"I've decided that perhaps I'm bulimic and just keep forgetting to purge."

-- Paula Poundstone

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hugs, tears and fears

Dad’s Funeral, Part 4
Visitation, Friday evening

I walked across the parking lot and let the uniformed guards open the door to the funeral chapel for me.

Inside, I noticed another guard standing beside my father’s casket. One would be there every time I looked over the next two days.

Dad was a lieutenant at a prison. He probably didn’t get much lip, I reasoned. He was a meaty 6-foot-4 man, and many who had written get-well wishes on his hospital website referred to him as “Big Dave.”

I got that gene.

It took me a while before I even realized that it was a closed casket, because I couldn’t make myself go toward the front for a while.

I dropped my purse in a pew and looked around for familiar faces. I found a few, and spent my time making small talk with many of them before making my way toward the unfamiliar ones.

I was standing in what would continue to be a decent-sized line of well-wishers when I made eye contact with Tawna, my friend from high school.

She was also my first cousin, but we didn’t speak about that.

She smiled and came to my side. We talked, and I was happy for her yet pissed that she had not seemed to age one day since high school and four kids.

I didn’t get that gene.

I noticed as we made our way toward the casket that she was intentionally staying with me. A tour guide on my trip to Bizarreville, if you will.

Whatever it was, it made me feel better.

“This is Misty,” she said as we approached her mom and dad. I had seen her mom many times over the years at school functions and in the community, but never her dad.

Charlie, my dad’s brother, reached down and gave me one of the biggest hugs I’ve ever gotten.

Two thoughts popped into my head as I also wondered if he’d ever let me go: Is this what Dad hugged like? Am I getting makeup all over the shoulder of his white shirt?

Charlie held me in that bear hug as he seemingly said everything he wanted to say in one shot, just in case there weren’t any more hugs.

“If you need absolutely anything to help you through all this, you just let me know,” he whispered. “Blood, DNA tests … I will be here to help you any way I can.”


In that moment, I fully appreciated that that would forever be THE weirdest “nice to meet you” conversation I will ever have.

I thanked him, confirmed I had indeed left a makeup smudge on his shoulder, and moved a step left to hug my father’s son.

Luke and I had talked many times since January 2007, when I found him on MySpace and asked him one simple question: “Is David Frailley your father?”

“Well...first of all...yes...David Frailley is my father. And secondly, and this is going to sound really crazy....I was just thinking about you,” he wrote in the opening lines of what turned into some really great communication for a while.

From my understanding, it would be a few years, though, before he would tell our dad that we had talked.

But here we were on this day, Friday, 3 ½ years later, standing beside our father’s casket.

“So nice to finally ‘meet’ you,” we both said as I got another great hug.

By the time our embrace had broken, my father’s wife had walked to talk to someone a few feet away.

“Is that your mom?” I asked.

“It is,” he said awkwardly.

We both smiled nervous smiles, and I could tell something was terribly wrong.

“Luke, what’s going on?”

“Well, I never really got around to telling Mom you were going to be here.”

To be continued …

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