John Ross Archer is a retired colonel from the US Army where he served for 23 years. He holds a master's degree in psychology, and, he is an active Rotarian and Gideon. He was the founder and owner of a strategic planning firm, and a vice president of a technical college.
His hobbies included skydiving, SCUBA diving and motorcycling. Archer and his wife live in Thomasville, Georgia, in the middle of plantation country.
“Dick, what the hell are we doing? “We’re both exhausted, we’ve driven seven hours to get to Atlanta, and we are no longer spring chickens; I am 85 years old, and you are ten years my senior. Only two old fools would make this trip at our ages to attend a brother’s funeral. Are you even sure of the time and place of the funeral?
“Now settle down; yeah, I’m positive, Chester, the time for the graveside service is four o’clock, it’s only three o’clock now, and I figure we’re only ten or twelve miles away from the cemetery. At least the surroundings look fairly familiar.” Why don ‘t you stop bitching and enjoy the scenery. You know, Chester, that’s all you've done on this is trip, Bitch, Bitch, Bitch.”
“Fairly familiar? Dick, have you ever been to the cemetery? Tell me the truth; don’t BS me, Dick. I’ve known you for too long to put up with your false claims—like telling me you had a driver's license when you knew damn well your license expired six years ago.
“No, I have not visited this cemetery in the past six years, but I’m sure I can get us there. The cemetery is near where I used to live. Stop your worrying, Chester, I’ll get us there on time, now quit complaining, you’re worse than my wife.”
“Okay, I’ll quit complaining, but it’s been over thirty years since you were in Atlanta, Dick, not six. I only want to know if your memory of this area is still correct.” Ignoring my remark, Dick moved on to his next thought.
“You know, Chester, there’s no family left but me, and I‘m not acquainted with my brother’s friends anymore. I doubt I will recognize anyone at the funeral. We might even be the only ones in attendance, Chester,” said Dick, with a frightened look on his face.”
“Now there’s an awful possibility. that must be an uncomfortable thought for you, Dick.”
“Just up ahead, you see the cemetery on the left? Do you see it? Put your glasses on Chester; you're just trying to look younger.”
“ We’ve made the cemetery on time, by golly, I told you not to worry, Chester, you see, your concern was for nothing—as usual.”
We drove into the cemetery’s main entrance and looked for the site of the graveside service.
“There, on the hilltop, I see a line of cars and a gathering of people. “That has to be the place,” said Dick.
“Dick, sixty miles per hour, is too fast to be driving on these small, narrow cemetery lanes.”
“I don’t want us to be late,” said Dick.
We skid to a halt and park where a man wearing a funeral home armband directed us. We walk to the small crowd gathered around a flag-covered coffin where yet another man wearing an armband approaches us.
“Are you gentlemen related to the deceased?”
“Yes, he was my brother,” replied Dick.
“Then please take a seat; you will be the only ones on the front row. We were not sure any family of the deceased would be in attendance.”
“Dam! Exclaimed Dick; there’re more people here than I imagined. He must have had more friends than I realized, Chester.”
Dick’s loud spoken remark caught everyone’s attention and prompted scornful stares. Dick was not the least bit concerned with those people, their stares, or what they might think of him. I supposed Dick’s attitude prevails among 95-year-olds. Mine would probably be the same as his.
A white-collared pastor stepped up to the microphone, said a prayer, made generic remarks relevant to the deceased and invited anyone to step forward who wished to say a few last words about the deceased. I stayed seated while Dick, teary-eyed, went to casket-side to pay his last respects to his brother.
Dick leaned over the casket then--with a horrifying look on his face--jumped back, and shouted: “Holy crap, that poor man is not my brother!”
Dick hurried by me, taking me by the arm and pulling me out of my chair.
“Dam, Chester, we got here on time, but this is the wrong dang cemetery.”
“Yep, right time, wrong place, Dick.”