She had a particular set of music that she wanted at the funeral. “Memories” from Cats, and “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” from Evita. Big, loud, brassy numbers. Laptop was down, but I figured out how to burn the CDs on Dad’s laptop. My Harvard computer science degree came in handy for my stepmother’s funeral.
I could handle the service, no problem. Standard Catholic mass. Lots of cookie-cutter sisters pressed like Whitman white chocolates into the front row, all sobbing delicately into Kleenex. Sit-stand-kneel, sing number 865 from the hymnal. I even took communion with the bunch of them, and did not burst into flames. I ate the body of Christ and thought of zombies.
There was a gullet-stuffing potluck after the funeral. Even after everyone had eaten all the Sam’s Club Value Cashews and cole slaw and four-cheese sandwiches and Vienna sausages on plastic toothpicks, even then, there were two party trays of fatty ham and roast-beef sandwiches left over. Somehow the trays came to my dad’s house. I tried to throw them away, but my brother and my father reacted violently. “You so much as make a move to throw out that party tray, and I’ll break your neck,” snarled my brother. He kept it for a day, ate one sandwich from it, and threw it away himself. Something about West Virginia and wasted food. I’ll explain it to you someday. If you lived here, you would already understand.
Flew to West Virginia a week ago, again. Death tours back east running into tens of thousands of dollars.
Dad is sad. I was ready for much worse; I was expecting full-on drinking binges and self-loathing and suicidality, like when we were kids. He’s focusing on helping others instead. He just got elected into an officer position down at the local AA branch. He laughs now and then.
E-mail says more layoffs at work. They fired fifteen people; do you think I could maybe re-do the schedule while I have down time? [Redacted.] Dad is worried about what he will eat. I taught him how to cook a steak, how to dice an onion, how to bake fish, and how to roast croutons.
House looks the same. Lots of leaves. You people in California don’t know leaves, and you don’t know sky. You should come visit, and you will see sky.
The sisters left, in a gossiping, nattering bunch and I was left with my brother, my father, and my Appalachian stoicism. I was actually doing fine until tonight, when I had to disassemble the pictures from the collage back into a photo album. That’s when it hit me. Death in the family. Sixth in three years.