I just got back from Uncle Dick’s funeral service out in Cortez, Colorado. I didn’t know Dick alive, but I got to know him pretty well during his memorial service, and then later staying at his house while Cheryl’s mother tied up some of his personal affairs.
From all traces Dick was an authentic man’s man; he grew wheat and baled hay; drove a tractor and built his own house from the ground up; he always gave of himself freely and fought for the underdog; he removed, rebuilt and replaced countless engines and loved American classic cars; was hardcore salt of the earth and, all in all, a very complex and interesting guy.
The service tugged at my heart. Especially when the Navaho principal of the junior high Dick taught at told a story about the wild screaming fights they had and their hard won friendship. He also remembered the moment he realised this difficult white bastard was commuting four hours a day across the desert to work at the school because they needed teachers and he liked his students.
Later, I overheard the impossible to ignore details of his journey toward death, the final revolt of his lungs.
Dick’s first wife was there, but his ninth wife wasn’t. Number Nine had instructed the doctors to discontinue Dick’s medical attention during the initial, final stages of the end. Margie ordered the essential procedure, draining his lungs, allowing him to breath again for another few weeks. Meanwhile, Number Nine had manipulated a dying man’s signature onto all the crucial documents. When Dick came out of his coma and heard the sordid details, he told his sister he wished he hadn’t been so angry as a young man. Then he divorced her.
Early in the morning of the last day in Cortez, I saw Dick’s ghost. I followed him outside as he walked toward the stable. His horse was saddled and ready to ride. He reached into the pocket of his leather vest and took out a pack of Marlboro Reds.
"I checked the compression in that new car of yours."
Squinting Clint Eastwood, hacking slightly, he lit one up.
"It was down past fifty in five of eight cylinders. You bought the paint."
"But it had a killer stereo!" I whined. "It’s a classic. I’ll double my money on ebay."