Tag Archives: dad

More than he knew ( for my Father)


I didn’t cry for you when  mom told me you had just died. I don’t cry in front of most people.  It’s too much to give them of me.

My two brothers had.

I remember my older brother wailing something awful, eyes full of anguish while my younger brother’s eyes filled over, tears  flowing down his cheeks like a runaway river in full flood.

Like you, I never showed anger nor did I ever show sadness.  But I remember your smile and your silence.  Such was I.

Three days later we drove the hour and half to your house in another town to collect your things and attend your funeral. You always felt a world away but you had always been close really.

There it sat,  your house, small, non-descript,  dull in color.

I recalled as we entered, me  visiting you once all by myself staying for a weekend.

I had baked you a nice big chocolate cake because mom used to bake for you and I knew you missed it and I wanted you to smile and be happy because I knew deep down you were not.

I wandered the house slowly taking you in.

In the bathroom your razor still sat at the edge of the sink just waiting for you to come back to pick it up and use it.

The chair you once sat in,  still with the noticeable impression from the gravity of your body filling it as  you watched television.

My brothers started fighting over something of yours they wanted to keep for themselves. My mom began to complain loudly about something frivolous like she so often did.

There I stood in the middle of the living room. Lost. Thinking of you.

A soft light spilled through the living room window to fall on the wooden floor  at my feet lighting upon the dust motes which filled the empty space.

I pictured you there. Like me. Lost . Forgotten while the world worked around you.

A deep welling up of painful pressure begin to rise in me, to think of you perhaps feeling you were not loved in your last years here on earth.

To think you perhaps felt alone in this world at the end of it all, your life coming to a close and no one there to send you off with a held hand, or a kiss or heartfelt word.

Then I silently begin to cry standing there.

I couldn’t have stopped if I had wanted to.

Then mom noticed and pulled me in close with a hug, my brothers turn to me and I didn’t care

For these tears were for you not me.


by Philip Wardlow 2017






The Unmarked Grave of my Father

It started out as a question from my wife.

“Can you call your mom and get picture of your Dad?” she asked me.

This question was asked by her because I had written a little something on my Facebook about him on Father’s Day,  stating I didn’t  have a picture of my father but I believed that he might look like this.  I had posted a picture of some generic older man that closely resembled him. ( see below on the picture I posted)


My wife actually called my mom enquiring about pictures. My mom told her my older brother, who lived in North Carolina,  had the only picture of him (she believed anyways),  as the rest had gotten lost for whatever reasons I  didn’t understand. Well, I don’t really talk to my older brother (another story for another day), so I called my mother  and told her it would be nice if she could tell him to scan the picture and send me the image.

Since that Father’s Day request to her,  no picture has surfaced for me to see. Surprise Surprise…  I can always rely on my family to come through for me.

Fast forward a little to last week,  we had decided to go to an Air Show south of us in our state of Michigan.  The air show just happened to be taking place in the same area where my father had died and had been buried.

So again my wife asked, “Hey, we should go and try and find his grave, since you have never been to it. You want to?”

“Sure, why not. But I have no clue what cemetery he is buried in.” I said.

So I called my mom yet again and asked her this question and her reply was,  “Hmm…I am not sure of the name at all. I don’t really remember,” she said.

“Really mom? Really…? ”  I asked.

She finally drudged up the funeral home name where the service had taken place in 1982, the year he died. The place was still around thankfully so I called them up.  A nice old lady named Barbara said she would investigate their records from that time to find out what cemetery he had been buried in.

She called me back in literally ten minutes after talking to another nice old lady I am sure , named Betty who worked at the Oakhill Cemetery where she  found he had been taken.

Through Barbara, Betty relayed great directions to the gravesite and Betty even offered to attach a cemetary Map to the front door of  the cemetery office, as she said they would not be open on a Sunday for the day we were going to be coming down.

“GREAT!”  I said and thanked her profusely for both of their efforts.

Sunday came and I drove with my wife, along with my mother-in-law who was tagging along to the air show,  ( and no, the thought of bringing my mother along to this , never crossed my mind).  For many reasons. One being, having my mother and my mother-in-law in the same car in the back seat  would have driven my wife and I insane.

Btw, here.is a picture of my mom and mother-in-law below  in the back seat behind me at one time…it wasn’t pretty that day:



Okay, on with my story.

We arrived at Oakhill Cemetery after a little of bit driving.  It was a cemetery  set in a semi-run down part of town bounded by an old brick and mortar walls surrounding the perimeter, wrought iron gates at various entrances and exits bid you to enter or leave as you pleased. IF YOU DARE! It was actually a very entrancing place to drive up on.  The place immediately reminded me of George A. Romero’s cemetery setting from his movie ‘Night of the Living Dead’…. awesome, I thought to myself….. 🙂



We drove up to the building you see before you and sure enough good as her word, Betty had attached the Cemetery Map and Burial page log for the specific plot section along with instructions on finding my father’s grave. Cool.

We got out and parked the car near the relative area and proceeded to the task like good little archeologists on a dig to try and decipher the hieroglyphics, map and instructions to where he might be buried.

The first thing I realized  regarding my father’s information about his burial site was that he was buried without a marker, meaning he had no headstone put in place when he was buried….wtf!

Okay. So that’s interesting.

According to the information he was in Plot 83, Row 7, Grave #8 , near a person with a last name of  “Swift” , it stated in the instructions, approximately  20 feet off the road.

My wife and mother-in-law  began searching diligently for “Swift”  at the beginning of the section as the map markings were too small and hard to read  for each Plot section. I ranged further down the road as it seemed intuitively, in looking at the map, to just be further away than they were looking.

It was sort of thrilling in a way to be out doing this. I had always wanted to be an archeologist or anthropologist growing up,  digging up dead bodies and sifting rocks and dirt. I just needed a good hat and whip to complete my ensemble…. 🙂



After a few minutes with neither of us spotting the name “Swift” I suddenly saw it, the name “Swift” etched into the stone work of a very aged and corroded marble headstone in the shape of an obelisk, ( a broken obelisk) .

I had just found one of the supposed  neighbor’s to my father’s grave. Oh ,”Swift” must have been rich to afford such a marker in their day. (See below for actual picture of it)



I yelled to the others to stop the search in the area they were in and to come over.

We quickly referred to the burial location log and saw he should be buried in Grave #8 location between a  gravestone marker 8B with name of Dugan and  gravestone marker with name  labeled  only with the letter “J”per the entry in the log.

We quickly found this: (see images below):  It seems the “J” meant Julia.







So that means my father was buried in that non-descript space in the middle somewhere down below where I stood.









But just looking at this patch of parched grass, you wouldn’t know it.

Here was a man who lived on this earth until the  age of  73 years  through 1909 until 1972, with him dying when I was only eleven years old.

In that time,  he had married twice (I believe) and had us three sons bearing his name, yet you wouldn’t know he existed without me telling you he existed. (btw he had married my mom when she was 29 and he was 59 years of age in the 70s, so he was already at a  “grandpa age” as I was  growing up.

He has no picture to be found (as of yet) and now no burial plot to even show his bones were some six-feet deep  below me held by the earth.


I suddenly felt a little sad.  Not for me. But for him.  He died alone in his home without us in his life, separated from us. He was buried alone without us as I only remember going to the funeral home  as an eleven year old and not to his grave.  They say funerals are more for the living, but fuck that. He deserved better than this. Yes, everyone will be forgotten one day but damn at least I should remember him.

I also felt ashamed at not trying to find his grave sooner than I had on almost a whim as of now.  Had I really blocked him out from thoughts and every day life as to not care about such things as a picture of him or to possibly  visit his grave.  God, I was asshole of a son, I thought.

THAT’S gonna change.

Immediately when I got home I started looking up gravestones to buy for him.

I have decided so far that it’s going to read:

Willie Wardlow 

February 9th, 1909  to April 20th 1972  


I am still deciding on some one line of phrasing I’m thinking of putting on below this.

When its finally put in I will put a picture of it on here to show you guys….  🙂


His Silence…

I often sit and just think about what formed “ME”

What led to “ME” .  How was I formed? Why do I function the way I do?

I like trying to understand myself as I am sure most people try to. I do it also to become a better writer. I believe if I can get to the root of me then I can get to the root of that character I am trying to develop.

I am big on being “real” with my characters. So many books I have read have stilted unrealistic dialogue action, and plotting just so they can get the character to the next page.

What’s my character?

I remember my father vaguely because he died when I was barely twelve.  The one thing that sticks out in my mind about him most was his quiet silence.

I call it a quiet silence because it wasn’t a disgruntled silence or silence that had a point to it. It just was.  There was no malice behind it..though perhaps there was a little sadness  at times in it.  To me it always seemed a calm acceptance  at the way things were or had to be.

There were one occasion where I really felt this silence within  him.

I was about nine years old and my mom had thrown one of her epic “tantrums”  I call them now. Plate throwing, iron skillet flying , cussing, and flinging of insults and  telling  of all the wrong doings done to her by him, my father.  And there my father stood in silence, one hand perhaps slightly raised in defense to any imminent flying object which may come his way.  The knot rising like a mountain  already on his head of one plate that had connected with his skull.

As my mom often so did when she would get this worked up she would flee. In that fleeing, she would collect up my two brothers and I in a whirlwind and drag us  from the house, our home, to stay at a friend’s house,  or a hotel far away for a short to extended stay of days or weeks or even months at a time.

My father would sit there in his silence and just let her take us knowing she would return sooner or later, until the next time of course.

But this time had been different.

As I was being tugged out the door by my mother (because I was always the pokey one)  my father suddenly reached out and grabbed my other hand and pulled me back.

So there I was, a human piece of rope being tugged by my parents. She pulled then he would pull back….

I remember my father distinctly looking into my scared tear filled face and asking quietly if I wanted to stay with him.

I found my mouth wouldn’t work. I couldn’t talk.. I could say neither “yes”  or “no”.

My mother overheard the question and then asked me in a clipped tone if I wanted to.

For some reason I found it in me to answer her…and simply said, “Yes.”

She abruptly  released me and left with my other two brothers. Gone.

For the next days or weeks, I really don’t remember, it was just him and I at home.  We hung  out , we talked in generalities and funny things that only a nine year old boy and a grown man could talk about.

I don’t remember the conversations or any of the activities we did. I do remember being content in that short amount of space and time with him.  I  saw his contentment as well.

I remember he seemed a little less silent when we were together during that period.  And even when he was silent he seemed to carry his silence a little differently when we were together.  Lighter , is the only word I can put to it.  I had come to realize he had needed me to stay….

I was happy I had said yes…