Later in the day Judy made dinner for everyone, but no one was really hungry except for the boys who scarfed down macaroni and cheese with gusto. Once the dishes were washed and put away, everyone started to get ready to go to Edward Murdock’s viewing.
Liz had told everyone over dinner that the twins would be staying home with Eric while the rest of the family went to the viewing. She and Eric had decided it was hard enough trying to explain all this to them so they could understand it and there was no reason for them to have to go to both the viewing and the funeral the next day.
Diego headed upstairs to get changed. He went down the hall, grabbed a quick shower and then put on the new clothes he had bought a few days earlier. Once he was dressed, he sat on the edge of the bed, unconsciously flipping his father’s Zippo open and closed, over and over.
“You okay?” His mother stood in the doorway of his room, wearing a black skirt and grey blouse, her hair pulled up into a bun.
“Yeah, I guess. I’m just not looking forward to this.”
“Believe me. No one is.”
“How about you? You holding up alright?”
Judy sighed heavily. “No Darren. No I’m not.”
Diego got up and went over to his mother, giving her a hug and then walked with her down the stairs to a waiting Liz.
“Are Aunt Donna and Aunt Catherine going to meet us there?”
“Yes. Your Aunt Carol will be there too. Liz, do you want to drive?”
The three of them headed into the garage to get into Liz’s SUV when Diego noticed Edward’s red Mustang sitting there, looking like it was eager to make an escape and hit the open road.
“Why don’t we take the Mustang to the viewing?” Diego heard the words come out of his mouth before he could stop himself.
“C’mon Mom. Dad loved that car. It’s a beautiful fall night, why don’t we take her out and let her say goodbye to Dad too.”
Liz looked like she was about to tell Diego to shut his mouth when Judy surprised them both. “You’re right. Your father adored driving that car and used to tell me how much more he enjoyed it when I went with him. I remember how the smile would never leave his face when he was behind the wheel. I’ll go get the keys.”
A few minutes later Judy returned, the keys dangling from the chrome keychain Edward had purchased specifically for the keys to the car. She quietly handed them to a surprised Liz, patting her cheek as she did so.
“I know you love this car as much as your father did. If anyone should be driving it, it’s you.”
Once they had all climbed in, Liz turned the key and started the engine. It came to life with a deafening roar as she gave it some gas and the entire car rumbled with barely suppressed energy. Diego couldn’t help but notice the smile on Liz’s face as she pulled out of the driveway and made a left.
Ten minutes later they pulled into Schneider Funeral Home off York Road. There were no other cars in the parking lot so Diego assumed they were the first ones there. He had only been to a funeral home once before when the grandmother of a family friend had passed away when he was a teenager. When his father’s parents had died they simply had a funeral in a church and since his mother hadn’t spoken to her parents in decades the family didn’t go to either of their funerals.
As the three of them walked over to a side entrance, a tall man with a medium build and a black suit opened the door to greet them. He shook Judy’s hand as he said “Mrs. Murdock. Good to see you again. If you’ll follow me we can make sure everything is the way it should be before people start to arrive.”
He patted Liz on the shoulder and stuck out his hand at Diego. “You must be Darren.”
Diego noticed that his arm was covered in tattoos that ended just above the wrist as he shook his hand. “That’s me.”
“My name is Mr. Grayson. So sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you.” With that he closed the door behind Diego and followed him into the funeral home.
They were standing in a small lobby area with large bay windows that looked out at York Road beyond. Traffic streamed past, people on their way to where they needed to be with no idea that a family was getting ready to say goodbye to someone they dearly loved.
Mr. Grayson cleared his throat to get everyone’s attention and then walked through a large set of double doors into the reception room. To the right of the doors was a pair of large boards perched on easels that were covered with pictures of Diego’s father. Images from when he was a child growing up in New York to ones of him and Judy when they were dating. They chronicled Edward’s entire life including pictures of him an Liz at car shows and a group shot of the old Computer Club that must have been taken at The Palace.
Diego’s eye caught one picture in particular. It was a smaller one, tucked into the corner of one of the boards. He was sitting with his father, both of them with a cigarette dangling from their fingers on the steps of the deck in the back yard, deeply engrossed in conversation. Diego remembered when his mother had taken that picture. It was the day he had told his parents he was going to attend The Art Institute and become a graphic designer.
The sound of a soft sob broke Diego’s reverie as he turned and then saw his father.
When Diego first saw Edward Murdock, he could have sworn he was just sleeping. His father looked so peaceful, lying in the casket, his hands resting on his chest. To Diego’s eyes, he could have jumped up at any moment, screaming “Gotcha!” and they all would have had a great laugh over the whole thing.
Liz and his mother were standing next to the casket, tears in their eyes and Judy with her hand resting gently on Edward’s cheek. Liz looked over at Diego and motioned for him to come over, saying that he shouldn’t be scared or uncomfortable.
Diego hadn’t seen his father in four years but other than more grey hair at his temples Edward looked the same as the last time he had seen him. Short, with olive skin and a stocky build and a face that always seemed ready to break into a smile. His mother had dressed him in a grey suit and white shirt, which Diego had expected. What he wasn’t expecting was that Edward was wearing his favorite tie, one with little Starship Enterprises from Star Trek all over it.
Edward had been a huge fan of Star Trek in all its various incarnations. He would go and see all the movies, usually dragging Judy along despite her insistent protests. He and Diego used to sit and watch The Next Generation together and have long discussions about which season of Deep Space Nine was the best. Later the show had been a refuge when Diego’s life began to fall apart. He would come home and know he could just watch Star Trek with his father, not needing to explain why and escape reality for a few hours.
When Diego looked at the tie and then his mother, she shrugged her shoulders and said “He was such a fan of that stupid show. I didn’t get it but I thought he would appreciate the gesture.”
Diego smiled and said “I know he would Mom.”
Mr. Grayson them appeared and announced that people were starting to arrive if we were ready. Judy sighed and said that was fine. The three of them then moved just to the right of the casket and prepared themselves for what was to come.
The next few hours were a blur for Diego. It was an almost endless stream of people, each one of them wanting to hug or shake his hand and offering their condolences. He saw his aunts and uncles as well as some assorted cousins that had flown in. There were numerous people his father had worked with, few of which he recognized, in addition to people from the old Computer Club, some of whom Diego hadn’t seen in decades. The number of people who came to pay their respects truly surprised Diego and made him realize just how loved his father was.
He was listening to his sister have a discussion with a middle-aged man from their neighborhood when he heard someone say “Hey.” next to him.
He turned to see a man a couple years older than he was, with Hispanic features, short black hair, a hawkish nose and large green eyes. He stood about a half an inch shorter than Diego and had his hands folded in front of him, a small smile on his face.
“Oh my God. Trevor …”
Trevor Nazario had been Diego’s best friend since they had met at a comic shop in Philadelphia while Diego was in college. The two had discovered a mutual love of all things involving the X-Men and quickly became inseparable. The friends would attend comic book conventions together, stay up playing Call of Duty online until the sun rose and be first in line for every superhero movie that came out.
It had been almost five years since he had spoken to Trevor. They didn’t communicate at all the four years Diego was on the road and the year before that their relationship had been incredibly strained due to the situation Diego had put himself in. Seeing him now, at his father’s viewing, was almost too much.
Diego wordlessly embraced Trevor, tears streaming down his face.
The two men finally separated after what felt like forever and Diego just looked at him. “What are you doing here?”
“Your Mom called me when your father passed away. We still spoke every now and then even though you weren’t around. He always treated me like I was his own son so I wanted to come and pay my respects. I had no clue you were going to be here.”
“Yeah. I got into town on Tuesday. I’m staying with my Mom. Is Nikki with you? I mean, are you and Nikki still together?”
Nikki Genovese was Trevor’s longtime girlfriend and someone who relished making Diego’s life as difficult as possible. She was his own personal nemesis and Trevor loved nothing more than watching the two most important people in his life playfully tease and torment each other.
However, when things between Diego and Trevor became tense over that last year, what was once friendly joking became something more hurtful. It all came to a head just before Diego had left when he and Nikki had gotten into a heated argument where things were said that couldn’t be taken back easily. Diego had just assumed his friendship with Trevor was over since he would never ask his best friend to chose him over the woman he loved.
“Yeah, we’re still together. She decided to stay home since she didn’t really know your father all that well and has never been a huge fan of funerals.”
“Is she still mad at me?”
“I don’t think I would really call it anger anymore. Sure, she was thrilled when you up and disappeared but that didn’t last once she saw how upset it made me. Honestly we both just thought you were gone, that we’d never see you again and that was it. She’s moved on.”
Diego pushed his glasses up with his index finger. “What about you? Have you moved on?”
Trevor smiled. “Nah. You’re my best friend. I always hoped to see you again. For me, seeing you is probably the only good thing to come out of your father passing away.”
Diego gathered his friend in another embrace, saying into his ear “Yeah. My Dad always had a way of looking out for me even when I wasn’t expecting it.”
Trevor then walked over to Liz and Judy, hugging both and telling them how sorry he was for their loss and how much Edward meant to him. Once he had walked over to the casket and paid his respects, he headed over to Diego again.
“I can’t stay. I’ve got some things I need to take care of but we need to get together and talk. Soon.”
Diego nodded his head. “Definitely. And do me and favor and don’t tell Nikki I’m back in town? I’m not ready to deal with all of that just yet.”
Trevor said sure and told Diego to text him this weekend, maybe they could hang out like old times. Which sounded like just what the doctor ordered for Diego.
The viewing went on for another hour or so, with people getting up to speak about Edward and how much they would miss him. Some told funny stories and others lamented the fact he was gone, fighting back tears as they did.
Finally it was just Judy, Liz and Diego. Judy went up and gave Edward a light kiss on his forehead while Liz placed a picture of the two of them and the Mustang in the breast pocket of her father’s jacket, tears falling from her cheeks. When they looked at Diego he simply said “Could I be alone with Dad for a few minutes?”
Judy’s mouth formed a sad smile and she said “Of course. We’ll wait outside. Take all the time you need.”
Once they were gone, Diego stood next to his father’s casket, a hand on the sleeve of his jacket.
“Well Dad, I guess this is it. I’m sorry I didn’t get here in time to say a proper goodbye but you of all people probably understand why. Just so you know, Mom gave me your Zippo. I’ll take really good care of it, I promise.”
Diego felt a tear running down his cheek. “I’m really going to miss you Dad. Of all the people in my life, you were always there for me. You never questioned or asked why, you just offered to help any way you could. I really appreciated that and I wish I had told you that before now.
“I promise I’m going to try to make things right. No more dumb decisions or hurting people I care about. I don’t know what my future holds, but I’ll always take a part of you with me. And hopefully you can live out the dreams you put on hold for your family through me.
“Goodbye Dad. I love you.”
Diego turned and headed for the lobby, his hands in his pockets as he let the tears fall down his face. He stopped by the two large boards that had the pictures of his father’s life pinned to them and once again his eyes were drawn to the image of the two of them, sitting on on the steps of the deck.
He reached out and unpinned the picture from the board and placed it in the pocket of his shirt. Then he walked out of the funeral home to his waiting sister and mother and headed home.