I sometimes forget how odd certain things in my home must look to someone seeing them for the first time. In my dining room I have a triple beam scale on a shelf next to a collection of rocks and gemstones. I have seen this scale since I was a child in various rooms and in various states of use and non-use. As a child the scale was often on the kitchen table amongst containers, bags, jars and various other items (accoutrements, paraphernalia…whatever you want to call it). Later in life the scale was displayed on a shelf above my Dad’s computer in his office, a reminder of sorts of another life, another man.
After my Dad died I brought home many of his things, things I knew he would have wanted me to have, things he would have been sad to have seen in a pile on the curb. I took his arrowhead collection, some of which we found together on our “adventures” we took when I was a child, a clumsy yet eager child, eager to hike as far as the sun would allow and eager to please her Dad by finding the most interesting rocks and the occasional arrowhead.
I took his framed paintings he had acquired from the “Spaceman of OB”; a blind artist who sold his wares on the streets of Ocean Beach. He had also purchased a “ticket” from the Spaceman which reserved him a seat on the spaceship with instructions that the ticket is only good if you have it with you at the time of your death. Needless to say, the ticket could not be found amongst my Dad’s belongings.
I took his last bottle of Gin, unfortunately not top shelf Bombay but middle of the road Beefeater. I finished the bottle, each martini tasting worse than the last even though I knew his recipe, I used his shaker and even had his glass. Martinis would just never be the same made by any other hand than his. The empty bottle now sits on a shelf holding dried flowers next to a painting of a strange red man with a long nose also holding a flower. This painting was my Dad’s favorite, painted for him by a female admirer of his in the Seventies (at least that is the story he told, he told a lot of stories). This odd image is permanently ingrained in my mind as that of curiosity and for some reason, empathy. Maybe it’s the expression on the man’s face or the gentle way he is holding the delicate white flower or maybe the way I felt as a child, laying on my Parents bed in the afternoon, staring at this psychedelic face, imagining him as a wise all-knowing man of peace and truth.
I took a large wooden box that once held his rock cleaning tools, dremel bits, baby food jars filled with tiny opals shimmering in oil, mini sword creations covered in silver solder and tightly wrapped in leather strips with tigers eye stone inlay. This box now holds letters and cards I made for him over the years, a bandana that still smells like his aftershave, a journal that I made for him which he filled with poems and pictures and the remainder of his cremains. By the remainder I mean what I have kept for myself after sharing them with possibly hundreds of people. You see, my Dad wanted to be shared with anyone who wanted a piece of him and to have them do whatever they pleased with him. When I received his cremains I filled up hundreds of tiny baggies with the coarse grey ashes (actually more sand-like with an occasional bone fragment than ash) to be handed out at the memorial service. I loved the fact that I had to go to a head shop for the appropriate sized bags. I cried and laughed as I spooned his cremains into the baggies, talking to my Dad the whole time.
His cremains have been tucked away in special places, planted in gardens, forgotten about in a purse or a coat pocket, scattered in Tennessee, Kentucky, Ireland, Hawaii, Northern California, all over San Diego; from the Cuyamaca mountains to Ocean Beach and many more places I can only imagine of one day visiting.
These artifacts are only a small reminder of the man that my Father was. I can feel his presence when I hold a rock he polished smooth or when I hear a low whistle from an unassuming stranger. He is everywhere and nowhere, within every cell and atom, he is the energy that moves me forward, the wind that sweeps through a town destroying homes and lives, the water that nourishes a forest and the breath that I will take as I share the memory of him with my Son.