Hannah asked, almost rhetorically, “Why, at funerals, do people have to be so…I don’t know,” she shook her head. “So awful? Isn’t it sad enough?”
Hannah and her husband Charlie were driving home from Mrs. Fitzgerald’s funeral. Charlie kept his eyes on the road, not knowing what to say.
“You talking about that woman? At the coffin?”
“Yes! God, how … I mean, holy crap. That was so…”
“You had enough at the reception?” Charlie asked, changing the subject. “I mean, it was a pretty nice spread, but, not exactly dinner. Wanna go out? Maybe catch a movie?”
“But, I’m glad we went, right? Support Kenneth and Emily.”
Charlie reached over and patted his wife’s knee. “Hey. It’s a good thing. I mean, you’d want friends and family to show up for your funeral, right? Be a support for me, Pauly and Karin, yeah?”
Hannah didn’t respond. They drove for a while without talking. The news station on the radio ran a story about the death of fifteen Marines during an ambush in Afghanistan. Hannah leaned over and pressed the off button.
“Charlie, we’ve never talked about funerals. Ours, I mean.”
“Sure we have.”
“No, not really. Not specifically.”
Charlie paused a moment. “Umm…hey. So, dinner? You want to go to that Cajun barbeque place or is Village Burger OK?”
Hannah stared at Charlie with that stare of hers Charlie hated. “Hon, I say, ‘Hey, we haven’t talked about how we want to be remembered at our funerals,’ and you say, ‘Barbeque or burgers?’ ”
“I’m just asking. I mean, you love those Courgettes Frites at the Cajun place. So, if we’re going to do barbeque, I’ll take 36th, otherwise I’ll just keep going to Village Burger.”
Hannah sighed “We haven’t had barbeque in a while, I guess.”
Charlie and Hannah chose a booth toward the back of the restaurant. They didn’t speak while they ate. Charlie watched the game on the big screen across the room and Hannah picked at her food.
“Another?” Charlie asked pointing to Hannah’s empty pint glass. She shrugged. Charlie ordered a second round. When the beer arrived, Hannah spoke up.
“So, about our funerals…”
Charlie knew he’d deflected the topic for as long as he could. “OK. What.”
“I mean, that woman, right? Sitting by the casket? Who brings a bottle of booze to a funeral and sits there talking to the deceased like that? So rude. I’m surprised Emily didn’t freak. I mean, I would have!”
“OK. I promise I won’t let anyone booze it up over your casket.”
“Charlie, I’m serious! Remember Aunt Maribeth? When she died? I thought it was weird there wasn’t a funeral, memorial service, or a wake. Nothing. Remember?”
“Well, after today, I understand why she didn’t want anything. Charlie, I’m telling you now, I don’t want a fuss. I know people need to grieve, but people putting on a show of it? I mean, I can just see it. My sister will get all dolled-up in some god-awful outfit with one of those big garden party hats of hers….playing the part of the hostess of the biggest party in town. So gross! And, Pauly? He’ll probably invite his percussion group! I mean, seriously. A bunch of xylophones and steel pans playing To Thee Oh Lord? Amazing Grace? Wind Beneath My Wings, or whatever that song is called?”
Charlie was laughing. “And Karin with her cycle club?,” he offered between the giggles. “All hot and dripping sweat after one of their long weekend rallys?”
Hannah began to laugh. “…walking through the church with their bike cleats still on, click-clacking past my coffin in those gross bike shorts that show every lump, bump and crease…”
Both were laughing hard enough to draw the attention of the tables around them. They didn’t care.
“Yeah, OK!” Charlie finally said. “No xylophones or bicycle clubs. Got it!”
“And no titty twirlers for you, bub!”
“Awww…c’mon! Those chicks’ got talent!”
The Un-OLWG prompts this week are: bicycle; xylophone; courgette.
Thom’s preamble story before the prompts is the inspiration for my story. It reminded me of my parents’ reason why they asked that there not be any ceremony recognizing their passing. They sternly believed that funerals, memorials and wakes were tasteless and undignified. So, we cremated their bodies per their only stated wishes, and then it was left to me to decide what to do with the ashes. I made the only choice I could, and I have to believe my folks are A-OK that I scattered their ashes in the most unceremonious ceremonious way I could imagine (by the way, Mom and Pops…happy Valentines Day!)