There’s Been a Death

4 01 2012

Mama called in near hysterics the other night. Between sobs, I made out that her former father-in-law (my sister’s grandfather) had finally lost a long battle with cancer. One might think that, given her reaction, mom and this former father-in-law had been close. That wasn’t the case even when she was married to the man’s son, and certainly hasn’t been the case in the over 20 years it has been since they divorced. But, careful readers may have picked up that Mama is given to the dramatic, and understand that she couldn’t help herself but to wail and moan as she “got off the phone so she could let the family know.”

Fast forward to last night. Arrangements have been made and announced in the local paper. “A big ole write up on him.” was mama’s assessment of the standard-issue obit that had been filed. “I don’t know whether I should go to the wake or the funeral…I just caint handle both.” Now let me interject here that Mama has not gone to any funeral since my sister’s unless it provides a stage for her or the potential for high drama. When a dear friend’s father passed recently, she “couldn’t handle it” when I asked her to stop by the wake. But a funeral where an ex husband, his jealous current wife, and gobs of old in-laws who always did hate her guts–well, you know she’s gonna be there with her good lipstick on.

“Then I would go to the wake. I think when there is both, the funeral is more for family anyway.”

“Yeah but it’s at seven o clock.”

“…as most wakes are.”

“That’s kinda late fur me to be out in the dark and cold.”

You’ll be fine.”

Then the phone calls began today.

“I reckon Ima go to the wake tonight. It’s the same funeral home where they had yer sister at.”

“Given that they picked and paid for her funeral, I might have guessed that.” It’s a small town, so it was better than a 50 percent chance that’s where it would be.

I just don’t know if I can handle it.”

“Then don’t go.”

“I have to go and pay my respects I guess. Yer uncles gonna meet me up there in the parkin lot and go with me.”


“I just wonder if Mary’s gonna try somethin.” Mary is the octogenarian schizophrenic that my former stepfather traded up to a decade or so ago.

“May I advise that you don’t sit around making small talk with all of them? If you feel the need to go pay your respects, do it and get out of there.”

“I’ll have to go through the line.”

“The less said the better though, no one expects or wants you to hang around like you’re still part of the family.”

Well I just hope this little Subaru’ll get me there. We got near eight inches a snow.”

They are highly regarded in bad weather, it will be fine.”

“Ya know, I found a life insurance policy from Gerber I had on yer sister. You reckon it’s still worth something?”

“I don’t know. Call them and find out.”

If it is, I can finally change that headstone out to something I like.”

“Why? There’s nothing wrong with her headstone.”

I didn’t pick it!”

And for that the grieving families near my sister’s final resting place are thankful. “What a waste of money! And you can’t just go uproot a headstone her grandparents paid for.”

I can now! He’s gone, and she’s so senile she don’t know she’s in the world.”

“Her headstone is perfectly lovely, and it would be a complete waste to buy another one.”

“I guess yer right…”

Should I wear pants or a dress?”

“Whatever you’re more comfortable in.”

The dress is black and gold, but it’s sleeveless. Might be too cold.”

“Sounds like a cocktail dress. I don’t think that sounds good for a funeral.”

I ain’t goin’ to the funeral. I caint take it. Just the wake tonight.”

Whatever. It still isn’t a party.”

“I guess I could wear black pants and a purple sweater. With that black and white coat I got at Kohl’s.”

That would be fine.”

And I aint bustin my ass in a pair of heels. I’ll wear tennashooz to the car and then put on these baby doll shoes once I git up there.”

“Wear whatever you’re comfortable in. Nobody is likely to notice.”

“Oh David’ll notice. ” (That’s the ex-husband.)

“Mom, he will probably be so drunk he won’t even know you’re there.”

“Probably will be. Hey, while you’re doin’ yer shoppin, let me know if you find any women’s handkerchiefs. Ima hafta borry one from yer aunt tonight. I’ve called ever place I can think of and aint nobody up here sells women’s handkerchiefs.”

“I will keep my eyes peeled.”

Now should I wear moonlight path or essence of night?”

“Mother, it’s a damn wake, not a first date. Nobody cares what perfume you wear!”

Oh! Did you know half of downtown burned to the ground at the first of the year?”

It’s true that several buildings in the downtown area where I grew up were destroyed by a fire. Not half of downtown, but she’s prone to hyperbole. “Yes, I heard.”

“I had all kinda things at that consignment store. Im probly out 4 or 5 hundred dollars.”

I laughed aloud. Everyone knows the woman has every stitch of clothing she has ever owned piled ceiling high in her double wide. I’ve suggested many times that she ought to take them to a consignor, but I would bet my last nickle that she didn’t have even one item among the inventory of the burned store. (I can further guarantee that in the coming months, Mama will have some dire financial need that would otherwise have been covered by her profits from the consigned items.)

“An awful shame.” I said, not even trying to hold back the mockery in my voice.

“It is. Well I better go get in the shower so my skin is good and dry by the time I got to leave.”  Don’t we all wish we had the luxury of allowing ourselves to dry for four hours before we had to leave the house?


I’ll call ya back later tonight and let ya know how it was.”

“Can’t wait.”






4 responses

4 01 2012
The Incredible Woody

Seriously. I cannot WAIT to hear this tale!!

4 01 2012
The Vinyl Villager

Between the drunk ex husband, the senile ex mother in law, and the schizophrenic new wife, Mama will be in good company. Thank God my uncle is going to remind her that it’s a somber occasion.

4 01 2012

I’m totally impressed that stepdad traded your mom in for a schizophrenic octogenarian!! Wonder which is worse living with your mama or Mary? Can not wait to hear about it all!!!

5 01 2012
The Vinyl Villager

well, technically, he was married once more between the two of them. Poor thing has gone his whole life without the company of a well woman.

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