Tonight, in a movie I watched, a women threw her fathers ashes into the Pacific Ocean. And it made me think. Where are my father’s ashes?
I think my step-mother has my father’s ashes. A few days before he died, she offered to split them with me and my brother. But we declined. I don’t know what my brother was thinking, but I didn’t want my father split into pieces. It was unsettling to think of him being in more than one place. As though there would be three Bill’s. One in each small urn.
I thought I wouldn’t mind, but now, seventeen years later. I feel like something is missing.
There was a funeral. And then my step-mother sold the house and moved away with no forwarding address. Does she have my father on the mantel, next to a photograph of her and her new husband? Is he stored in the linen closet next to the towels and sheets?
In two days, on Saint Patrick’s Day, it will be seventeen years that he died on a cold day in March, alone in his hospital room.
And, if I could, I would walk along the Saskatchewan River on March seventeenth. The place where I picture my father.
In the spring of 1981 my father and I took the flat-bottomed river boat he made, for a week along the Saskatchewan River. At night we slept in a tent on islands in the middle of the river and during the day we hunted.
One one of the islands we found a ring of small stones. He said when he died he wanted his ashes buried in a small circle of stones like the Indians did.
If I could, I would take my father’s ashes and bury them on an island in the middle of the Saskatchewan River in a small circle of stones.
I wonder where his ashes are?
I can’t walk along the Saskatchewan River on March seventeenth because I live in Pennsylvania. And I can’t bury my father’s ashes in a circle of stones on an island in the middle of The Saskatchewan River because I don’t have his ashes.
But, I can go in the basement and read all of the letters he wrote to me.
And I can look through the photographs he took when he came and visited me in Tokyo. And I can look at the black bear skin he helped me flesh when I shot a black bear in Northern British Columbia. And I can look in the mirror. Because my father lives in me.
In my memory and in all the things he taught me.