Giggles on the Rocks

11 May

Funerals aren’t supposed to be funny. But inches away from my grandmother’s coffin, I yearned for a crumb of comic relief. Somebody please tell a good joke.

I zeroed in on the woman front row and center in the choir whose tongue was bright blue from recently departed blowpop. Every time she opened her mouth to sing, the sight of it made me tap my cousin and little sister, point like a five-year-old and chuckle. Or the teenaged gents from the funeral home marching down the aisle like the drum majors in my high school band to place a replica of a crown near her hand. What teenager works at a funeral home anyway? I wondered how they told their friends flipping fries at McDonalds or hocking goods at the mall what they did on the side. But hey, insurance isn’t the most glamourous job in the world either, is it?

A salty cocktail of giggles and tears arrived when a bunch of Big’s old singing buddies got up to croon Highway to Heaven. That got me. After that, there was no denying it. I was sad. Hurt, even. Even though I had personally seen the peace that replaced the anguish on her face in the hospital room, I still wished her story had a different ending.

I thought back to my middle school and early high school, days, when after a half day of exams, she would be waiting outside in her little green Ford Focus to pick me up. She was always on time. Once we got to her house, she would whip up the perfect sandwich: halved with mayonnaise on white bread and accompanied by a side of Tampico. We never had white bread at home, I’d think in awe. It was my sister who reminded me of those sainted sandwiches, one night during the weekend of the funeral. She flew in from Atlanta. I was the one who delivered the bad news. Seconds after my grandmother’s last breath, I heard my phone buzz. I answered on impulse, as much to stop its ringing as answer the caller’s question.

I winced as she asked was everything ok.

No, my voice quivered. And listened through my own tears as she digested the news.

It had been years since Big step foot in her home. Sunday afternoon feel empty now without the occasional afternodon visits to sit with her while she watched television, ate dinner and just caught up on the world outside her nursing home’s doors.
She had spent weeks in ICU before I finally made time to see her. I definitely regret that.

That I chose her final day on Earth to drop by was unintentional. I knew she wasn’t doing well, but she had been in and out of the hospital so many times, I guess I imagined her invincible and a bit like a well-trained soldier. She wasn’t speaking and only opened her eyes every blue moon to survey the room. I stepped out for air and hid out in the parking lot stairwell. By the time I returned she was gone.

This mother’s day, be sure to cherish the women in your life and honor those whose legacy lives on. I certainly will.

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