Yesterday, today, and tomorrow I am back at The Ranch. The focus of the these days is TB The Elder.
That is an odd sentence to write, especially for a man that had been gone for over two months now who is now - frankly - in a small box at my sister's house. But there are still outstanding funeral arrangements that have to be made: songs to be selected, pictures to be picked out, and a speech to be written. All of this was going to be done last month of course, but then The Fire happened and the ability to get here was halted.
I still had two days of unused bereavement. Far better, I thought, to shorten my time, remove any sort of work distractions, and just come up here and work specifically on these things.
Song selection, I think, will be the easiest. My father - my parents, really - enjoyed The Oak Ridge Boys and The Statler Brothers (we grew up with a lot of their music), so that part should be relatively simple. Add in an Alan Jackson hymn, and that should cover it. No more than 10 minutes worth of music.
The pictures - in this case, lots of real, physical pictures - should take somewhat longer. I have already made my categories sub-dividing his life into stages. I believe the funeral home said five seconds a picture; by my math that divides into somewhere between 54 and 60 pictures. At least 40 of those will be the pre-electronic physical presentation ones. Everything will need to be pulled out, inventoried and numbered (so it can be put back, of course) and then taken down to The Outdoorsman so he can scan them.
The speech - I have written funeral orations for my material grandparents and presented them (I am not a lot of things, but I am a decent speechwriter and public speaker). But never have I had to write this sort of speech before - not just about someone, but about my relationship with someone in a way that no-one else would have ever experienced, not even my sister (in the same way, at least). The thought of compressing 50+ years of a relationship into something like a 5-10 minute speech is daunting: What do I include? What do I leave out? What do I make relevant?
To be fair, this has been in the back of my mind since 21 July, the day after TB The Elder passed. I knew I would be the one to give the speech (in my family, this is the way it works). And I want to give a good speech - after all, in a meaningful way this is literally the last gift I can give to my father.
The one thing all of this does - and perhaps this is the underlying reason why I choose to come out here for shorter period of time, isolated and alone - is emphasize the fact that things have changed and are changing, somewhat more than I believe them to be. For that reason, I need to acknowledge that this is happening and give myself the gift - and it is a gift - of simply being able to focus or not focus, pick and review or simply remember, without the sideshow of the transient things I so often confuse as "life" with the things that ultimately do matter.