Visiting Dad’s Grave

Did we want to put anything else on the stone, for either of them? I don’t think anyone ever asked us 10.5 years earlier.

My father died 11 years ago today, and I was going to show you pictures of the gravesite, but in some home construction project, we’ve tidied up and I can’t find them. Maybe in six months, they will turn up.

In truth, those were pictures of my mother’s burial back in February that I wanted to show. Since my father died, I’ve been to his gravesite only twice since, before my mother’s internment.

When I’d go down to Charlotte, NC to visit my mom and sister, we’d talk about going. But it wasn’t just a hop in the car across town, it was nearly an hour away, at the Salisbury National Cemetery Annex, VA Section 8, grave 358. And once we got there, we’d tend to stick around for a while.

In any case, for a marker of such a relatively recent vintage, my father’s headstone seemed to have more than its share of wear and discoloration. At mom’s burial, the guy in charge of the cemetery told us that there would be a new stone prepared. On one side would be my father’s information, including his military service unit, and on the other side would be my mom’s info. Did we want to put anything else on the stone, for either of them? I don’t think anyone ever asked us 10.5 years earlier.

For my father’s side, it had to be short, for space considerations. We, surprisingly quickly, settled on “Renaissance Man” for him. He was a singer, guitarist, painter, writer, flower arranger, civil rights leader, church leader, (failed) businessperson, and general all-around force of nature.

For my mother’s side, we agreed to “The Wind Beneath Our Wings”, based on the related song my sister Leslie sang at both my father’s funeral (to my mom) and my mother’s.

The cemetery folks sent me a survey, asking how well they did, how the facility looked, et al. I must say that it was all great.

The Les Green 45s collection

There was also a country version by someone performing Who Drank My Beer While I Was In The Rear.

Some months back I was listening to a TIME-LIFE collection of songs from the 1950s. One of the tracks was The Impalas – Sorry (I ran all the way home)- (listen) And it reminded me of my father.

I remember his LP collection. It was full of mostly serious artists such as Wes Montgomery, Enoch Light, Harry Belafonte, Miriam Makeba, Leadbelly, Pete Seeger, plus some other folk artists, primarily from the early 1960s.

But his singles collection, which probably predated his albums by a half-decade or so, were filled with sillier fare:

Listen to The Ivy Three – Yogi; and here are the lyrics of the song performed by three dudes from Columbia University.
Listen to The Four Tophatters – 45 Men in a Telephone Booth; I bought a compilation CD of Cadence Records once primarily for this song.
Listen to The Playmates – Beep Beep (The Little Nash Rambler). My sister Leslie and I STILL know most of the words.
Listen to the Everly Brothers – Bird Dog. (This version is a demo of the actual recording, but a pretty close approximation.) It was backed with the lovely Devoted To You (listen).

There was a country single by the group called Carlisles: Nine Have Tried (and Nine Have Died), with Bargain Day, Half Off, the lyrics of which can be found here.

There was also a country version by someone performing Who Drank My Beer While I Was In The Rear. I can’t find out who did it, though Dave Bartholomew (listen) performed a bluesier version.

My sister Leslie recalls The Ventures – Walk Don’t Run, in the collection, which I don’t. The records themselves are long lost to the ages.

Anyway, it’s almost the 12th anniversary of my father’s death, and thinking about him and music was therapeutic.