Sunday, June 8, 2008
My middle niece, Mimi's best girlfriend Melonie's dad has passed away. The girls have been friends since high school. Mimi's about to start graduate school, Mel's a single, working mom with 2 adorable toddlers. As classmates, my sister's house was the only friend's place Mel's parents would allow her to spend the night. They were the girls in school everybody loved to hate: pretty, smart, personable, talented. Melonie was taking college courses in her senior year. Always polite and respectful, a tiny little wisp of a thing with hair to the middle of her back. Since graduating, the girls' took divergent paths but they've remained friends, supporting each other in the highs and lows of their young lives...
2:00pm: Mimi and I rendezvous after morning worship service in New Haven to make our way to Meriden, about 20 minutes up I-91, before the 1-3pm viewing for Mel's dad is over. It's unseasonably and almost unbearably hot on this late spring afternoon. In anticipation of a long, steamy day (I had another church service to attend at 5:30pm) I wore a black, ankle length linen sundress - black so I wouldn't have to wear a slip - there's a method to my madness. I'd found a curly afro "toupee" to drawstring onto the back of my head - channeling 'Jazmin', the cute little mixed girl that lives next door on "The Boondocks" - except there's nothing remotely mixed about me and I'm as brown as a new penny after spending a week in Maui and a slow roasting at a bbq the day before.
2:35ish: We stop at McD's so I can grab some fries before finding the funeral home further down the same street. We enter the coolness of the parlor nodding hello to a gentleman (director?) sitting in an office to our left as we pass through the hall to the room where all the activity is pouring out of. It looks like a reception or party is happening and we're just in time - we sign the guest book and wade on in. There was a squad of mostly hispanic folk wearing bright green t-shirts with a picture of Mel's dad silk screened on the back. I heard someone say they were his softball teammates. "That's all right," I thought recalling a friend's succinct theory on life - God's way of seeing how well we play with each other. I'm all for going straight to viewing the body and then greeting family/hobnobbing and since this is Mimi's friend I really don't know much of the family anyway, I was preparing for 'observer mode'. The room is long and set up with chairs around the perimeter and towards the back. Up front, presumably for the comfort of the family, are several overstuffed loveseats, a couch and some knockoff Queen Anne chairs. I stop to hug and extend my sympathies to Mel before viewing the body and kneeling to offer a prayer for his soul. He was only 57 and had died of diabetes related complications. His wish was to be cremated and have his ashes scattered at Gillette Castle in East Haddam. Mel and her older sister Ebony planned to honor his request. Both women seem quite composed though Ebony seemed a bit distant; I guess that's what happens when you're not really close to relatives and then find yourself thrust into their midst.
3:00pm: I choose a seat approximately 2 rows behind the immediate family as opposed to moving further back to where the softball team was holding court. I needed to hear and see what was going on or about to. The room was beyond buzzing - it was practically lively. I nudged Mimi and whispered as much - she nodded in agreement. She'd introduced me to Mel's Mom , children and sisters before we sat down so I contented myself with the various interactions until the service began. People came and went paying their respects to the family. A big but pretty hispanic woman walked past with a triple wedgie - her t-shirt, her shorts and ( I hope) her drawers all neatly tucked into the crack of her behind. C'mon. She had to feel that! Mimi and I exchange glances and I simply say: "Funeral blog". I saw one of the 42 women I attended the retreat in Maui with, Rose, who tried to explain the six degress of separation that related her to Mel's dad. Something to do with her husband who she pointed out and introduced me to. A tiny, clean-shaven white man stepped up to the podium and immediately commanded the rooms' attention by his mere presence. A woman admonished Rose (and me too I guess) to quietness. The buzzing stopped as abruptly as the music would during a police raid at Mr. Ray's afterhours joint. He introduced himself as one of the assistant pastor's at Melonie and her mom's church, Living Word, in West Haven. He spoke quietly and sincerely about a man I doubt he'd ever met since when Tyrone Rease was married to Mel's mom they attended a different church. After prayer, words of comfort and acknowledgement of the family the minister offered the podium to...Rose from Maui's husband, James. O.k. this should shed some more light on Tyrone's life especially from a family member's persepective. Or so I thought. When I tell you I took a GOOD nap on that brother's on and on-ness I am NOT exaggerating! All I heard was something about them growing up in the projects and what a good ball player and sports enthusiast Tyrone was. I didn't even care that I was practically sitting in the front row, in his face sleeping - I just know his longwinded 'tribute' was about as interesting as watching hair grow. OH LAWD HAVE MERCY! When I woke up he was talking about how he'd been inspired in his thumbing through the bible , "since I probably don't read it as much as I should" to look for an appropriate "script" for his tribute to use the 23rd Psalm. Coincidentally it was the "same, exact script the minister had his bible opened to!" Begging your pardon James, but isn't that like, the first bible scripture any HEATHEN learns???
3:30: Praise the Lord the dimininutive minister is back! He made more references to Tyrone, his love of fishing, family, etc. and gave the directions to the home where the repast would be held. Since it was such a blazing hot day the family planned to barbeque in the yard, except as soon as we stepped outside from the funeral home it was a totally different day from when we went in. The sky was turning from a dusky grey to a threatening charcoal as we walked to the car. By the time we'd reach the cook-out house it was raining. I tried, I swear I did, but even with synthetic hair on my head I was not trying to stand in the rain in a long, wet linen dress to eat a cheeseburger. We dropped off the beverages Mimi brought and pressed our way back down I91 just as the skies cut loose. RIP, T.