On Sunday, my wife and I met up with my sisters and my stepmother to spread my father's ashes in the Brazos river.
That's a tough line to follow.
We meet by the FM2114 bridge, a place which held a surprising emotional resonance for a farm to market road bridge in the middle of something within spitting distance of nowhere. We used to canoe on that stretch of river on a semi-regular basis. We owned a fiberglass canoe which was heavy, but very, very quite in the water. The current below Lake Whitney was pretty weak and the wind was always in our face, so it wasn't particularly easy paddling. That was especially true since I was usually fishing and letting my dad do most of the work.
He never complained about that, at least, he never complained to me about it. I know I would have been ticket.
The water was usually so clear that you could see the bottom of the river. It was one bend after another, white limestone cliffs on one side, rocky sandbars on the other. The banks were lined with cottonwoods, which are second only to the aspen in my opinion when it comes to the sound of the wind through the leaves.
We usually made a day trip of it, going about eight miles or so from the dam to the bridge. Sometimes, we'd stay on the water for three days, canoeing down to the headwaters of whatever lake is in Waco (Lake Waco, I presume). I'd get sunburned, usually lose a bunch of very expensive lures (rapalas were my favorites), and mostly, I had a great time with my father.
That's the man I want to remember. He was healthy, happy, silly, and he seemed to really enjoy my company. So, it seemed fitting that the last of his ashes *would be cast into the river at that location. One of my sisters prepared a speech and it was perfect and impossible to follow. I tried to follow it anyway. My younger sister, who wasn't going to speak, did so, and there were tears all around.
I don't know that there was any closure or anything of that sort; I'm not sure what closure feels like and I suspect you can't recognize it when you get it. But this felt right and it was good to be with my family and say our peace and eat lunch together.**
* His best friend Norm took some of his ashes to Arizona to one of the spring training ballparks. This, too, was appropriate, both in terms of location and the fact that Norm, who was as good to my father as a man could have been, was the one doing it.
** This is probably not something that belongs in this sort of post, but the Texas Great Country Cafe in Whitney, Texas, was aces. You can get your chicken fried steak deep-fried or (correctly) pan-fried. It's the best chicken fried steak I've had since R.O.'s shut down.