Ashes to ashes...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

As some of you know, my dad passed away on Dec. 25, 2008, after a 3 year battle with stomach cancer. He had celebrated his 68th birthday two days earlier.

Dad was a no-nonsense kind of guy; he had no problem speaking his mind. I think if he had been born in the 1800's, he would have been a happy man. He liked the simple life and would have been content to live in a cabin with oil lamps and an outhouse. He loved to hunt and most of the time, you would find him in blue jeans, camo, cowboy boots, and a cowboy hat. Oh - and that Grizzly Adams beard. I think the only time he left the state was to go on a hunting trip. I don't think he ever understood why I moved to the city and never looked back.

When my youngest sister was born, my dad nicknamed her "Rocky". He loved the song "Rocky Top" - and did a little Jed Clampett stomp to it at my other sister's wedding reception. When Dad died, my mom decided to spread some of his ashes back in the woods where he loved to hunt - and my sister made a CD of some of his favorite songs, including "Rocky Top". So on Father's Day 2009, we trekked back in the woods (I know Dad was laughing at me), and scattered some of Dad's ashes.

I took some of Dad's ashes home with me that day - not completely comfortable with them, but not comfortable not taking them either. After a couple of months, Gus and I started planning a short vacation in Gatlinburg and suddenly I knew what I wanted to do with my portion of Dad's ashes.

I researched Rocky Top and even considered attempting to hike there. But 14 miles? Up a mountain? I said, "Dad, as much as I'd like to take you to Rocky Top - this city girl doesn't hike, doesn't camp, and doesn't vacation without indoor plumbing, air-conditioning, and a nearby restaurant". I know he would've laughed at that - because I've never made any apologies for being a girly-girl.

With Rocky Top out of my reach, Cade's Cove was my second choice. Unfortunately, we were there in October, and there had been snow, so some of the roads were closed. The other roads were so congested with traffic that the usual 1 hour drive would have taken 2 hours - and the trip around the loop would have taken an additional 2 hours. We decided Cade's Cove probably wasn't a good idea. But I had another place in mind - so off we went...

Of course, it had rained the night before, and it was cold - I was in a sweatshirt and tennis shoes hiking through the cold, wet woods with my Dad's ashes in a ziploc bag in my pocket. A couple of times, I thought I heard Dad chanting "city girl, city girl", LOL. Gus thought we were lost, Lulu was complaining about being cold and getting muddy - I think Buddy was the only one who was really groovin' on the experience. I had to laugh because I know, without a doubt, Dad was laughing his ass off at us. But it was worth it - he would've loved living in a place like this.

Now - the second part of the story...

You know how some people seem to be friends with everyone? They always have someone calling or texting them - someone to "do lunch" with - someone who is their "best" friend.

I'm not one of those people.

I tend to distance myself from people - making a conscious choice to keep them at arms-length. Sometimes, it's not intentional - at least not on a level of which I'm aware. I suspect it stems from my childhood and the relationships that filled my life at that time.

I think it would be accurate to say that the number of people I consider friends is probably a lot less than other women my age. One of the people I proudly call friend is a woman I've never met. I've known Tawny for several years - we met online. She has proven over and over again that she is a true Southern lady.

My family and I were supposed to meet Tawny and her husband during that October Gatlinburg trip. Unfortunately, family obligations kept them from making the trip. But they had another trip planned for May 2010 - and they were planning to hike to the top of Rocky Top!

On May 24, my cellphone rang - and when I looked to see who was calling, I saw Tawny's name. Immediately my eyes filled with tears because I just knew she was calling about Dad. Sure enough - she was phoning me from the top of Rocky Top to tell me how beautiful it was and that she had just scattered Dad's ashes.

How do you find the words to thank someone for doing something like this? Especially someone who has never met you - and didn't know your dad? A simple "thank you" seems so inadequate.

It's people like Tawny who restore one's faith in mankind. In a world full of violence and hatred and self-serving people, there are still some people who do things for others. And they do these things without any expectation of recompense - without asking "what's in it for me?" - without ulterior motives.

So, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you, Tawny. My dad is surely doing the Jed Clampett stomp to the tune of "Rocky Top".