Of Ashes And Lollapaloozers

Of Ashes And Lollapaloozers

My seven-year-old is growing impatient. He tugs at my arm. He points. There are waves, and they're right there. But as we stand here, barefooted at ocean's edge, I tell him he must wait.

"Not yet," I say.

On this day on a Carteret County beach we are here for a different reason. Nearly two years ago, I delivered the eulogy at my father's memorial service. He'd lived his life, I said, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said we should all live. In the company of a few, dear friends. In service. In good cheer. And filled with the love of all things simple and beautiful.

On this last point I spoke of Dad's great love for the coast. It was more than just love, I said. It was a part of who he was. I told those in attendance that day that Dad's ashes would find as their final resting place a spot somewhere along North Carolina's Crystal Coast.

He brought us to this coast when we were young. Among my happiest childhood memories are the summer weeks we spent together at Emerald Isle. In the mornings of those times Dad would return from his early walks and amaze us all with the collection of sharks' teeth he'd always find along the way. In the evenings of those times we'd feast on seafood. And in the days, those glorious days, we'd play in the lollapaloozers. 

I've never known why Dad had given the waves this name. He could have heard it somewhere long before us, or, for all I know, he could have made it up. I just know that, for as long as I can remember, that's what the waves have been called. When I was too young to wade in on my own, he'd carry me, and together we'd float over the lollapaloozers just before they broke. When I was a little older, he'd hold my hand, and together we'd jump them. Then came those times when on my own I could go, and he'd watch from the shore as I would catch the lollapaloozers with raft or boogie board.  

And then, too quickly, came this time. 

There are nine of us here now, standing together. My wife and three children. My two brothers and their wives. 

Trip, the oldest Durham boy, holds Dad carefully in his hands. We watch silently as he leans over and releases Dad to the sea. Amidst our good-byes, Dad drifts gently away.

I wonder what we do next, and there is a tug on my arm.

"Daddy, now?" my seven-year-old pleads. 

I can do nothing but smile. 

It is Fathers' Day. It is the first day of summer. In this his favorite place, Dad is here.

And the lollapaloozers await. 

"Sure thing, buddy. Let's go."