A week ago last Saturday, the Sassistas! traveled to the middle of Pennsylvania to attend the graveside service of Flannista's aunt -- the wife of my mother's brother. It was perhaps the most routine and unemotional funeral ever attended by either one of us.
Fifteen minutes in length, the service was officiated by a local Presbyterian pastor who stiffly read from a Funeral-for-a-Senior script pausing carefully to insert the name "Betty" when required. Scripture readings at funerals -- and weddings -- ought not to be so predictable or so woodenly conveyed. All of us (not more than 15) sat in stony silence. The only person to exhibit any emotion at all was Flann's Uncle Bud. Stricken with Parkinson's, he seemed lost and profoundly sad. At one point, tears in his eyes, he asked one of his daughters, Jenny (Flann's cousin), "Where's Betty?"
"She's in heaven, Daddy," replied Jenny.
"I want to go there, too," said Uncle Bud. During the service, the pastor had read a brief statement from Uncle Bud which included tidbits about the trips he had made around the world with his wife. "Both of us loved Barcelona the most." In his lap he held a photo of the two of them at the wedding of one of their two daughters. They clearly looked as though they enjoyed each other's company.
I spoke briefly with my Uncle who seemed to remember who I was once Jenny said, "You know, Honey's [his pet name for my mother] daughter. She's one of those five little girls."
Uncle Bud looked at me. "You're one of Honey's little girls?" I replied yes. Then Matissta told him he was famous on the internet. "We googled you and saw everything you did during the war with your skill in radio and engineering," said Matissta. "You're famous!"
It was one of two times that I saw Uncle Bud smile.
When the service was over, Matissta and I waited to see where the reception was to be held, but everyone got into their cars and left. Jenny told me about "mountains of paperwork". She was understandably overwhelmed. Matissta and I gave our final condolences and left. A four-hour drive to get there, a four-hour drive to get back. A 30-minute visit. Why did I want to go?
I wanted to stand in for my mother who -- also stricken with Parkinson's -- was unable to attend. It was bittersweet to stand on the family plot and remember all those Memorial Days when I was younger . . . those days Honey and her husband packed garden tools, some flowers and all five of their little girls into the car and drove four hours to tend lovingly to the gravesite of my mother's father, mother, brother and now his wife. My mother has no formal marker at this family plot. But a week ago Saturday, I stood there for her. Tended for her.
It was my turn.
Flannista's uncle, June 17, 1928, age 8
Flannista's uncle, with great granddaughter, June 30, 2012, age 91