Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Funeral In A Small Town- Part V

Finally it is the family’s turn. My boys have been sitting an awful long time and they are taught as bowstrings, quivering with pent up energy. They need tree climbing and bike riding on a day like today. Though it is unbearably hot, it is tantalizingly sunny. I inhale deeply over the top of Diminutive One’s head, expecting his usual smell of sun, green things, damp earth and sweat. Instead, he smells of starch and shoe polish and conditioned air. Pre-Pubescent One notices me smelling his brother and wrinkles his nose with unspoken distaste.

The pallbearers, sitting in the front row, go first. I watch husband approach the casket and I wish I could be at his side. A cousin puts a supporting arm around his shoulder. They stand, together, solemn, unmoving. Jerry’s son, whose mop of sun bleached blonde hair stands out among the older more grizzled heads begins to cry silently, his shoulders hitching gently under his voluminous suit coat. The cousin with his arm around Husband puts his other arm around Jeremy and pulls him close. He pulls Husband close as well and they stand in a small, tight huddle of woe.

These men are so different, their lives divergent. And yet, standing there, they are as indistinguishable as they were in the days when they wore denim overalls instead of business suits; sneakers instead of work boots. Today they are all boys once again.

They turn to exit the church and I can see now that Husband has tears running down his cheeks. His eyes are red and he is struggling not to sob. I think I am the only one who realizes how tentative is his hold on composure. I feel it in my bones the way I feel his presence in our home when he is not there. I can do nothing, so I extend my hand into the aisle as he passes. His palm skims mine, clutches briefly, desperately, and then slips away. He is gone before the warmth from his body has cooled in my grasp. I feel a bitter sting behind my own lids. His tears wound me.

A glance tells me that they have wounded my boys as well. They are both crying soundlessly, salty drops plopping onto the sharp creases I have ironed into their pants. I draw them close to me and whisper to them not to worry. “Dad is okay…he’ll be okay.”

My sister-in-law is now coming down the aisle. She leans heavily on her sweet, strong, silent husband and then suddenly stumbles, blind with tears, weak with sorrow. He quietly catches her, bolstering her with his body, buouying her with murmured tenderness.

We do not go look at the body again. When it is our turn we simply slip out of the pew and head toward the back of the church where Husband and the others have congregated. They are no longer crying. Though still somber, they are smiling. One of the cousins says,

“You member that time Nanny caught us beating on her rose bushes with sticks?”

They remember. They all smile.

“Yup. Stripped those suckers bare.”

“Lord, she tore me UP that day!”

“YOU! I couldn’t hardly sit for a week.”

“Why’d we do that…you member?”

“Naw. We was just kids. I reckon we was jes trying to find something to do.”

Jeremy, much younger than the rest, listens intently, but with a furrow in his brow and a small frown on his lips. “She whupped you?” he asks, disbelieving. “Nanny?”

One of the others cousins snorts with laughter and says wryly, “Shoot son. With that many grandkids runnin ‘round, Nanny and PawPaw was always whuppin somebody for somethin. And they like to deserve it too. We was nothing but a bunch of heathens runnin’ wild.”

Another cousin chimes in. “Yeah, but she always gave you a treat after. Some biscuits with sorghum syrup or some fried apple pies. Damn. Them pies….” His lip quivers a bit at the memory.

Husband says, “I’m tellin’ you what…I never had pies as good as hers. Mama’s pies are good, but they can’t hold a candle to Nanny’s. Don’t tell Mama that though!”

They all laugh. It’s a good sound.

Yet another cousin speaks. “You ‘member them ‘maters Nanny used to grow in her garden? They was might near as big as cantaloupes. I don’t know how she grew them things so big. She used to say, ‘Them ‘maters has got the Lord’s goodness in ‘em.’"

“Yeah!” says another. “She make you ‘mater sandwiches?”

They all nod and a collective “Mmmmhmmm” ripples through them.

Husband says, “What about that time we rolled that culvert down the hill?”

“Soooooon….I thought Nanny was going to have a coronary!”

“Well, it woulda served us right if she did. What kind of hodanged foolish thing was that to do? We coulda all been killed. If that thing had rolled over one a us, we’d a been dogmeat.”

“She didn’t whup us ‘at time.” Says one cousin quietly.

“Nope.” Says another, “Too scairt, I reckon.”

“Yep. She was eat up with what migtha happened.”

“Poor Nanny. We was jes too much for her.”

“Shoot. We wasn’t neither. She knew how to handle young ‘uns.”

“Djou get a whuppin’ when you got home?”

“Hell yes. Daddy might near took the skin offa my backside.”

There is a chorus of general agreement and exclamations about the length and severity of the various forms of corporal punishment that each of the miscreants had received.

Husband says, “Daddy didn’t whup me.”

The cousins look at him with surprise.

“He just told me how disappointed he was that I would put Nanny through such a terrible thing, and how she was just heartsick thinking about what could have happened. He said she would have blamed herself forever if one of us had got hurt or killed. He told me she was at home prayin’ her little heart out, askin’ the Lord for forgiveness for not watchin’ over us better.”

The cousins nod and murmur their sympathy to Husband. They know how that game is played and they know how much it can injure the soul of a naughty but deeply penitent little boy. It was a harsher pain than any hickory switch could impart. It was a deep down gut sick guilty kind of hurt.

Husband continues. “I went to apologize to Nanny the next day. I was cryin so hard I could hardly get the words out. It took me an awful long time to say my piece.”

He pauses for a moment, remembering. The cousins urge him to continue. “Well. What’d she say??”

Husband smirks. “She said, ‘Praise Jesus and deliver me from these willful chil-dern Lord!’”

They all laugh until the tears flow again, but this time they are tears of mirth. They sober quickly as Brother Dwight approaches, and wipe their eyes, sighing. But he does not glower or scold them. Instead, he smiles beneficently and his eyes twinkle above his glorious moustache. I imagine he knows that Nanny would rejoice to see them laughing. I imagine he knows how much people need to laugh on a day full or mourning and sorrow.

Though I was angry with him earlier, I realize that he in not an unkind man. I begin to realize that much of what he does is a performance of a kind. Sunday after Sunday, he is called upon to deliver the hellfire and brimstone they expect of him. They are a demanding audience.

Brother Dwight claps them each on the shoulder and asks them if they are ready. They nod and file after him, once again respectfully subdued.

The drive to the cemetery is long. Nanny wished to be buried in Alabama next to Ennis. They were both born and raised there. It is home.

In the van, the boys lose themselves in mindless diversion on the twin screens that are velcroed to the seat backs. I am deep in thought and husband is weary with the day’s emotion. We don’t speak for a long time, but it is a companionable silence. After a while, Husband breaks the silence to ask, “Why so quiet baby?”

“I just…I’ve never seen anything like that in my life.” It’s a wholly inadequate expression of my astonishment and awe at what took place, but it’s all I can muster at the moment. He is puzzled, of course.

“It was just a funeral.”

“Yes, but….”

I struggle to explain why, exactly, this was such a profound experience for me. There has been nothing comparable on my side of the family, no basis for comparison. He can’t understand how completely and thoroughly foreign I have found it. And I can’t explain that although it was startling, disconcerting and uncomfortable, it was also beautiful, uplifting and inspiring. Have I ever witnessed such fervor? Have I ever witnessed such joy? Have I ever witnessed such abandon? Never. Never. And my northern reserve balks at all of it while also being thoroughly envious. It’s a dichotomy I am at a loss to explain. So instead, I pose a question of him.

“Why did Brother Dwight ask for people to be saved??”

There is indignance in my voice, and of course, he hears it. He is no stranger to my many indignances. They are as much a part of me as the color of my eyes or my independant nature. But he does not know why I am indignant.

“It was a funeral baby.”

He says this as if that simple statement explains everything to me. But it doesn’t.

“Yes. It was a funeral. Not a goddamned revival meeting!”

I hadn’t meant to speak so venomously. But the words are out there and I can’t snatch them back. Husband is accustomed to such outbursts, especially when it comes to matters of religion and faith. He says softly, “It’s the way things are. It’s the way she would have wanted it.”

There is nothing I can say to that, and we both fall silent again.

At last, the long line of cars slows as the church comes into view. It sits atop a hill, small and unassuming, surrounded by gently waving grass, brightly colored wildflowers, and hundreds upon hundreds of graves. Some are sunken and choked with weeds. Some are fresh, the grave markers still slick and glinting in the bright sun. I can see the red awning that has been erected over the family plot. We all turn in, tires crunching on the gravel strewn drive that leads up the gentle slope.

As we park and unfold from cars, trucks and vans, the heat of the afternoon sun strikes like a hammer. It is brutally hot. I would not be surprised if it was a hundred degrees or even more.

Most of the family is in a hurry to get to the graveside. Everyone wants a front row seat. Except me. And Jerry. We hang back, both of us tense and dripping. His son turns to look for him, worried, I know, that this will be the worst part. The leaving behind. But Jerry waves him on, the picture of nonchalance. He pulls hard on his cigarette, steeling himself for what is to come.


© Blog Antagonist 2006,2007. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of all content, text or image, is prohibited without prior written consent.

12 Comments:

  • At 9:59 AM, Blogger painted maypole said…

    I'm waiting to find out what happens with Jerry. I am nervous and hopeful all at once.

     
  • At 11:04 AM, Blogger Jenn said…

    "They are both crying soundlessly, salty drops plopping onto the sharp creases I have ironed into their pants."

    I saw them falling.

     
  • At 12:00 PM, Blogger flutter said…

    Oh how this piece broke my heart...

     
  • At 1:05 PM, Blogger Amy York said…

    I second those comments... I saw the tears and Jerry's pain. It breaks my heart too... :(

     
  • At 4:21 PM, Blogger slouching mom said…

    I'm fascinated by your husband in this series, your husband, who must straddle the world of his childhood and the world he now inhabits with you and your children.

    He does so with dignity and grace. He must be a good man.

     
  • At 9:15 PM, Anonymous Organic Mama said…

    "His palm skims mine, clutches briefly, desperately, and then slips away. He is gone before the warmth from his body has cooled in my grasp. I feel a bitter sting behind my own lids. His tears wound me."

    Thank you for transporting us with you; your haunting writing compelled me to read on, to absorb the experience as you unfolded it and I am so moved and very grateful.

     
  • At 1:44 PM, Blogger jen said…

    i agree w/ slouchy - i know he is a good man.

    this series, BA. wow. just wow.

    thank you.

     
  • At 4:01 PM, Blogger mamatulip said…

    I just caught up on the last two installments. I wish I could come up with something better to say than just WOW, but...just WOW. I hung off your every word, during each installment. This series is fabulous and it begs the question, WHY aren't you a published author, BA?

     
  • At 7:44 PM, Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said…

    I am so impressed with how you write dialogue. You really capture the accent, the humor and the different personalities through it. I feel like I know these people.

     
  • At 11:03 AM, Blogger Code Yellow Mom said…

    Oh, BA... Just finished reading all five parts in one (and a half) sittings...You have such talent. I could see it and feel it all.

    I love how you/the heroine are furious and forgiving all at once - I think that's more like most of us really are. Or would like to be.

    Funerals are horrible and wonderful and deeply felt and surreal all at once. My favorite part of your story (and of funerals in general - if there can be a favorite part of such a thing) is the talk after - the laughing and remembering. You captured that kind of feeling so beautifully here.

    You've also managed to touch on some really important and fascinating life themes in this: faith, of course, but also strength, choices, traditions and habits, and how different people express/process deep emotion.

    Extremely touching and well-done.

     
  • At 9:30 PM, Anonymous christie said…

    I was pointed here by antique mommy and have just read this all at once. I was raised Southern Baptist in a small Texas town so the funeral scenes were reminiscent of my childhood and the recent loss of my husband's 96 year old saintly grandmother made this story ring even more true for me. I was captivated by your storytelling and I felt as if I was IN that church with you. Thank you for sharing this with me...and for your honesty about your own faith. Usually the questioning of our beliefs will bring us peace because we know why we believe something. Thank you for a great read.

     
  • At 10:58 AM, Blogger Rebecca said…

    Love it. Love it. Love it! You've got quite the ability to spin a story and capture my complete attention. How long has it been since the last installment first went up? A while. And I didn't need to re-read it at all to remember right where we had left off. It was that vividly etched in my mind. Amazing stuff B.A.

     

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