Donald R. Rappleye (1924-2010)
RAPPLEYE, DONALD R. - Of Jackson, Michigan, passed away Friday, October 1, 2010, age 85 years. Survived by his wife of 58 years, Bernice G. Rappleye; children, Pam (Tom) Dolan, Greg (Marcia) Rappleye, Mark (Sally) Rappleye, Cynthia (Chet) Teater, Brian (Peggy) Rappleye and Christopher (Anne) Rappleye; 14 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren; brothers and sisters, Mary Elizabeth (Bob) Eisele, James (Kate) Rappleye, Willard (Delores) Rappleye and Margaret Tobin; numerous nieces and nephews. He was a U.S. Airforce Veteran of World War II. Donald retired after 30 years of service from the Jackson Public Schools where he was Grade Counselor at Parkside. He loved to cook and worked at the St. Mary's Harvest Dinners. The Mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church Monday at 2:00 p.m. Interment St. John's Cemetery. The Reverend Robert Pienta officiating.
The family will receive friends at St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church on Monday from 1 to 2 p.m.
The obituary omits the most important facts of my father's life--that for many years, he owned a drive-in restaurant in Indian River, Michigan (very near the bridge to the upper peninsula of the state), and that our family spent every summer working in that restaurant--half the kids working the day shift, half working nights. We lived in a fifty foot trailer, twenty feet behind the backdoor of the drive-in.
Therein lies a memoir that would likely be read as fiction.
I won't be going to my father's funeral. He will have this instead.
THOUSAND DOLLAR DAYS
The man at the picnic table
in front of the root beer stand
in northern Michigan is my father.
Do you see his sign,
twirling through the piney air?
There are two hours until he opens,
and he's drinking a cup of black coffee,
making a list for the salesman
from the wholesale grocery,
who'll be banging at the backdoor
after the noontime rush. The sun
angles from the gas station and across
the parking lot,
where crows compete for popcorn
dropped by last night's customers,
mostly teenage kids,
on vacation with their parents
from the suburbs of Detroit.
It's the summer after the summer
their city burned. Martin is dead and Bobby is
dead, and Nixon is yet to come.
Denny McLaine is flaming his way to 31 wins,
and America thrashes in the bed
of Southeast Asia. But in a tourist town,
traffic is what matters.
So my father lays his pen down
to watch the passing cars, subtracting out
the junky Fords and pickups of the locals.
Inside, the hired woman wipes a rag along the counter
and begins to sing a hymn,
her voice carrying through the screens
and rolling sweetly below the canopy
that shelters as many as fourteen cars
on rainy afternoons. My father's eyes
are gin-clear, and he's sketching out plans
to add barbecue after the Fourth of July.
He counts three good car hops,
four sons and two daughters,
old enough to hold their own
through the heaviest dinner hour.
The season hasn't really begun, but already
he's had thousand dollar days.
My father smiles. His lot is
full, he imagines the rush,
as his hand strikes something
from his list. And I'm the skinny boy
you see, legs furiously churning,
rounding the corner from the old highway
to the new, sprinting toward the pylon
that rises from that one-story building
like a jagged orange fin, who sees his father smiling
and believes, against all the evidence,
that he might be the reason why.