Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bet Your Ash on That

It's been twenty years since my dad's death, and yet the man still finds a way to get around.

After my father passed away in 1990, my mother honored his wishes to be cremated. She bought a mausoleum vault in a cemetery twenty minutes away, overlooking a riverside metropark. Only after his funeral did we notice the park sign directly across from the cemetery entrance, identifying that section of the park as the Indianola Area.

"Indianola" was the name of the obscure, tiny street where my parents bought their first home, raised their family and spent nearly thirty years of their lives.

Cue the Twilight Zone theme music.

An eerie coincidence or a comforting form of fate that such an unusual and aptly named location should be my father's final resting place? (We went with comforting fate.)

Yet the mausoleum wasn't to be his final resting place. My mother wouldn't hear of it. Just because the man was dead, she figured, didn't mean he should have to give up traveling. Or golfing. Or fishing.

So, she kept a portion of his remains in the mausoleum and retained a personal stash of ash in an urn in her bedroom. And over the years, we scattered some of his ashes in a few of his most beloved places: the fairways at Toledo Country Club, the shores of Lake Erie and at Manistique Lake in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

We'd like to believe that some part of my dad will remain at those places forever. And he will enjoy his favorite haunts (no pun intended) through infinity.

What we didn't count on, however, was one particular place his ashes would unexpectedly wind up.

My mother became an impeccable housekeeper through the years. Living by herself in a two-bedroom condo resulted in little clutter or accumulated dirt or dust. Still, she had her carpets professionally cleaned annually because... well, that part of the story remains unclear.

What is certain though, is the horror she experienced when she entered her bedroom to observe the carpetcleaning serviceman desperately attempting to redo a wrong.

By vacuuming up the "dirt" he'd spilled on the carpet after he'd knocked over some ceramic container.

Hearing my mother scream, he jumped and gaped wide-eyed at her, even as he continued pushing the industrial-sized vacuum over the debris. When he finally turned off the sweeper, she explained in frantic sobs exactly what he'd been sucking through that undiscerning hose.

If it had ended there, it's a good guess the serviceman would have been scarred for life. Enduring sleepless nights or perhaps nightmares of a vengeful and dusty ghost.

But after my mom realized the gallows humor of the situation, her sobs turned to laughter.

Sometimes, in moments of horror or fear, there's nothing like a bit of dark humor to lighten things up.

Not only did she end up reassuring the carpetcleaner that no real harm was done, she actually rehired the man a year later. And why not? Surely no mistake he might make on the second visit could match the monstrosity of his first.

Knowing my dad's sense of humor, I'm sure he's still laughing about the whole incident too. In between his fishing and golfing and admiring the scenery of the places he's busy visiting.

Life is funny. And even afterward, one can still find something worth laughing at.

Yep, you can bet your ash on that.


  1. slight correction... I didn't sob, but yes I had a few tears, then had to laugh. He kept saying "I'm so sorry", looked bug-eyed as if HE might cry (or have a heart attack) when I said "Stop, those were my husband's ashes!". We Stanfas can find humor in the most absurd things. Again, thanks Sherry.

  2. If that same carpet cleaner had come to the home of me and my ex-husband many years ago, there is an excellent chance that I might have cried out,"Stop! That's my husband's ass!"

  3. Anonymous (Mom): Correction noted. Yes, we Stanfas have a strange sense of humor. Wouldn't have it any other way.

    Judie: Haha! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I read your comments on Tony's post, too, and totally agree. Will be sure to check out your blog!