area once someone he disagreed with is buried there. When we got to his wall there was only one engraved stone as the wall was new and would probably be filled by next week. The name on the stone was Cheney and I couldn’t help but laugh. My dad game me that chuckle and my brother looked at me and said “At least Dad will be looking down on him.” Dad’s ashes were about three rows up.
After the ceremony we had lunch with all of Dad’s friends. We took pictures and shared more stories. I began to think about how special their friendship was. They maintained it without Facebook and without email for a great deal of the time. Four men (and several more) relied on phone calls and handwritten letters to stay in touch as they lived all across the United States. All of them said that they will miss my dad’s birthday calls. Although one of their wives said they usually came at 2 a.m.
So in honor of my dad I think I will make sure I carry on the birthday call tradition with my friends. It’s the least I can do in this age of texts, facebook and email. And it’s the least I can do to carry on a little part of my dad’s legacy.