Twenty-four years ago today my Dad died. I still miss him. I wrote this piece shortly after his funeral.
When my father bought the Oldsmobile it came with a cassette tape of assorted songs by popular artists– a demo for the stereo. Side one began with the “Oldsmobile Jingle”– a stirring orchestral sweep followed by a joyous tenor exclaiming, “There is a special feeling in an Oldsmobile…” Hokey as this sounds, it was quite rousing if you listened to it at top volume (and top speed.) At our wedding, my husband and I danced the first waltz to a little-known Neil Diamond song from the Oldsmobile tape. I’ve never come across that song anywhere else.
The Oldsmobile was a BIG car. Bigger, even than it’s predecessor, a green-grey Buick I nicknamed the “tank.” If I had to park downtown I would take Mom’s Tempo, or later my own beater that Dad and I split the cost for, fifty-fifty.
Sometimes I would meet Dad driving downtown on his way to or from a meeting. He would honk and wave from behind the wheel of that car that went on forever.
Dad bought Lotto 649 tickets religiously. He used the same number every week, because “it had to come up eventually.” The number consisted of the birthdays of each of his three daughters. He was going to buy us each a new car when he won the big one.
When my father died there was still one Lotto ticket that hadn’t been drawn, that he had bought just before going to the hospital.
That morning he had driven the Oldsmobile downtown and parked quite a distance from his meeting. Afterwards, on the long walk back, he had realized, perhaps for the first time, how weak the cancer had made him. He became frightened, gasping for breath, afraid that he wouldn’t make it to the car. A hundred mile journey in a few city blocks, but he made it, and he drove the Oldsmobile home and asked my mother to drive him to the hospital. They took the Tempo.
In the surreal haze of the first few hours of mourning, it became very important to us to find my father’s last Lotto ticket. Dresser, wallet, and nightstand eliminated, I was sent to check the glove compartment of the Oldsmobile. The ticket was there. After I found it, I sat there a while, surrounded by maroon velour and the smell of my father.
My mother refused to ride in the funeral-parlour limousine. The six of us– Mom, her three daughters and two sons-in-law– drove ourselves to church in the Oldsmobile.
The draw was after the funeral. We didn’t win. I thought I should start buying Lotto tickets with Dad’s number, but I never have.