Cleaning brought me to tears

I am vacuuming in all those little corners that never get attention this morning and I’m clearing out piles of paper that have accumulated from the beginning of school. And lo and behold under the papers I arrived at my dad’s ashes. They are in a jar next to the telephone. Usually they are completely covered and the telephone is never on the stand but today I have cleared the area out. The kids have no idea that the mason jar next to our change jar is filled with Grandpa. It’s a small jar – not all of dad because he is buried at Arlington. I’m not sure Justin even realizes he is there. The problem is I don’t know where to put him. Do I buy a beautiful vase and place him in there on the bookcase? Or maybe I should build an altar of sorts on the mantle?

None of those ideas seems suitable. Until his last year, Dad was always in the middle of everything. He was the hustle and bustle. He was the center. Center of every party he went to or held, center of the market he enjoyed going to or the center of the office he was working in. I suspect that was always the case for him as I have received some notes from his high school classmates that missed him at the reunion this month. Interestingly, somehow, my dad was part of two high school classes. I guess graduating with one was simply not good enough!

I miss him in the hustle and bustle of my life. I miss telling him about Alex’s fantastic catch in center field or about the Socratic Seminar method Alex is using in his English class. He would love to discuss Alex’s studies with him and he would be brought to tears by Alex’s new found writing skills and desire to study Architecture – two of my dad’s favorite things unbeknownst to Alex. Eva’s art and creativity would floor him. And the twins’ street smarts would make him proud as they have undoubtedly come from him.

So, I think he will stay right here in the middle of my kitchen next to my telephone. I think he would prefer to be right there…even more than being spread from the Eiffel Tower. I know most of him is in Arlington, his friend sent me a picture of the newly installed plaque, but Dad and I were not always geographically close. Most of the time I only had a little piece of him anyway. But if a little bit of him is in my kitchen maybe, just maybe, I will feel like he is still here with me.

6 comments on “Cleaning brought me to tears

  1. Elise Daly Parker on said:

    I love this Julie! I lost my dad two years ago and I wish I had that physical reminder of him. I think you made the right decision to keep him in the midst of your life. When my dad first died, I had a big 11 x 12 casual head shot in a frame gracing my dining room hutch. It was a little shocking from time to time, especially for visitors to see a somewhat shrinelike photo. But I loved being somewhat taken aback by his wonderful smile and aquamarine eyes. I really felt his presence. Now that pic is down in the basement, but I still see it at least every day in my frequent travels to the laundry room. I am also reminded of how he lives on when I hear him in my own words and my expressions and those of my sisters, children, and nieces. In this way, Dad lives on. Thanks for sparking those memories.

    • Elise, Thanks for your comments! Some of my dad’s photos catch me by surprise and I completely understand how and what you are feeling when you see your dad’s picture. I love watching my dad live on in unexpected ways and it sounds like you are enjoying the same thing.

  2. nancy rappaport on said:

    This is such an interesting part because you are speaking with both sorrow and humour.
    These are probably more casual entries than my memoir but I would have loved to have seen you show me how you missed him, what parts about him.
    In my memoir (In Her Wake) I talk about a patient who part of holding onto his grief was to hold onto his wife’s ashes. I can only imagine what that is like to have someone you love reduced to ashes is such a reminder to all of us about how temporary our stay on earth is.
    Nancy Rappaport (

    • Nancy,
      Thanks for your comment. I am finding quite a bit of healing in writing some of the posts I have written about my dad. What I have really found though is that I have so much to write about him and I am slowly turning it into a book. I look forward to reading your book! Again, thanks for taking the time to stop by my blog!

  3. Michael Ann Riley on said:

    I love that you decided to keep your father’s ashes in the kitchen, right in the middle of all the hustle and bustle of family life. Just like he was in life, so you honor him in death. This post really moved me and made me think about my own father who is still with me but aging at a pace that I know, I don’t have many years left with him.

    Julie, thank you for your comment on my blog (Thinking in my Head) too. I liked how you said you “vomit personal info.” Ha!

    • Thanks Michael Ann! I read your blog all the time and I am trying to be better about commenting on blogs! This week has found me overwhelmed with school starting as I am sure it has you! I love it though….Thank you for all of your thoughtful comments. They are truly appreciated!

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