It Goes On

There is a lot that I was going to say about our time in Louisiana to attend the funeral of Frank’s paternal grandfather, Papaw. Through the weekend, I took pictures with both my camera and my mind. I curled ribbons of words about love, loss, and life to write into a post.

But I am tired. I thought that our current run of sickness and injuries exhausted itself once Jaiden recovered from his head collision. However upon our return home last night around 10pm, we discovered that Kyra was running a fever of 103°. Around midnight, Kaelyn burst into our room practically screaming. I asked her what was wrong. She answered by vomiting all over my lap, then continued to puke every 1-2 hours since then. As of now (5:o0pm), she’s finally been asleep for a stretch longer than one hour.

I’m far too spent to wax philosophical.

In the end, all that’s needed to know are these points, given in no particular order:

There was more joy in this weekend than there was sadness. The 81 years of Frank’s grandfather’s life were celebrated far more than the 5 days of his loss were mourned. Good times with family bookended Saturday morning’s 2-hour funeral service, and even that had moments of life-affirming levity.

At the funeral, I saw Frank cry for only seventh time in the 19 years that we’ve been together.

Frank and his father

Two thoughts occurred to me when he folded himself into my arms: I love that I’m still the one you need, and I know you will be sad when Ma’dea passes, but I’m afraid of how hard the loss of Grandma Rose will hit you. 

Grandma Rose is Frank’s maternal grandmother, but she’s always been more of a second mother to him. She was mainly the one who raised him until he was around age nine. She has a host of other grandchildren, but she refers to Frank as “my heart.” She’s been increasingly ill over the past few years. She knew of Frank’s grandfather’s passing, but didn’t know that Frank and I were coming. We went straight to her house when we got into town. We were told that she’d had dialysis that morning and might not be too lucid. When Frank walked into her room, she groggily opened her eyes and then seemed to nod off. Then she woke up with a start and said, “My baby! Are you really here? I thought I was dreaming!”

Her body is withered, the skin drawn taut over her bones. Her tall, formerly statuesque frame seems somehow shrunken…delicate. Her temperament is as feisty and warm as ever, though.

Wait a minute before you take that picture…let Grandma Rose put her wig on first. You know I have to look good in pictures with my baby.”

“When I woke up in the rehab center last week, that fool doctor called me a ‘mule.’ He said I was as stubborn as one, because that sickness what struck me last week shoulda taken me out. I told him, “Son – God knows me, but he doesn’t know where I live. I ain’t ready to go, no sir. I’m not leavin’ here ’til I’m good ‘n ready to go.”  Then she laughed a goodish laugh, a throaty one which reverberated with the strength of her will and not the weakness of her body.

Frank’s Ma’dea, Papaw’s wife of almost 60 years, was a pillar of strength at the funeral and post-funeral repast. After the service, people went home long enough to change clothes, trading stuffy suits, dresses, and pantsuits for summer-friendly casual wear. The repast had all the animation and noise of a regular family reunion. There was loud music, dancing, barbecue, beer, kids on the trampoline, a basketball game among the cousins, posing for pictures, laughter, cake, hugs, a Soul Train line. That’s how you deal with death; you remember how to live.

From the porch steps Ma’dea, the matriarch of Frank’s paternal side, looked out over her brood of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren with all the majesty of a lioness looking over her pride. Her man was gone, but their grandsons descended from them were by her side in his stead.

There is something to be said about time, dedication, family, tradition, heritage, marriage, culture, honor, and love. I don’t really feel driven to tame it into words, to crystallize it into a pithy turn of phrase. I only know that the feeling is there, and I am glad to have been one thread in the fabric of it.

Rear: Frank's dad Middle: Frank's mom (divorced, but still friends since '92), younger brother OJ, Ma'dea, Frank ~ Front: younger sister Candice

21 thoughts on “It Goes On”

  1. I am so sorry for Frank’s loss (and yours), and for everything that’s been going on lately. I love the photos, am envious of the close family you all have… and am glad Frank has you to hold onto. Also? Frank and his dad look more like brothers than father & son!

    Hugs and love to you all.

    1. Thanks, Erin. I hope this just all means that we’re running through our quota of bad luck for the year sooner, rather than later,

      Both sides of Frank’s family have longevity and good looks going for them. They don’t seem to age much. Frank and his dad share the same first names (not middles). To distinguish between the two, they’ve always been “Frank” and “Lil’ Frank.” A lot of family members were looking for Frank’s dad, thought they found him, and were surprised when they got close enough to realize that it was actually MY Frank. I heard, “Boy, I thought you were your father,” plenty of times this weekend. 🙂

  2. Jeez! Still with the unfortunate events? Come on, already, universe!

    That’s such an amazing thing that happens at wakes/funerals – the family reunion aspect, which makes it almost fun. I’m glad Frank got to have some time with the people who are important to him.

    (I gotta ask, though. Is it cultural or regional or what to make a t-shirt with the picture of the deceased? Do you wear that on a regular Saturday to mow the lawn? I was horrified when my aunt and uncle asked my brother-in-law to take pictures of my grandmother in the casket, so I am fascinated by the different ways people remember the dead. I prefer photo albums from when the person was alive and the pictures in my head, so everything else seems odd.)

    1. It’s a cultural thing, but it seems to be more prevalent in the South than in other places. It’s not really my thing; I wouldn’t choose to have t-shirts commemorating my death or that of my immediate family’s, but for many it’s considered a nice way to celebrate a loved one’s life. Only a couple of older grandsons and a couple of toddlers wore the t-shirts to the actual funeral, but maybe about a third of the family changed into the t-shirts for the repast. No one (that I know of) took pictures at either the visitation or the funeral, but wouldn’t have surprised me if someone had.

      Thanks for the love, a.

      1. I guess a t-shirt is no more or less odd than the year of mourning dress in
        which those crazy Victorians engaged!

        I hope this week is much better for you guys

  3. I’m so sorry to hear of Frank’s loss. But the picture you paint of his relationship with his grandparents and family is so rich – makes me think that life has been good to them on the whole. What a gift.

    1. Thanks, J. There is a certain warmth that flows through Frank’s family. Even though we’ve only been to Louisiana twice in all of our time together, it never seems like Frank has been away when we go back.

  4. I’m sorry for your family’s loss and that your little ones have had such a trying time lately. I wish them a quick recovery, but I think from your writing that you are consoled by the fact that you guys have such a wonderful, close-knit family.

  5. So sorry for your family’s loss. Grandparents are so special — even when you know they’ve lived a good long life, it’s so hard to say goodbye. I was particularly close to my maternal grandparents — they’ve both been gone almost 15 years, & i still miss them horribly.

    Hope your kids are feeling better too!

  6. “That’s how you deal with death; you remember how to live.” – absolute perfection.

    I’m so sorry for your family’s loss (and all the crazy illness and injury your family has been dealing with). Sending hugs your way…

  7. Oh, I copied the same sentence. “That’s how you deal with death; you remember how to live.” Breathtaking, the whole post and that line and the family bonds that run so deep.

  8. For someone who wasn’t going to write much, you put together an incredibly touching and moving post. I am so very sorry for your loss and want both you and Frank to know that my thoughts and prayers are with you both.

  9. I just love how everyone comes together and celebrates life versus sobbing and hiding their pain and grief.

    I hope the girls are feeling better quickly!

  10. El Cinco's Gran-Gran

    Beautiful post!!!!!!! Remember that statement when I go on to glory! Remember my life and live! I want a party like the one you had after his funeral.

    The Ladies are fine and dandy now. Whew! I know it was a rough time.

    Now which one of you will be here next Thursday?????

  11. El Cinco's Gran-Gran

    Oh yeah… Word to you too.

    I think we should all take a trip up there real soon! I would love to meet everyone.

  12. I am sorry to hear this…Anyway, I am sure that everything will fall into the right place and you will know at the end why it happened to your family…

  13. Oh my friend but you DID tame it into words and crystallize it; you did curl ribbons of love and loss and life that were more touching than I can express.

    Thank you for sharing such beauty with us.
    Sending love and a hope for a new day and peace for you all.

  14. Hey J-dub. I came by to check out the footer and saw this post. As usual with your writing, I was completely drawn in. Please give my best to Frank….and I think you’re absolutely spot on describing ” time, dedication, family, tradition, heritage, marriage, culture, honor, and love” as the fabric of life.

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