June 3, 2007 – Memphis, TN
We’re going through her things now. Momma and her brother and one cousin and this writer, divvying up the little trinkets from the house where we all grew up, at least part of the time — things to take home and put on the shelf and remember her (and him) by.
We wanted the wall-mounted widemouth bass Grandaddy caught, but our uncle got those. We scored a duck-caller and a compass and a few necklaces and a plastic gold-painted American eagle.
You know it’s this family’s kind of affair when our grandmother’s burial service earlier today consisted of 75% music. About Jesus. And very little talking. All about Jesus. But that’s the way she would’ve wanted it. She looked good, too — like before she was sick, back when she was still teaching Sunday school and hosting Servicemen’s Dinners in the Fellowship Hall at church.
We got the ring. No, not the diamond ring Grandaddy gave her at their wedding ceremony over 60 years ago — Mom inherited that long ago. We got the sparkly Avon-bought cubic zirconium monstrosity, the one that would be offensive if it were real. In her later years, Nanny wore this one instead, because she didn’t want to lose the larger, real-rock ring Grandaddy gifted her after years of good wifery.
Mom didn’t think we’d want it, since she knows we think diamonds are sort of gross and we avoid even the appearance of evil unless it’s an accessory made of obvious total drag-queen rhinestone overkill.
So they were going to bury her in it, and that’s when we saw it, and Mom saw us see it, and insisted we should have it. The soft-spoken man in the dark suit at the funeral home pried the Avon ring off her finger just before they closed the casket during the service.
And, naturally, it took an awkwardly long time to get the damn ring off her unrelenting hand. Kind of creepy, and when the patently sympathetic dark-suit-man walked over to hand it to us in the front pew before the preacher started talking, we felt like the black-sheep morbid weirdo of the family (again).
But we’re glad to have it. It covers the tattoo. And it reminds us of … grandma’s hands. (DAMMIT now the Bill Withers song is stuck in our head AGAIN.)
Finally. Finally, she got to shuffle off this mortal coil that had long been of no use to her for some time now. We imagine Grandaddy was waiting there for her at the end of the tunnel, smiling and winking in some rumbly old truck, waiting to fly her around outer space to show her the sights he’s seen in the past eight years since the cancer ate him up.
Of course, out there in the Milky Way, she’ll have her nose stuck in the romance novel stashed inside her Bible cover the whole time, and he’ll playfully jibe her for not taking in the sights, but he won’t really mind.
Right now here outside of Memphis, in our family’s permanent-until-tomorrow home base, there’s a passel of male relatives moving furniture and female ones packing up gewgaws and books and china. We’re dispersing the stuff among friends, neighbors, and the Salvation Army. Thank goodness there’s nothing of real monetary value in the house; there’s no fighting.
We want to take weird items, like all Nanny’s silk and acetate scarves, a book of inspirational poems our great-grandmother gifted her in 1921, a piece of flowery wallpaper from their bedroom, an old toolbox with Grandaddy’s initials carved into it …
Not every child gets to grow up with her own personal superhero, in the form of a fort-building babysitter Navy aircraft repairman automotive genius whom small children and animals would literally flock to like some kind of modern-day cerulean-eyed saint. Him and his wife, our mother’s mother, the picture-perfect Christian homemaker party-host moral-compass chef-seamstress-teacher supreme.
Now they’re together at last.
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