For Part I, click here.
Now, the funeral was going as funerals go.
My father's family is a terribly quiet bunch of folk (I learned this from my Auntie Joyce), so there wasn't a bunch of hollering and crying and folks trying to jump over in the casket.
I was thrown off a little by the reading of the New Testament Scripture. The preacher was messing up some word. Maybe he was just nervous.
When the Usher that helped me earlier got up and sung the solo of the choir selection... well, I'd never seen such a thang before. That is dedication right there, when you can be the Usher AND grab the mike and belt out a song...
That's what I call being a real servant right there. You know, being straight up All-purpose like White lily flour.
This was all interesting, but my mind was in a whole nother place. I was still thinking about my little trusty notebook. I was thinking of stuff I needed to write down and do when we got out of there. I was cold as all get out, as someone forgot to turn on the heat in the church. I don't own a coat, but I had my trusty windbreaker, and I zipped it up.
But I sat up straight and paid attention when it came to the REMARKS.
Oh, they started off nice enough. The church was pretty small, and people could speak and be heard without a microphone or anything. "He was a good man, made me laugh," a couple of people said.
My cousins got up. Good grief, we all sho do look alike. It is something else to see the folks who have the same DNA as me and not to know them.
But, the dearly departed Mr. Willie's ex-wife got up and grabbed the big yellow microphone.
"Hi, I'm Judy, and I'm his ex-wife. I met him on a bus trip to the casino! He looked at me and said 'You gonna be my wife. I'ma marry you one day, girl! You gonna be my wife!"
I stared at her. I remember him having a wife, but that didn't look like the one I remember. But I was 8 years old or something at the time of meeting the wife. Shoot, coulda been her for all I know.
But then, she said "He loved to hear me sang. So I'ma sang a song. Cuz he just luv to hear me sang!!"
She stood up there and sang that doggone song from the end of The Imitation of Life.
You know the one, "Trouble of the World".
That chick belted that song out. Wasn't expecting that at ALL. That woke me up.
She finished that one verse, put the mike back on the stand, then sat down.
Everyone clapped, especially the old folk. They loved that! Heard a bunch of "Amens!" and "Glorys" after that.
Then another woman got up.
"My name is Lacey, and I'm his ex-wife. I was the first one and I loved him. I gave him 4 sons!"
*Ladylee frowning and looking around.*
She said some more stuff. I do hope she got up there to say all that sincerely.
Look to me like she was trying to show up the first chick.
Maybe not. I hope not.
THEN somebody else got up. This chick totally confused me. She said, "He was married to my Mama and I was the only girl. Thank you for giving him to me in my life. He was a good father." Then she went and sat down to an older woman.
That looked to me like somebody made their daughter grab the microphone. Hmmm.
So... there were three ex-wives? Wow. And they all came to the funeral.
Then the usher/sanger got up and said a few words.
"I'm a member of the Bi.loxi crew. All the bil.oxi people stand up!"
A whole crowd of folk on the left side of the church stood up.
I suppose this was his bus-riding-to-the -casino crew.
She pointed to the other side of the church, away from the crowd. "You stand up too, Erma! You part of the crew too."
A woman who was sitting on the right side of the church, with the mothers/elderly, stood up.
LOL!! She got called out, trying to sit with the holy folk. LOL!!!
This was a bit too funny to me. And funny to everyone because folks were laughing a bit too HARD.
His son got up... He couldn't speak, but stood there weeping for a few minutes.
Finally he spoke. "Yeah, I love the ol' man, and we use to get into some stuff, stuff I ain't gonna mention up in church. This is all nice, the way ya'll got him all laid out up in here, real nice. My father's side of the family did good."
My imagination went wild. Hmmm... what was going down with them? He, this first cousin of mine, looked to be my age, with the same very light eyes as his father. He said a few other things that almost made me think maybe he was estranged from his father like I was. Who knows?
Then, someone from that Biloxi crew stood up. Skinny fellow, dressed real neat. You could tell he was a drinker, and had probably spent a good bit of time cleaning himself up for the funeral.
He grabbed the mike.
"Us, we had some good times, yes we did. Me, Willie, and Milton used to go down to the bootleg house and have a GOOD time!"
Milton, my father, yelled "Come on, Mayne!!"
The guy smiled. "I'm just telling the truth. Gotta tell the truth up in church!!!"
I just shook my head.
My goodness. The bootleg house.
Every neighborhood has a "bootleg house".
You don't know what that is?
It is the house in the neighborhood where you can go buy your liquor on Sundays. Prices a little higher than the liquor store, but whatever.
When you need a drank, you need a drank, I suppose.
(The one in my hood is DIRECTLY behind my house. I will post a pic of it in a later post.)
There were a couple of women that got up and spoke of how Uncle Willie got in car wrecks. (My Auntie Joyce told me that my father wrecked a lot of cars. Auntie, we must discuss this again, as it seems like his brother was the same way. What is up with that?)
One woman, one of his former co-workers, said that Uncle Willie had crashed his car into a Shell station sign. He passed out. When he woke up, he saw the Shell sign, but the "S" had fallen off.
So when he saw the "hell" of the Shell sign, well, he thought he had woke up in hell.
Now that was FUNNY. We all laughed hard at that one.
(I gotta use that in a story somewhere. Really, because that is classic.)
Then, another woman got up.
(I thought they were suppose to have a limit on remarks?)
She adjusted the church hat on her head. "The Lawd told me to tell ya'll something."
I sat up a little straighter, wondering where the heck this was going.
"The lady that got up and sang the song, Willie's ex-wife, is my sister. Me and Willie was friends."
I sunk a little lower in my place in the pew. I was thinking to myself, please don't let this woman confess to fooling around with this man.
"The day after Willie married my sister, he called me and said 'Ethel, I done married this woman, and now I need to get a divorce. Help me get a divorce. So I put him in touch with all the lawyers, and he divorced my sister."
What the world?
She nodded and smiled. "The Lawd told me to tell you all that."
That was unnecessary to say the least. I do believe I would whoop my sister Kentucky's a** if she stood up ANYWHERE in public and put my bizness out like that.
I do believe a good 15-20 people got up and spoke. I lost count. I wanted to snap my finger and tell the preacher to get some control over all of this. Some people had nice things to say, but doggonit, there was some underlying craziness in some of the comments.
The minister finally got up to give the Eulogy.
He said, "I do believe I need to rename this Eulogy 'Will the real Mrs. Parke.r please stand up'"?
Everybody laughed. And he repeated this a good 5 times throughout his eulogy.
I don't know who the real "Mrs." was, but I counted 3 ex-wives up in there.
Uh, Uncle Willie made his rounds.
That eulogy was 30 minutes long. It was on salvation, which was interesting. I have the attention span of a flea, so I do believe I drifted a few times. He did talk about dranking and whore mongering for a minute there, which was really wild.
But once it was over, they loaded the casket into hearse, and everyone got in the limos or milled around outside the church.
I have a confession to make.
Back in 1989, both of my father's parents died, within 7 months of each other. I was 19 at the time, and me and my mother went to the funerals. I didn't want to go. I didn't know these people. But my mother convinced me to go. We went, and sat in the back of the church.
Well, at that last funeral, my grandfather's funeral, my mother and I went over to the limo to speak to my father.
He yelled at me.
"Why you didn't come by the house?!!"
I was taken aback by this.
I didn't know this man. And hell, he hadn't been to not one graduation, not one birthday party, NOTHING. Didn't even pay the measly $25 dollar a week child support.
And he had the NERVE to yell at me?
Pissed me off something terrible. Plus, I had taken off from work that day to go to the funeral. I was making $9.24 per hour at my first chemist job, a co-op at Amoco Fab.rics and Fi.bers. Being at that funeral was messing with my money.
I decided that day that I wouldn't fool with him. He didn't have the right to fuss at me. He didn't give enough of a dayum about me to be in my life.
I was only 19 at the time.
Now I am 39.
I was afraid to go up to the limo and speak to him.
Old as I am... afraid.
When I went to visit with him back in January, he spoke of the last time he saw me. I've thought for a long time that it was at that funeral, when I was 22, but he said that it was in 1989, when I was 19. So he did remember the right year, even though I didn't.
It ran cross my mind then (although I would NEVER utter it out loud)...
Did he remember yelling at me? This man who ain't done sh** for me all these years, did he remember snapping on me?
I would never ask such. There is no anger there over that. More hurt than anything, but no anger. I've grown up a little since then.
I think, over these past 20 years, that he was just upset. His mother had died earlier that year, followed closely by the death of his father. He lived with them, and that had to be difficult for them both to go like that.
That's enough to make anybody lash out. But in my 19-year-old mind, I took that VERY personally. Very.
So, hence, back to the present time. After his brother Willie's funeral, I stood outside in the light drizzle looking for my father, just to offer my condolences for the loss of his brother.
I didn't see him around.
I realized that he had already gotten into the limo.
My heart started racing, thinking back to when he yelled at me all those years ago.
I started towards my car, but I stopped.
I walked over to the limo, and asked the guy sitting there, if Milton was in the car.
"Yeah," he said. He pointed. "He right there."
I stuck my head in the car, my heart racing like hell. I looked around and saw that he was squeezed in on the side, directly in front of me.
I reached out my hand. He grabbed it.
"I'm sorry for the loss of your brother, Miltion," I said.
He looked down at my hand, then back up at me. He looked shocked. Then he smiled real broad, showing all 4 or 5 of his teeth.
I shook his hand, and went to draw back, but he grabbed it tighter, not letting it go.
"Thank you so much for coming, 'Lesia." He smiled real hard.
I just nodded.
Tears formed in my eyes.
I realized that I had never touched my father's hand before. I suppose I did when I was real little, but I couldn't remember what his hand felt like. I never even thought much about it, to tell the truth.
But it was something else just to hold his hand, if only for a moment.
And I had a hard time getting my hand back. Almost had to yank it. And he was half way out the car door with me before he let go of my hand.
I told him that I wasn't going to the cemetary. I was going back to work.
I don't know if he heard a word I said. He was still grinning from ear to ear.
He waved good-bye. I walked to my car.
I didn't go back to work. It was much too late in the day. I decided to run a few errands instead.
I could've went to the cemetary and back to whatever gathering they were having at the house, but I don't think I am strong enough for that yet. He mentioned back in January that he wanted me to meet my cousins and stuff, but I much rather do that on a more festive note, like a holiday or something.
Not on a most... humble occasion.
This has been a year where a lot of stuff that has REALLY bothered me has been taken care of, solved even. That chastisement from him some 20 years ago has been an underlying thread of hurt and anger in my heart against him. Not enough to be hell bent mad at him, but it is something that has been locked in my heart and memory for so long.
I am happy to say that that is no longer the case.
His toothless smile, the hard grip of his bony hand, and the the twinkle in his eyes uprooted that on that day in the sparest of moments.
I knew for sure that day that the man didn't detest me.
I think that was something I needed to know.
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