How many times did I hear my dad say, “…just outside of Tucumcari…”? A hundred? Only a dozen? I honestly don’t know. We took family road trips along I-40 throughout my life and even as a young girl, I remember Tucumcari coming and going.
My dad was laid to rest on Wednesday. I have not allowed myself to cry (much) because I needed to get beyond the funeral. I wanted to stand on the podium and say a few words about his eminence. His greatness. His overwhelming dadability.
Tuesday we were T minus 24 hours away from being the first family ever to play “Sweet Lips” at a funeral. My sisters. God bless them. My sisters brainstormed songs for the funeral and I handed the titles over to the funeral director without listening to lyrics. Mercifully, my mother told me that Sweet Lips is about a man cheating on his wife. Scratch that one.
And because my dad loved George Jones my sisters decided “He Stopped Loving Her Today” would also be swell. Why would we do this to ourselves? Surely this must rank as a Top 3 Cry Song of all time? The lyrics “and then they carried him away” actually happened. No. No. No. T minus 18 and Marsha, Mom and I substitute George Jones’ version of Peace in the Valley. Better.
We still played “Daddy’s Hands” at the funeral. This one made my mom cry. She, too, has been controlling emotion. But she cried and shook a little when Daddy’s Hands played. This is a mother’s love. Crying for her children (albeit in our 50s and 60s) because our Daddy is gone. Later, I encourage my mom to let it go, to grieve. She says she’s fine as she sips on a shot glass of Tennessee Whiskey. My mother does not drink.
David and I are headed west to Arizona today on I-40. I’m behind the wheel feeling fine. Then we get “just outside of Tucumcari” and my tears start to flow. God I’m going to miss my dad. I miss him already. I started missing pieces of him last August when he had his stroke.
After a short hospital stay, he was home on hospice care for only 18 hours. He had picked his funeral song. We had the song on a music box and played it for him while he struggled to breathe. He took his last breath when the song reached the word “Heaven”. The song ended there because the box ran out of time. Dad ran out of time, too.
At his gravesite as we were singing Amazing Grace, a plane flew overhead. We were minutes away from Tinker Air Force base so the plane was flying low and was obviously military. When the service ended, the funeral director said, “They got the branch right, that was a Navy plane.” My dad was a World War II vet and served in the Navy.
He could not have scripted a better death. A better burial. For a man who was tough and gruff in life, his death was nothing short of poetic.
So here I go crying, just outside of Tucumcari and I glance in my side view window to see this.