In the 1950’s, before the safety of children was guarded by laws and all manner of protective equipment, we Rhodes kids enjoyed life on the edge. If we weren’t roller skating in a partially floored attic or walking on stilts down public roadways, we were cooking potatoes on a stick over a fire built in a metal drum. Amazingly we survived to adulthood along with some very good memories. One of my favorites has to do with Daddy.
We lived at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, just a few miles from adventure. Daddy took us up the mountain to pick apples, strawberries or nectarines depending on the season. During the summer we would drive to Earl’s Ford to play in the cool mountain water of the Chattooga. Much to our delight we were allowed to ride in the trunk of the car. The three of us would pile in and an old broom handle was given to me, the eldest, to prop open the trunk lid. We would take off, enjoying the trip in our family’s makeshift version of a pickup truck. Going up and down hills, over bumps and around the curves of mountain roads was tantamount to the modern kid’s amusement park.
Fifty years later Daddy made his final trip up the mountain. After his cremation I told Mama I’d pick up his ashes from the funeral home. She was weary and grief-stricken. I did not dare question her decision to have Daddy’s ashes buried in the Rhodes family plot next to his parents, brothers and infant granddaughter. I also did not request permission for what followed. Equipped with 4 Ziploc bags I carefully put a scoop of Daddy’s remains into each bag and left the rest in the box for burial. After the funeral and graveside service we put Mama in bed for a nap and quietly changed into what our parents used to call our play clothes. We traveled with our families up the mountain to Earl’s Ford and returned a part of Daddy to the Chattooga River, a place he loved enough to share with his four children.
I couldn’t empty my bag completely. I needed to save a little of Daddy. I added some polished small stones from the river’s edge into the bag and wrapped it all in a Wal Mart sack. For the next year I kept that Wal Mart bag in the corner of the trunk of my Civic. Some might question the lack of dignity. For my Daddy, I felt it was only fitting.
May 15, 2011: In memory and honor of Daddy on what would be his 94th year.