“You were a good bloke poppa”
“See ya dad. We enjoyed having you with us for fifty years”
With those simple words from niece and son, my brother and I stumbled towards the bank while the others looked on.
I had the ashes, I would go first. Funny how, even after fifty years, the older brother still assumes the elder role. I had removed the gaffer tape and cover. The auxiliary cord had not been necessary. With one foot on the branch of the weeping willow and the other on a protruding root I straddled the water and upended the cask.
I’d watched too many movies. I’d expected a mist of fine ash to drift silently on the breeze and gently drift into the distance on the water’s surface as a grey sheen – the last tribute to a loved man.
Instead, at first a fine sprinkle of solid grey material trickled through the four inch opening quickly followed by a heavier rain of rougher matter . The fine sprinkle either floated off or became invisible as it settled on the river floor, but the larger stuff seemed to make a tinkling sound as they escaped the cask and hit the water – like the sound sea shells make when you step on them; or when water ebbs and flows over them on the shore. They went straight to the bottom.
This would have been okay if we were in deeper water, but here the sandy white river-bed was only six inches below the surface. They sank and settled in a pile, a little mountain, and stared back at me. My father’s bones.
Without revealing my alarm, my distress, I handed the box to my brother for his turn. He continued, while I gently suggested that he distribute dad a little more widely. I feared that we might freak out the local fishermen if they arrived for their Sunday fish, only to discover a pile of bones at their feet.
It was weird.
Each of the grandchildren had a turn and then the box was empty. I stood and stared.
I felt cheated and empty. It seemed like a flat ending to eighty two years of life. Me standing there staring, and him staring back at me. The only consolation was that I knew exactly where my father’s bones lay. Home at last.
I sighed, mumbled something incoherent to my brother and walked back to the Peugeot. In five minutes we were all gone – Aunty to the hinterland and home; my brother to his daughter’s home-made shelter on her lush and beautiful electricity free plot of land hidden behind towering Mt Warning; my car load began the long road home. Three hours of silence. Wardell to West End.