My maternal grandfather was Henry Edward Fountain, although he always said his name was Edward Henry. It didn’t really matter because he was always referred to as “Ed.”
Grandpop was a boat builder (civilian) for the Coast Guard. He retired in 1962 at age 54 with a great pension. He then became, in his own words, a “professional loafer.”
Grandpop loved the water, especially the Chesapeake Bay. He took his boat, the one he built himself, out on the water, fishing and crabbing, every chance he could. I loved going with him, especially when we went crabbing.
So, it wasn’t so far-fetched of an idea that after all of the years of being out on the Bay, that Grandpop thought he should give something back. He decided that after he died, he wanted to become fish food. Maybe he spent too much time in the sun or read too many “Save the Bay” bumper stickers. I don’t know. But that was his wish, nevertheless.
Well, Grandpop died in January of 1991 and was cremated. His two daughters, my mother and my Aunt Jackie, were in their 50’s at this time. It was going to be their “job” to give Grandpop his dying wish.
Here, I must interject that my mother and my aunt are two very different personalities. My aunt has a very hard time making up her mind. She wants her decisions to be just right, so she won’t have any regrets later. (She once got a book on how to make decisions. I asked her how she liked it and she told me she couldn’t decide whether to read it or not!!) My mother is more impulsive. She wants to get it done NOW, and move on to the next thing before she has to think about it. Also, Mom is a lot like my grandfather while my aunt is more like my grandmother.
So, back to the story…
Mom and Aunt Jackie decided to drive, with Grandpop’s ashes, over to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, hoping to find “just the right spot” on the shore. In order to get to Eastern Shore, they had to drive over the Bay Bridge and pay a toll, both coming and going. Now, remember, this is January. It’s cold, windy and there aren’t a lot of “lovely spots” near the Bay at this time of year. Of course, they couldn’t decide. So, back over the bridge they go. Still couldn’t decide…so, back across the bridge. Then, back again. I guess by this time, my mother had had enough. They decided they would go to Sandy Point State Park. (I’m sure the park was closed in January so they didn’t have to pay the entrance fee, thank goodness!)
So, there they got out of the car, Aunt Jackie grasping the urn…holding on one last time. It was bitter cold and windy on this January day. It seemed fitting somehow.
The two women huddled together for warmth. Mom tied her scarf a little tighter. They slowly fumbled across the sand and out onto some large rocks. This was their final farewell to their Dad. A solemn time.
It was decided that Aunt Jackie would open the urn and the two of them would hold onto it together, raising the ashes and watch them fly off into the Chesapeake Bay, into the wind and waves. They probably pictured Grandpop waving goodbye from his little boat…but wait…Aunt Jackie can’t get the lid off. “Give it to me, Jackie,” Mom said impulsively. Mom had had enough. She wanted to go home and take a nap!
So, Mom struggled with the lid. She couldn’t get it off either! She banged the urn on the rocks like she used to bang the lid of the peanut butter jar to get it open. Finally…it came off!
These two sisters looked at each other with a final farewell in their misty eyes. Mom gently placed her hand over her sister’s and the two of them, in complete synchronization, raised the urn up high in the sky and jerked their arms to release the ashes out over the wide expanse of the Chesapeake Bay. However…these two daughters of this man, who spent his life boating on the Bay, failed to notice the direction of the wind…and in the very same instance they both, in complete synchronization, discovered it, it was too late. The wind spewed the ashes into their misty eyes, in their hair, over their clothes, in Mom’s teeth.
Coughing and spewing, they managed to brush themselves off and tried desperately to regain some kind of composure. Mom turned to try hurriedly to get back to the warmth of the car. “This whole experience was for the birds!” I’m sure my mother thought to herself.
Aunt Jackie quickly called, “Rosalie, shouldn’t we say something?”
“You say what the hell you want, Jackie. I’m going back in the car,” said Grandpop…I mean, Mom.
gayle neuhaus said:
Anne, What a great story. I laughed until i cried. Bet your grandfather laughed also.
In April, ’93, I went with Mom down to Florida to visit with Nana & Charlie. She told the whole story to Nana for the first time at a bayside restaurant. Charlie, Wilbur and Nellie were there but I think this was before Aunt Jackie & Jack had come down to stay. I honestly never saw Nana happier in my life than when Mom told her that story! She had practically lost her own composure with laughter. She added at the end of it that, “Ed probably would have complained about the cost of the urn!”.
Heather Roelker said:
So wonderful that such a sad time could be turned in to a funny memory. I’m sure grandpop had something to do with. Thanks for sharing…the laugh was great!