A Retired Air Force MSgt Flight Engineer, who knew no strangers, and always had a joke to offer passed peacefully at the ripe age of 91 on Valetine’s Day. The etiology was cardiovascular compromise, which was ironic, considering his big empathetic heart for everybody he met.
Dad lived long and traveled far. Early Valentine’s Day morning, I received a text from my brother, James, “Dad has passed”. The sterile simplicity of the digital disclosure buffered the emotional shock. I read it twice; than, for a third time: Was this cyber communiqué clumsy grammar? My filtering ratiocination dissected the attestation, again. The unencumbered declarative finaly registered, its meaning cognitively moored: corporeal Pop had sailed from this time space continuum.
Family members needed to be notified: children and cousins. The expediency and efficiency of texting and messaging wrings-out the emotive gut wrenching, uncomfortable conversations of condolences with intermitten deafening silence. The texting technology bestowed an empathetic salve of time to process the familial loss.
Two visits to North Carolina were required to actuate Pop’s funeral particulars and, as acting fiduciary of the P’s estate, a litany of obligatory phone calls were essential to close accounts and notify agencies of Dad’s corporeal departure. The reality was, baby bro, aka, the Colonel, already had boxes checked and Dad tucked away in a coffin sipping a beer; James was Mom’s emotional crutch and first responder orchestrator; sis, became mom’s uber driver and confidant;…and, I rolled in from the Founding Father’s Charlottesville, Virgina, the figure head executor to a mission complete, save notifying the cuzs.
By time I arrived, mom was composed and directing the display details of the funeral. The grand matriarch was explicit about my charge: I was assigned to book the closer, cuz, communicator extronaire, Brent Fewox.
Brent, the family’s eulogist [yes, that is a thing] has been bestowed with the mesmerizing, entreating sympathy-glossia; a sliky loquaciousness that reflexively evokes the ahhhh, and spontaneous tear duct seepage. His home spun homilies are massage-like; divesting you from all personal defenses laying you exposed to the nuances of the historical narrative: Dad’s life was peppered with many chapters, convoluted sub-plots—-to plagerizie a beer commercial, “He was a most interesting man”, Brent would explicate the tender familial yarns.
penury imbued his unique perspicacity of critical thinking. The absence of resources does make for a clever man.
The family was on pins and needles because of a coincidental freakish snow/ice cold front that rendered all modes of transportation precarious and ambivalently held Brent hostage, the gifted raconteur from his podium. Fortunately, the inconsiderate inclemency mercurical agents of snow and ice were expediently wicked by the parched milieu; which, rendered roads reliable, and precluded me from attempting to pitch hit for the golden tongue–a win-win situation for everybody!
Dad was a resolute resident of the John Wayne, Gregory Peck generation, where the emphasis was on the demonstrable ‘walk’ of “walk the talk” expression. A man of humble, penury means and limited education had a dream to see the world, and capitalized on the opportunities the military; specifically, USAF, to aerially taxi him to every continent save the Antarctic—musing, the falling short of every continent, one skeptically would ponder, just how much cognitive enrichment would be availed by an endless ice sheet…but whom am I to judge the source of enlightenment. Dad, “Enjoyed” the life and experiences of a service “military” man for 27 plus years; twelve in the Navy, then transition to the continent hopping Air Force. He survived three wars: WWll, Korean, and Vietnam. He attained the respected and highly sought after rank of MSgt with a MOS of flight engineer. One Colonel marveled, “how he intuitively, magical it seemed, could fix an airplane engine with a screwdriver.” Dad had a knack to do more with less: he was imbued in the depression culture; wherein, penury prejudiced his unique perspicacity of critical thinking. The absence of resources does make for a clever man.
Brent did not disappoint; he had the pew attendee’s snikering and sobbing—emotive choas—leaning in and out with each mesmerizing anecdote. The nostalgia trailed off to be juxtapose by a selected song by the grand matriarch, mom, which cued the somber multitude to egress. The song was My Way by Frank Sinatra…
“I’ve lived a life that’s full/ I travelled each and every highway/ And more, much more than this, I did it my way… “
The red eyed, emotionally wrung, throng of family and friends spilled out of the funeral home chapel to dovetail into the funeral procession, which meandered to Pop’s final resting site—cognition blurred into a gossamer haze of forced commiserative smiles and clammy hand shakes of condolence—then—the ear piercing military guns salute; where, the trajectory of whirling lead to the stratosphere punctuated finality.