Tuesday, November 20, 2012


The trigger for this story was a funeral where the parents were divorced and I watched them come together to bury their adult child in a way they never could have during their marriage. An overwhelming sadness hit me. But like many writers, when we experience emotion, we think how we can bring that emotion to our writing.

He's holding my hand so tight my fingers are numb. I can't believe it's been thirty-five years since our own wedding in this church. I know it has been four years and two months since he plucked my ring from the air. I threw it so hard. I remember the sound ---whoop -- as it landed against his palm. That's the angriest I've ever been. I never thought I'd touch him again.

Her hands are so cold. Always were. Probably always will be. At least her feet no longer stab me awake in the middle of night. Wonder how George feels about having his calves attacked under the covers.

He looks awful. Billy said he'd stopped drinking. I didn't smell anything on his breath. George wanted me to drink a glass of wine before he put me in the limo. I couldn't. I wish he were here, but...

She's aged. Never saw her look so bad. Even when she had the flu or her gall bladder out. I haven't seen her for how long --two, three years? Why the hell can't we start. I'm not sure how long I can hold together.

The minister is new. He never met Billy. He said there's a traffic jam across the town. The storm has everything tied up. Listen to the hail beating on the roof. It even drowns out the organ.

That boy is late to his own funeral. I can't believe it. No one will joke about it. Not even Dave. He used to say that about Billy. I remember how when our families use to picnic at the lake, we had to wait for that damned kid every time. Even if they sided with her; Dave patted me on the back and Maddy touched my cheek. Meant more to me than all the I'm-so-sorrys that I've heard.

If one more person says, "I think it was Robert Frost who said it's obscene to bury your own child," I'll faint. Thank God. The hearse is here.

The minister is like a sheep dog lining us up. Last time I'll ever walk behind my son. Good thing she convinced her mother to stay home. I don't think the old broad could have taken this. Billy could do no wrong in her eyes. He played 'em both like a God damned harp.

Thank God, Mother isn't here. At least he's being good. I can't forget, it's his son too. Even if he were so hard on him. Poor Billy. Nothing he did could ever please him. "I am the Resurrection and the Life, who so ever believes in me shall never die." The minister sounds so convinced. I need to hear those words. Billy believed. Only a few more steps and we can sit down.

I remember carrying my father's casket. The weight nearly dented my shoulder. Billy weighed nothing by the time he... She's sagging against me. There, there old girl. Get her into the pew.

He gave me the handkerchief. I'm not going to break down. Billy told me he wanted it to be over. He was ready. 

I wish it were me. I've had my life.

He's getting up to read his eulogy. I can't believe he wanted to do that. I don't know where he finds the strength.

Look at all the people out there for my son. For her. Not many for me. My fault. It's all my fault. I wish I'd known him better. I couldn't accept the way he lived. We pretended so much didn't exist, and now the time for truth is gone.

I'd forgotten he had such a wonderful speaking voice. That's what I fell in love with. And his eyes. They were Billy's eyes. He's talking about the Christmas Billy broke his arm. I didn't think he remembered. 

Only a little more to go. My last chance to tell Billy that I loved him, that I'm sorry.

I don't ever remember seeing him cry.

She's given me back my handkerchief. I made a fool of myself.

 I need to comfort him. I don't know how. I never did.
She's rubbing my back. She use to do that when we were first married and something went wrong. Our whole lives went wrong. You can't fix that with a back rub.
 "The Old Rugged Cross." Billy sang that solo with the choir two Easters ago. It's over.
 Here come the pall bearers. It's over. Thank God.

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