The Best Part

They say there's a place where dreams have all gone
They never said where, but I think I know
Its miles through the night just over the dawn
On the road that will take me home

" I talked to Dennis for about an hour last night," my daughter says, "and we both agreed that often, Dad was the voice of reason."
    I smile from the passenger seat of her red Civic. When the various illnesses that plagued my husband rose to the surface, he could be anything BUT reasonable, but this is something I shielded my children from for two decades. I wanted them to see their father for his heart.

"It wasn't so much that he would say anything, " Bonnie continues, "it was just that he was there. Listening to us. Solid. Big. Like he had all the time in the world just to listen." She sighs. "I'd walk  in the house and he'd say, 'There she is! There's my girl and her beautiful smile!' and it was like nothing else mattered. Everything would be okay. You know?"

I know. While I have not missed the various nursing duties or the back breaking labor that fell on my shoulders during Ron's last years, I have everyday missed his solid presence. I miss coming home from school each day and telling him about my high school students and their struggles to learn English, the interesting characters I see on my train ride, or the latest idea I have for a story.
"The boys and I realize," she says as she makes a right turn into the drive, "that he wasn't always that calm. That when we were there it was different than when it was just you. We know there was a lot of..." she searches for a word,"...disquiet."

And when I pass by, don't lead me astray don't try and stop me, don't stand in my way
I'm bound for the hills where the cool waters flow
On the road that will take me home

I nod as we drive up the gentle slope of Lawncroft Cemetery. The bells of the carillon--a sound my husband loved--are playing.  I think back to a conversation I had with my oldest son, Dennis, years ago when Ron was in a crisis center.
"We all know," he said, "that you often throw yourself on the live grenade that is Dad to protect us. You let us still have, well, Dad."

It had been a conscious decision I'd made early on when bipolar disorder and manic episodes ruled our days. I told myself that while I could do little to keep the illness from affecting Ron, I could do my darnest to make sure it did not affect our children or their love for their father.
"Look!" says Bonnie and gestures to a family of deer standing deer a grove of trees. "How pretty!" The doe and three fawns stand motionless on the hillside while the bells of the carillon echo in the air.
I take a deep breath. Sometimes the ache is so deep and raw that I need a few moments to recover. My daughter understands. We watch the deer for a moment and listen to the fading music, then pull around the curve at the top of the hill. She stops her car next to the bent oak tree.

Love waits for me round the bend, leads me endlessly on
Surely sorrows shall find their end
And all our troubles will be gone

I reach into the back and gather up the poinsettias as Bonnie surveys the area. "It's quiet up here," she says. "Even though the highway is right over there. It's a good spot for Daddy. He liked to be near the action!"Silently we walk towards Ron's final resting place. In the last sixteen months, the grass has grown over the burial mound. Bonnie stoops and brushes dried leaves and grass from her father's marker, tracing his name with her finger. Ronald A. Cobourn. 1951-2019. We remove the fall flowers from the holder and struggle with the poinsettias, arranging and rearranging until she is satisfied. We kneel there for a few moments, our memories thick. She takes my hand as we walk back to the car.

I know in my bones, I've been here before
The ground feels the same, tho the land's been torn
I've a long way to go, the stars tell me so
On this road that will take me home.

"I don't come here often," she says. "He's not really here."
"Just what Allen says," I reply, thinking of my youngest child whose autism made acceptance of his father's death difficult. "Allen says it's just Dad's old broken body that he doesn't need anymore."
"He's right," she says and she pops the locks on the car doors. We slide in. "Daddy's in heaven now. He's not sick anymore." She puts the key in the ignition and turns to me. "Thanks," she says quietly.
"For what?"
"For giving Dennis and Allen and me the best part of Daddy. For letting us have that part." She puts the car in gear and sighs. "We know it wasn't easy." She pulls away from the grave site and slowly drives down the hill.  
I touch my hand to my heart. "But I kept the best part, too," I say. 
Bonnie smiles and we exit the cemetery
as the bells begin to play again.

And I know what I've lost and all that I've won
When the road finally takes me home
I'm going home, I'm going home, I'm going home

"Going Home"
Celtic Woman

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