In memory of my Dad, John Milton Schulze, Jr. Navy Pilot, Devout Catholic, Devoted Husband, Amazing Father, Loving Papa, The Teller of All Shaggy Dog Stories. Happy Father’s Day Dad. I miss you so deeply that it hurts. You went too soon. We still needed you. Today’s blog writing challenge is “Hanging Out In The Cemetery.”
Yup. My Dad was indeed the teller of all tales shaggy. He could tell a shaggy dog story so well that we even questioned his real stories, anticipating another shoe to drop. Even after his death, he managed to find a way to get the last laugh.
It took a few months after my father’s death for me to gather up the courage to visit his grave. I was working offsite and found myself near the cemetery. In that moment, I knew it was time.
I held my breath as I turned my car into the lane. My eyes began to feel swollen, my breath short. Slowly, my van found it’s way to the correct section. I put it in park and turned off the engine. And then I sat.
Gathering all the strength I had, I got out of the car and walked towards the very area I had sat in just months before. Memories of my mother next to me. A flag draped coffin. And an honor guard shooting in salute to my Dad.
The tears began to well in my eyes, but had yet to make their way down my tightened face.
My father’s marker had not been installed yet, causing me to search a minute or two for the place he was laid to rest. And then instantly, I was there. Looking down in to an unmarked area of dirt, knowing my father was just underneath my feet. It was almost surreal.
I knelt on the ground and stared. My tears found an instant release, blazing a trail down my now sweaty face. I began to talk to my father. I cried. I told him how much I loved him. How much I missed him. And how my firstborn David was going to miss out more than anyone. After all, my family had him for many years. My son only had him for a few.
For twenty minutes I let it all out. I told him everything. I cried. I laughed at myself. And then I cried some more. Suddenly, I felt a gentle breeze next to me. I turned, looked to the right and saw a grave with my father’s name on it. And stopped dead in my tracks.
For twenty minutes, I had been crying over a stranger’s grave. With my knowing father just behind me, twinkle still shining in his eye. I stumbled to my feet, walked to the correct grave and said, “Ummmm, yea. All that stuff over there? Ditto for you.” And then I laughed out loud.
On my next visit, I discovered the name of my new-found friend. It was Camille. I decided newly deceased Camille must have needed the tears more than my father. From then on, every time I went to see my father, I visited Camille as well.
Only my father could swing something like that from heaven. “Hey Jesus, got a minute? Can you make my daughter walk a few extra steps to the left? Then I’ll take it from here.”
Indeed, it was my father who anticipated my pile of tears and arranged to send me out of the graveyard laughing. The ultimate shaggy dog story. I miss you Dad. So much, it hurts.