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.
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.