Thursday, October 20, 2005

the flower at Grandpa's wake

From the outside, a funeral home looks welcoming. Flowers are planted in neat rows, the grass is neatly trimmed, and the sidewalk is swept. The large wooden doors, decorated in elaborate ivy designs are clean and polished. It’s hard to imagine that dead people are carried in and out of them on a regular basis.
Just inside, there is a hallway with blue-gray carpet and light blue walls. There are mirrors put up at modest intervals, framed with a light above and an end table below. Each end table has a little drawer with a single knob and a vase of flowers placed neatly in the center. What do they keep in the little drawer?
I am with my family and they were giving off a nervous air. My father and brothers are in the suits they normally wear for church. My mom is wearing a black skirt and dark blouse and my sister is wearing a dark-colored dress. My dress is the prettiest I own: burgundy and velvet.
At the end of hallway there is a right turn before you go into the room where the casket is displayed. The small crowd of my family turns the corner together in a large mass. I wonder if it is hard to turn a casket through this corner. Grandpa must have been carried through this little walkway; did the carriers bump him against the sides of the wall?
We enter the room. There are chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, chairs set up facing a pulpit and more flowers. In another corner there is a television showing calm nature scenes to set the mood. A small upright piano was standing opposite of Grandpa.
Grandma is standing by Grandpa talking to Dennis, her son. There are people all over the place, some looking at Grandpa, some ignoring the existence of his dead body. What am I supposed to look at? Should I go admire some flowers? Should I go talk to relatives I’ve never met? Should I go see Grandpa?
I walk around slowly weaving between groups of people and head towards the piano. I had brought some music, so I move the bench out. The bench was old and had scratches all over it. Placing my foot on the right-most pedal, I see that it is easily the most worn of the three. I lean up and try turning the light one. Click. Click. Oh it needs to be plugged in. Noticing me at the piano, my mom starts towards me. Ignoring her, I open my music and start playing.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” She has been asking that all day. She thinks I should be too distraught to play at the funeral.
“I’m fine.”
“Ok…You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
I run through the piece a few times. It’s not hard. I’ve been playing it for at least four months now. Some relatives mention how nice I play and I give up at it. I guess I should go take a look at Grandpa.
Scooting the bench back, I get up and walk to the casket. Grandpa is wearing a nice suit and looks very peaceful- like he can wake up any second now. His hands are lying on top of each other on his belly, but he’s not holding any flowers. This is not how Disney portrays it in the movies. I think I’ll remedy that. I grab a bright orange carnation off an arrangement. Maybe I should grab roses…no carnations last longer. Taking the carnation, I try to slide it into the gap between his hands.
It won’t go in. I try again. No luck. I continue jabbing the end of the carnation against the dead man’s palms. His hands are like hard rubber; every time I poke the flower into the gap, it bounces back at me. I lean over Grandpa and down look at his hands from his perspective, trying to get the carnation in just right so I don’t have to feel the hardness of his hands through the flower. I try to slip the flower in, with some success. The flower is there all right. It just needs to be positioned just right….
Oh crap. I just touched Grandpa’s stiff, dead hands! I touched a dead man! What do I do? Is that bad? Are you allowed to touch dead people? Did my mom see?
I search around me for any sign that I was offending people…none. Ok. I can handle that. I just have to get away from the casket before I do it again. The piano! Yes. That’s safe.
Walking briskly back towards the piano, I sit down in one quick motion and play until the wake is over. The piano keys seem stiffer than they were and aren’t playing like I would like them. A few relatives comment on my dress. Grandma comments on the flower in Grandpa’s hand.
“It looks nice.”
“I did it.” And desecrated his dead body while I was at it.
“Thanks. I like it.”
I nod and get ready to go back to the hotel. I’ll be back tomorrow for the funeral, the orange carnation blaring that I had touched a dead man.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please review my blog comment policy here before commenting. You may not use the name "Anonymous." You must use a Google Account, OpenID, or type in a name in the OpenID option. You can make one up if you need to. Even if your comment is productive and adding to the conversation, I will not publish it if it is anonymous.