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 Texas : Features : Columns : "The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything"

Poor Fatherless Child

by Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
You know I write a little bit. I do it because it is fun. I do it to clarify my thoughts and feelings. I do it to let off steam. I am not sure why I do it, but most of the time I like it. This week, yesterday it was, though it feels like one hundred years ago now, I had to write something. Just a very few words and you would have thought it wouldn't have been so hard. I had to write my father's obituary.
Stanley D. Bussey
Mr. Stanley D. Bussey
If you had asked me sometime before last Saturday what I might have written, hypothetically, I am sure that I could have come up with something passable, something concise and clear which might have let you know who my father was. But faced with doing it for real, his real obituary, all I could think to write was, "I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you so much, I love you dearly.

What I ended up writing was the bare minimum of biographic information. Born here, studied here, worked here. I did not write that even as a grown woman I considered him to be the ultimate authority on almost any subject ("almost?" he asks with a cocked eyebrow.). I did not write about his hands and the tenderness and sorrow I felt as I saw them get thinner and older. I did not tell how tall and handsome he was or how wickedly funny or how blue his eyes were. I did not write about the volumes he could convey with his eyebrows. I didn't tell about how he loved sweets - cookies, cake, marshmallow circus peanuts.

An obituary costs you almost $5.00 per five or six word line. That adds up quick, and while I don't want to seem cheap, while in theory I don't care and would have loved to write a true picture of the man we all admired and adored, $5.00 per short line makes you try to choose your words. I just chose the wrong ones. I told about things that he was proud of, or more likely the things that we were proud of, without giving any clue about the man that he was.

But I guess that it doesn't matter. I guess if you knew Stanley D. Bussey the obituary doesn't matter and if you didn't know him there is no way that I could show who he was in those few lines. Besides, he is my Dad, and you have your own, or had your own, so you can probably imagine what I wanted to say.

On Thursday my father and mother went to a steel drum concert at OU and had a wonderful time. The kids all got to see him and they said that he was very happy and really enjoyed the concert. I was glad to hear that he'd been feeling well and that they all had so much fun. I didn't go because I'd worked that day. On Friday as I was driving home I thought, "I've got to go over and see Dad. I haven't seen him since we got back from our trip." And then I thought, "Oh, I'm very tired. There's plenty of time. I'll see him next week sometime."

Now it is next week and I will see him this evening. I don't want to see him though, I feel weak and sick when I think about it. I know that I won't be seeing him really. I am confident that my father is free now, that his body is young and strong again, that his lungs are clear and that he is with the family and friends who died before him. I believe it and know it, really. But thinking of seeing his face tonight - without him in it - is almost too much for me to think about.

Tasks. Call these people. Meet Mary to pick up the food. Don't forget cups, coffee carafe, napkins. Iron the boys' dress shirts. Remember to take tissues. Ask Mom if she is remembering to eat - every five minutes or so. Email a picture to the funeral home. Tasks. I have had a lot to do and I am glad. The girls wondered if they should reschedule their final exams and I told them not to do it. I asked them, "Can you think what Grandpa would say about that? He would clasp his hands under his chin and bat his eyelashes and say, 'Oh, Professor, my poor old Grandpa has died and I am too overcome to take my finals. May I just have an A please?'" I have a commitment on Friday and thought about cancelling, but imagined him wiping an imaginary tear from each eye and saying, "Oh dear! I am a poor fatherless child and too grief stricken to honor my commitments." He wouldn't have gone for any of that nonsense.

Every time I stop, Every time I finish a job, then there it is. My father is gone and there won't be a chance to see him again for a while. Not here, and certainly not tonight or tomorrow at the funeral, but somewhere, someday. And I will be very glad. See ya Dap.
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
"The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything" - June 15, 2006 Column
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