Ferns (remember the ferns?) were not the only reason I went to Rolling Prairie. There was another reason that I chose to make the trip. No, it wasn’t to make a pilgrimage to Oprah Winfrey’s former house. It was a more personal reason. At the risk of being labeled maudlin, it has been too long since I last visited my dad’s grave site. He has been gone now for a little over eleven years. Those of us who are still alive, still miss him.
I often wonder if he would be happy if he were still alive. My answer is a resounding, “I don’t know.” My first instinct is to say that he would love to be alive. Mom is still with us, and he loved her dearly. My sister, and her family, are still here, and he loved them as well. Of course he loved Cindy and me. There was love enough for all.
He would like to spend time with his neighbor Bonnie who drove him everywhere after we told him he couldn’t drive anymore. He and Mom were like surrogate parents to her when she moved to Indiana. And she was like a surrogate daughter to them because my sister and I were never around enough. I know he thought of her as a daughter because he disapproved of every man she dated after her divorce. He would want to spend time with Bonnie’s sons, whom he helped raise…even though they only come back to Rolling Prairie to visit.
He would want to spend time with his other friends, but most of them are dead now. Most of them are in the same graveyard as he. If you believe in an afterlife, you can imagine them lined up at the heavenly VFW bar, trading stories and laughing at lame jokes.
On the other hand, something vital seemed to go out of his life when he could no longer drive himself wherever and whenever he wanted. That loss of independence was terrible. And yet, leaving him behind a wheel would have been dangerous not only for him, but for others as well. It was an obvious, but heartbreaking decision that we made for him. I wish that children didn’t have to make decisions for their parents, it robs them both.
He and Mom would not be able to live on their own if he was alive. As it was, I don’t know how much longer they could have cared for themselves. Cindy and I once talked to them about moving closer to us so that we could spend more time with them and look out for them. They seemed to go along with that idea. Then, one day, Mom called and told us that Dad had told her he never wanted to move from Rolling Prairie. I can understand that. He lived most of his life in or around that town. He built the house in which I grew up, and where he eventually died. He would have hated to leave there. Mom hated to leave there when she moved in with my sister and her family. They take care of her better than she ever would for herself.
As I mentioned earlier, most of Dad’s friends are dead, and most of them had preceded him in death. Dad was 92 when he died. He would have celebrated his one hundred and fourth birthday today. He would have loved that.