Monday, March 21, 2011

My Dad's First Headstone.

It was a Saturday morning about 10 years ago. I arrived at my parent’s house. My mom was home, but my dad was out. She was in the kitchen making some croquettes (a delicious Dutch treat). I walked into the kitchen, greeted her and asked her where dad was. She smiled and said, “Picking up his headstone.”

The confused look on my face prompted her to explain, which she reluctantly did. She told me that one of her co-worker’s daughters had died and they didn’t have enough money to take care of all of the expenses. So being that my mom and dad had a couple of plots at Oakdale Memorial in Glendora, my parents thought it would be a good idea to donate one of them to her co-worker.

Apparently at Oakdale Memorial (I don’t know if all graveyards do this) they store the prepurchased headstones on the prepurchased plots. So my parents headstones were already there, with their dates of birth etched into them. Since my dad’s headstone had a type-o (Or is it an etch-o?), they decided to remove his headstone and use his plot. It was a very nice gesture by my parents, and my mom’s humility made her rather uncomfortable talking about it. But it still didn’t quite explain why he was picking up his headstone.

So she explained further that the error on my dad’s headstone was fixed, but since they could no longer store it on the original plot, they had no place to put it. You would think they would have had some sort of storage area for them, but apparently they didn’t. That or my dad was too frugal to pay for storage. So they called my dad and asked him to pick it up. After my mom explained all of that, an evil thought popped into my head. What if my dad got into a car accident and died? Talk about being prepared. I mentioned it to my mom, and our sick minds started laughing. It was horrible, yet funny at the same time.

When my dad arrived home, he saw that my car was there and recruited me to help him move his headstone into the garage. We went to the back of his Explorer and opened up the back lift gate. There, lying on the carpet was the newly edited headstone that read “Anthony M. Jansen, April 6, 1936 to ___________.” It was a rather haunting site.

“Can you get the dolly?” my dad asked. I did just that and when I got back to the Explorer, we lifted the heavy headstone onto the dolly. We then proceeded to roll the dolly, with headstone in tack, to the back entrance of the garage.

While rolling the dolly, I mentioned to my dad, “This has got to be one of the most morbid things I have ever done in my life.”

Annoyed my dad replied “Your mom and her fucking ideas!” This reply said it all. He loved my mom, but sometimes her ideas would put him in odd situations, and this one topped them all. When we got into the garage, my dad pulled out a piece of cardboard. We place the headstone on the cardboard, and wrapped it up. We then placed it under his work bench for safe keeping. I felt it needed a little more before we placed it in its final resting spot, like a benediction and a sprinkling of holy water. Maybe even a serenading with a Gregorian Chant during this whole process would have been appropriate, but much to my dismay, none of these things happened.

Over the years I and my brothers would mess with my dad about the headstone, but he didn’t really care that his mortality was in the garage. It didn’t seem to faze him. Sadly, when my father actually did pass, we were not able to use this headstone. My parents purchased two more plots at Forest Lawn, and Forest Lawn requires a special type of stone for their markers. Apparently their soil can only use a certain type. I have my own opinions about that, but I’ll leave that be, because quite frankly, aside from that, Forest Lawn was and is spectacular. They are a class act.

The end result is we still have a headstone with my father’s name and birth date on it in the garage at my parent’s house. So, does anybody need a headstone?

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