We had my dad’s funeral at the end of July.
He was cremated so we held onto his ashes until family from Texas and the Midwest could all get out to Napa at the same time.
My dad was in the Air Force in the 1960s and he wanted to be buried at the new veteran’s cemetery near Dixon. So early on that Friday morning, we drove to the cemetery.
For a burial at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery, you don’t just drive up to the gravesite and gather around.
First, you assemble in a designated lane near the cemetery entrance. You wait in your cars and then at the set time you drive together, in a procession, to a committal “shelter.”
During Dad’s short, but very solemn ceremony, two Air Force honor guards slow marched into the pavilion.
Click, click, click, sounded their shoes.
My dad would have loved this, I thought. He was only in the military for four years but some of his most dear friends were from that time.
Standing at the front of the shelter, the honor guards unfolded and refolded a large U.S. flag with crack precision.
One member then formally presented the flag, formed into a tight triangle, to my mom.
I sat next to her, holding her hand.
I kept looking at her to make sure she was OK. I’m consoling my mom, I told myself. Or was it the other way around?
Using an automated bugle, one honor guard “played” “Taps.”
At the end, we gathered everyone together at the pavilion for a group photo.
In this picture, my mom is in the center, holding the folded flag. We are not smiling.
My dad’s ashes were put into the ground later that day. A temporary marker will be replaced with a headstone. It weighs 230 lbs., said the brochure.
• • •
After the funeral we went wine tasting. Nope, it doesn’t get more Napa Valley than that.
It turns out that wine tasting with “tourists” is actually really fun. First of all, they aren’t picky. Tourists will try any wine – many, many any wine.
Second, they actually BUY wine. Unlike Penny Pinching Mom who relies on my husband to pass along a spare bottle now and then from his stash, these relatives happily filled out those order forms in the tasting rooms.
Can I buy a case of this wine?
Can we split a case between red and white?
Can this wine be shipped?
The Napa Valley economy was happening right before my very eyes. Sales taxes, room taxes, tasting fees – you name it – they generated it. I did my part.
At one winery, we tasted sips of different wines with three different kinds of mini cheese cubes.
Which cheese goes best with this wine? asked our guide.
Um, all of them? I thought. Because CHEESE.
Cheese number three, he said patiently.
Our guide poured us samples of one wine that was said to be so good that nothing else should be eaten with it. In fact, the way our host made it sound, you should drink this wine alone, in a quiet, dark room. Shoes optional.
One winery had breadsticks that I tried not to totally devour. When wine tasting in Napa Valley it is not cool to eat more breadsticks than wine.
We took a few tours and posed for a fewmany pictures. We admired art and sculptures and views from balconies.
My dad would have loved this. He was always trying to plan a big family reunion.
On Friday night we set up folding chairs and sat on Grandma’s driveway. The Texans liked the humidity-free nights and cooler temps. I tried to talk one uncle into moving to California.
My nephew, who’s going into sixth grade, got out his skateboard.
Want to see me Ollie, he asked?
Yes, we said.
My brother spotted my dad’s old bike on the garage wall.
Let’s ride dad’s bike! he said.
An old Schwinn from the 1950s, my dad had kept his childhood bicycle all these years. He even had new tires put on it a few years ago.
We pumped up the tires and took turns riding the bike around the court.
My dad would have loved this.