Preface:You may want to read the last post, “Until We Meet Again,” before this one.
It was a beautiful Saturday in Montana, and we enjoyed a great brunch at the cabin. Drew was very irritated because I’d said breakfast would be at 10. Truth be told, Carol and Catherine were concerned he just might control the day by not coming back with my sister-in-law’s (SIL) ashes in a timely fashion. So, I told him brunch would be about 10 because I thought that would ensure him arriving back at the cabin by noon. Nope, there he was at 10, and cooking hadn’t even begun. “Where’s the food? You said breakfast was at 10!” I encouraged him to enjoy a pastry and some fruit as the first breakfast course. He was not amused. We did end up eating around noon. Because he stayed in a room over an hour away, he’d had little sleep between leaving the cabin at midnight and making it back by 10 after checking out of the motel.
An aside here, our hosts Doug and Catherine, have a house guest who stays with them for the month of July each summer. She bought a new bed for the room she uses, which just happens to be the bedroom reserved for Drew so he could stay where he had with SIL. So, on Friday when we discussed sleeping arrangements, she was consigned to a spare room in the basement. As soon as Drew mentioned he got a motel room, this lady was moving her stuff back to her room, before anyone had actually figured out whether or not Drew was really staying or going. My attitude was, ‘He’s a grown man. If he wants to drive that far, let him.’ I was laughing, watching the regular guest reclaim her space as Carol, Catherine, and Doug are urging Drew to stay.
Fast forward to Saturday brunch, we discussed how we wanted to move through the day, considering the gender-reveal for our niece and her husband, Bailey and Don, and the celebration of SIL’s life with the scattering of her ashes. My son was driving in late that afternoon, specifically to be there for our little family memorial for his aunt. The decision was made to have the gender-reveal festivities first and wait for Mick to arrive before we spread the last of SIL’s ashes.
By early afternoon, the gender was only unknown to Carol, Catherine, Doug, and my husband. Bailey and Don had shown me their little ultrasound picture. It seriously looked like their little boy was sitting on a copy machine, showing his two thighs and proof that “it’s a boy!” in between. Everyone played along though. It was great to have a new life to welcome.
After Mick arrived, we all gathered small rocks and wrote messages to SIL. The rocks were then set into the side of the riverbank along the trail to the water. Carol had dried roses, red ones saved from SIL’s memorial and yellow roses her youngest daughter had sent her before passing from breast cancer. We planned to let the flowers go down the stream after the ashes.
The river is more of a big stream by mid July, probably a little river with spring melting of big snow. Each spring, the community has a rubber duck derby. Names or numbers are written on the bottom of more than a hundred ducks, which are placed in the water at a bridge. Duck tenders walk along the edges with long sticks to help the racers that get stuck in the weeds. First rubber ducky that reaches the lake is the winner and its owner wins the jackpot!
Now as we prepared to release ashes and flowers, Doug and Catherine had a rubber duck and thought it would be neat to let it go, too. Next, someone said it would be cool to let the duck go from the bridge round the bend. When ducky arrived, it would be the signal to place the other items at water’s edge. My husband volunteered to ride his bike down to the little bridge and drop the duck midstream.
I’ll tell you who wasn’t excited about incorporating a rubber duck into the mix – Drew. As planning moved from flowers to rubber ducky, he said not a word. He crossed his arms, occasionally holding them out like, “What are we doing?” I was very aware that he was irritated with other people contributing ideas, and when we got to the duck he shook his head but remained silent. I don’t think anyone else noticed Drew’s rising tension, and I certainly wasn’t getting involved.
Plan in place, my husband rode down the dirt road to release the rubber duck. We discussed that it would take a little while for the duck to reach us because it’s a meandering stream. Back from initiating the process, my husband confirmed it was going to take some time to arrive.
So, there we were, all of us, standing along the trail that leads down to the water, watching. Watching, watching, watching. Drew began to grumble about where the damn duck was, and Bailey told him to relax, let it come in its own time, etc. Next, Drew said, “I’ll go get the duck myself!” Bailey and Carol told him he shouldn’t do that, it would be ok.
We waited some more and Drew said, “I’m going to get that duck myself.”
I answered, “Go ahead. Do it. Go get the duck.” I was so tired of all the years of his racism, mind games, passive aggressive behavior. I called his bluff.
Carol and Bailey asked him not to. He insisted. I told him he should.
Bailey told him he should at least take off his shoes. Nah, he was going all in. He strides out to the middle of the water, which was up around his knees, and my teen nephew out from Wisconsin said, “Why doesn’t he walk along the edge?” I shrugged. And then Drew was out of sight, around the bend, duck hunting.
The wait for Drew to return with the duck became much like when we were waiting for only the duck. It was taking longer than expected. My husband decided to ride his bike along to the bridge to see what was happening.
After several minutes, my husband was back. He explained that our duck had still been near the start, stuck in grass. He looked downstream and there was Drew, wet up to his chest. He’d fallen into the water. Those rocks can be slippery.
My husband gestured to Drew, indicating the location of the duck, and rode back to the group. When he described the goings on, I was not the only one who giggled.
Now we knew the end was near. All of these family members who came a long way to be together and honor SIL, we got quiet. Finally, the duck makes the turn at the bend and heads right towards us. Behind him a few feet was Drew, holding up an empty baggie for all of us to see. He said to SIL’s stepmom who had cared for SIL every day for years, “I got to spread her ashes four times!” in an angry sneer.
Stunned, we went to the water’s edge one by one, and let go the flowers. Drew kept walking in the stream, duck tending. I imagine he didn’t know what else to do.
Drew spent the rest of the evening taking apart two phones, a key fob, and the hearing aids he’d put in his pocket, hoping to get them dry. He slept in a camper on the side yard that wasn’t being used, and he left at 2 a.m.
I felt sad and mad that Drew had taken away the only opportunity my husband and his stepmom had to take part in saying goodbye to SIL by scattering the small bit of ashes that had been in that baggie. I don’t care if I never see or talk to that person again in my lifetime.
I do know my SIL was laughing her ass off watching the escapade!