It's not like I didn't know my grandfather's death was coming. He had a stroke some weeks ago, and he had been declining since last summer, when he had a rather serious single-vehicle accident. Even so, his death hit me hard. Harder than I'd anticipated.
His funeral was a funeral, of the Southern Baptist variety. I was glad I was there, mostly because I was able to spend time with my mom, whose mortality seems more real, suddenly. She's a couple of years into the 5-year life expectancy her doctor gave her. I don't know what I'm going to do when I lose her, too.
There are a few highlights of the week we spent there that I'll outline before I forget them - and if I get the desire to write back, I might go back and fill them out:
- The preacher at my family's church came over Wednesday afternoon, the day before the funeral. My mom's three sisters and my mom sat around and told stories about him - mostly things I'd already heard, but hearing their recollections and adding my own was probably the best part of the week. The most impressive thing - which I didn't know - was that he sold houses to very poor people in a predominantly black part of the county, financing them himself, charging low interest, and accepting whatever the people could pay each month. One woman told my mom she paid $10 or $20 a month, and finally paid off her house, and she never would've been able to own a house without my grandfather.
- The worst part was at the graveside. My three brothers and three male cousins were pallbearers. All was well, as they lifted the casket awkwardly over a headstone and onto the platform. My youngest brother, J, came down from the platform and immediately began to sob uncontrollably. His fiancee held him for a while, and then my mom, and then me. "I tried to hold it in," he said, "but I just couldn't anymore." J really wanted my grandfather to be at his wedding, scheduled just three weeks after the funeral. My heart broke. Again.
- Visitations are weird and uncomfortable. My grandfather's body looked like a movie corpse - not at all like himself. The good thing about the visitation was seeing people I haven't seen in a long time, most especially the man who was as much like my grandfather's son as he was an employee. He saved my grandfather's life (literally) more than once, but those are stories for another time. I also saw my 12th grade English teacher, who didn't remember me, but I remembered her - she told me I was not a good writer, and that I should not expect to be an English major in college. Heh.
- My grandfather's sister, R, is interested in family genealogy and history, and she's figured out that I have a lot more interest in that sort of thing than anyone else in my family. She called one evening to ask if I'd be interested in my great-great-Aunt Mattie's special hat-feathers, from sometime in the early 1900s. Er. Sure. Sounds cool. So once I get them, I'm going to need to talk to someone who can tell me about preservation of feathers. Hm.
- The day of the funeral, my mom's sister C asked if they could please make an appointment with my grandfather's lawyer to get the will started. That bit of tactlessness made me incredibly, horribly angry.
- The public library in my hometown of 3000-ish people has free wifi. Who knew?
- I sincerely disliked my aunt A's significant other. He radiated assholishness. She radiated an odd meekness that I found disturbing.
- My cousin M's 3-month-old daughter was rather astonishingly cute, if a bit fussy. I was a little sad that I didn't get a chance to hold her. My opinions on babies have softened rather substantially in the past few years.
- I hope my brother K does marry his current girlfriend. Apparently, they're talking in that direction - and they're living together now, something my brother has never done before. She was great, and there needs to be another tattooed liberal in my family. And K, for the first time that I can remember, seems comfortable in his own skin. Even better, he seems genuinely, comfortably happy.
- I went to the best bar in southeastern North Carolina with ana, my brother P, and his wife. We saw a pretty awesome Aussie band there, and drank some good beer, and I made an attempt to bond with my sister-in-law. It seems a losing proposition.
- I spent some time with my mom, which was just good. I worry, especially when she doesn't have much feeling in her fingers, and drops her cigarettes constantly. While I was there, she dropped it on her oxygen cord. When it burned through, there was a little torch, she said. Fortunately, it was put out quickly before any serious damage was done.
- I love my partner, who spent way too much time with my family and stuck by me, doing exactly what I needed by just being with me.
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