In our family, Mom was the controller, dad the comedian. My mother's unfiltered comments like, "…those pants DO make you look fat," to my father's, "…nice pants, we're out of Smirnoff," made them, as a couple, a great balance of salty and sweet.
After my father died, a friend said, "If you didn't like Bob Munn, you didn't like anybody because he was the nicest guy to have a vodka on the rocks with." My mother's honesty left her friendless, but her generosity had her bed surrounded by thanks.
My folks did not want to be buried, they wanted to be cremated. Actually, that's not quite true, my mother wanted to be cremated, my father wanted to be planted. (He was a gardener.) At the age of 5 he had been in a horrific car fire so it was no wonder he did not want to be "ashed," as he called it. My mother, sympathetic to his memory, but practical, decided on cremation because toward the end of their lives, he wanted what she wanted and cremation was cheaper.
Their ashes came in two little black cardboard containers the size of a five pound bag of sugar, weighed about the same too. The presence of the little black boxes in my home didn't upset me, but where to store them became a puzzlement. Where do you display the ashes of the departed? I wasn't about to buy a couple of matching urns at Target, spoon them in and display them with my rooster plate collection, or among my husband's assortment of beer steins. So, we lovingly placed them in the old Kenmore freezer in the basement. (My parents were loyal Sear's customers.)
It wasn't like they were stacked next to the frozen peas and burger on sale from BJ's; the freezer hadn't worked in years. My husband had a woodshop in the basement and every once in a while I'd ask him how Mom and Dad were doing and he'd share how he'd talk to my father while glue dried. (And I thought he only talked to himself.) He never did mention if dad talked back.
When we had Thanksgiving at our house that year the family gathered around the table, and as is the custom, (which the kids dislike as much as turnips), we each recited what we were thankful for. My sister-in-law raised her glass of wine, to toast and make mention of, the dear departed souls who were unable to join us. When she mentioned my parents' names, I interrupted.
"Oh, but they are here."
My husband cleared his throat and looked at me. "You're not bringing them to the table are you?" Some seated at the kids table, (grown kids with kids of their own), looked mortified. They knew where Nana and Pop were, as did my sister-in-law.
"Let's take the toast to them," she said.
I pulled open the door. On the wire shelves the two small black boxes rested as the only contents of the Kenmore crypt. Sighs of final understanding rose above the members of the crowd who initially had no idea why we had gathered with our glasses of wine in the cellar.
"To Mom and Dad," I said.
"To Nana and Pop," one of my daughters said.
"To Bob and Dot Munn," my sister-in-law added as we tipped our glasses.
"Okay," I said, "our Thanksgiving meal is getting cold and the dogs are alone upstairs with all the food; it's time to eat."
As the crowd stumbled back up the stairs, Chris, our 'always' late arriving nephew was coming down the stairs.
"What's going on?" He said.
"We just toasted my mother and father, they're in the freezer." We paraded past him on the way back up.
"This family will find any excuse to make a toast," he said.
Even without Mom's gravy and Dad's stuffing we had a great belt-busting meal that year. They would have really enjoyed the traditional sustenance and fun family chaos of the day.
The following spring we took Mom and Dad for one last boat ride out to Bell 8 in Long Island Sound, just off the mouth of the Connecticut River. As an exclamation point to their final interment, I christened the waters with a bottle of Smirnoff. My father would have loved that. And my mother? She would have loved it too. The few really important things they always agreed on, gravy, stuffing and Vodka. Enough said.