The dead have no use for us.
All we are are just a bunch of noisy, yammering bipeds. I came to this conclusion upon a trip to visit my dad’s grave. My dad was cremated so I’m not even sure if ‘grave’ is the right word. But he’s in the ground in a cemetery so I guess it is.
Forest Lawn is in Burbank, California, right behind Warner Brothers Studios. I don’t know why’d you want to spend eternity in Burbank, but that was his final wish (along with, please don’t let me die, I’m sure). After my older sister asked him what he’d like us to do with his ashes, expecting him to say ‘spread me out at sea’, he told us, “Somewhere by grandma, near a nice little tree.”
My dad is up the road from his mother and under a sweeping oak. The cemetery is a vibrant carpet of green grass with a cute white chapel at the bottom of a rolling hill. There’s no denying its serenity.
The sprawl of the San Fernando Valley is in the distance and seems like another world. Millions of people sleeping in beds and driving in cars, wrapped up in a life that is equal parts limitless and fleeting. All the fucking going on. And fucking over. Just a giant fuckfest. While all these dead people sleep.
The living are still going about it all wrong.
I got out of my Volvo and found my dad. They’re still in the process of creating the grave tablet so for now there’s nothing with his name on it to look at. All the other headstones are for people who’ve died a long time ago.
Not one year ago to the day.
I wondered who visits them? What do they say?
I wondered what I’m supposed to say.
I sat on the curb and tried not to look awkward, which is basically impossible in a cemetery. I stared at my feet and made sure to keep my new white high-tops out of the dirt. When the groundskeepers drove by in their jeeps, I didn’t know if I was supposed to wave or not. I felt silly worrying about my new white high-tops. Why do I even own a pair of white high tops? I walk too much for that.
There was a funeral procession making their way up the road. I waited for them to pass. A series of cars with the headlights on in the day. Shining for what? It’s all part of the business of burying the dead. The following of rituals so we can distract ourselves from what we’re really doing. With the solemn parade passed I returned to my own business.
I wanted him to know I cared. That I remembered. I came.
I began to talk. I started with work. I told him about the show I work on. I told him that I missed him, then I laughed out loud about talking out loud. Then I told him about Monkee, my cat. He was a veterinarian and cats were a soft spot for him. I told him how much I loved Monkee, and that sometimes I wish I could tell him about Monkee on the phone, because I forget he’s gone. And because that cat means so much to me. I got Monkee at a time I was losing control and adrift in a kind of self-loathing leaking raft and that little four-legged furball sorta brought me into port. That’s how I explained it.
We’re buddies… That little furball and me. He looks after me as much as I do him. Is it weird to think that a little bit of my dad lives in that cat? Or more like sometimes when I look at that ornery feline asshole I see him with my dad’s eyes.
How do you visit a grave and not think about the soul?
I mean: is he in that little demarcation of terra firma? Was he listening? Was some piece of his ear still working? Some speck of cochlea tingling?
Were we chit chatting in any way whatsoever?
If I were a free-floating soul, I wouldn’t hang out in Burbank. Although, I hear they’re getting a Shake Shack soon. No, wait, that’s Glendale. The whole Valley terrifies me. I want no part of it, living or dead. His last years were spent on cruise ships and in fine dinning halls…
I thought I was going to leave around 10 o’clock and still found myself there twenty minutes later. Then it was an hour later. The morning had slowly grown stubble and was becoming afternoon. I had nothing more to talk about. I just hung out and counted the leaves.
There was a nagging thought pin-balling through my brain. I didn’t really like the idea that maybe he’d get the impression he had to stick around Burbank. Like, he felt responsible to be here if I came back. I tried to explain that I can feel him everywhere. I don’t need to be here to see him.
He should really fly, now’s the time for it. I let him know it. But I still will come. I just won’t come for you, I’ll come for me.
I told him, “It is a nice little tree.”