I came home for a weekend pass from my military base. I found out that my had passed away. My sister, Jean, explained that she spoke with the county Sheriff’s Office. Evidently, the cooker hood stove that Dad used to heat the old house got too hot and exploded, causing a fire in the front room. The door to his bedroom was about ten feet from the stove. When the stove came on, it woke up Dad. She must have gotten up immediately and tried to run to the back door of the kitchen to escape the scorching heat. He would have had to go through the stove in his room to get to the kitchen. The sheriff’s deputy told Jean that the burning embers were probably scattered throughout the living room and the billowing smoke obstructing the kitchen’s visibility. The back door was the only way Dad had to get out of the house, as the front door was sealed due to the cold winter. The smoke caught up with him when he fell to the kitchen floor and suffocated to death. Parts of his body suffered second degree burns.
On Monday night I attended Daddy’s wake at the North High Street funeral home in Columbus, Ohio. I approached the coffin apprehensively and looked at Daddy’s rigid body. Nervous anxiety shook me. I directed my attention to the surroundings. I touched and examined the materials in the coffin.
“Crepe,” I told myself. “I think this is called a crepe.” I was ashamed of myself. “What a coward I am,” I thought. “I have to face this head-on.”
I stopped my exam and looked directly at Daddy’s lifeless body. Dad looked out of place lying in such sacred ornaments. His character was loud, harsh, and harsh. Now he was quiet and still. This was probably the first time he ever wore a new suit tie and all. Dad’s lips were pursed, I guessed it was because he had no false teeth in his mouth. They probably couldn’t find his teeth as he only used them on special occasions. Maybe they were burned in the house fire. Too bad, dad missed the perfect occasion to wear his dentures. What really surprised me was Dad’s skin: his hands and face were a strange, tarnished color.
I felt the presence of the undertaker standing on my right side. He seemed eager to talk to me, but not wanting to disturb my time with Dad, he waited patiently. When I recognized him with a look, he came closer. He noticed my puzzled look.
“Mr. Jackson, we are so sorry.”
“As you can see, your father seems to be a bit, how should I put it, dirty.”
“Yes, I was wondering about that.”
“Well, we apologize, but we couldn’t cleanse your father better than this. His skin had such deep cracks and some burns. The smoke and soot from the fire was embedded deep into his skin. We scrubbed it the best we could. We could. “
“That is interesting.” Said. “I remember looking at those hands when I was a kid. He was a mechanic, you know, among other things. And all that work in the garage and outdoors as a farmer made them quite twisted. He was never able to remove the grease and grime for full. of those callused hands. “
“Mr. Jackson, I will apologize now and allow you to spend some time with your father.”
Spend some time with my father, I thought. “Wouldn’t it have been nice?”
I reached out and touched his cold hand, a kind of substitute for the handshake for the last time. Not wanting anyone to hear me, I whispered, “You know, Dad, Jean, and Mom told me last night that you became a Christian not long ago, maybe a year or so. They said something about how you got to the eleventh hour. Sure, but I guess that means you changed your ways just in time, before you died. Well, you’re safe now, you won’t go to hell I guess. But judging from your sooty appearance and burns, it seems like you barely you escaped from the flames of hell. ” I laughed a little. I think he would have done it too.