At the end of the viewing, my grandmother stands up, smooths down her skirt, discreetly pats her hair, and tells Uncle John to go get Daddy. It was a party-ending ritual; for forty years she sent children, then grandchildren to roust her husband from under the kitchen table where he crouched, scratching a cat's neck. Later, we eased him from the upstairs bed, adjusting his oxygen tubes, searching him for contraband cookies and sweets that he continued to steal long after he ceased to eat. All the family is gathered now, gossiping over the price of a new dress, the second cousin who showed up pregnant, ignoring everything but the details that can be grasped, or held. When Jessica kisses the coffin, praying audibly in her creased Downs slur, we praise the lilies the nuns have sent, how graceful they will look in my grandmother's front room, afterwards, where no one will sit and watch them.
return to the study: