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I went down for Grandmother's funeral yesterday.

It was an all-day affair. I decided against spending the night, because of other matters here at home. The funeral was Thursday. Wednesday night, I had an inn of court meeting that I didn't want to miss--it was the first one of the year, plus I'm going to miss next month's due to a conflict with my bicycle maintenance class. Mariah had to work until 10 pm anyway and didn't think she could get anyone to cover her shift, they just lost a couple of people. So I didn't want to drive down to Ennis, TX leaving at 10 or 11 after a really long day. Then I didn't want to spend Thursday night because I had a mediation scheduled for Friday morning on a pair of cases I really want to settle and get rid of. So I planned to drive down Thursday morning and back as soon as the funeral was over.

Mom didn't really communicate to me about the funeral at all. She said the funeral was at 1 pm and texted me the address of a funeral home in Ennis. I assumed we'd go to the cemetery after the funeral. The cemetery is in the middle of nowhere in Byrd, Texas, on an unmarked road. You pretty much have to know how to get there; it's not on the map, on an unmarked gravel road. Ennis is right off I-45, and Byrd is about 20 minutes west, the other side of Bardwell Lake, into the very rural triangle between I-45 and I-35E.

An aside about the cemetery. My great-granddaddy, Homer St. Clair, was a farmer, a cotton-picker, an overalls-wearing man of the world. He would sit on the porch of the farmhouse at night and spook the kids with tales of the horrific wampuscat (pronounced WHOMP'scat), that would pick the flesh off your bones after blindsiding you from the side of the path. He would play with the feral arm cats on the porch during the late afternoons. He was, by all reports, a brilliant, clever man who constantly amused himself by playing word games with people. When I was little, the family was having dinner in the dining room, which had a door to the porch. I was out on the porch playing. Granddaddy, at the head of the table, could see outside, but no one else could without turning. He started telling this rambling story about this tribe in sub-saharan africa that did not believe in wearing clothes. The whole family was like Homer, what are you talking about. Then he stood up and pointed to the front porch, and everybody turned and looked and saw that I had taken off my clothes and was running around on the porch butt-nekkid. On another occasion, he was going with mom's uncle to the bank, and he stayed in the car while uncle Tommy went inside to make a deposit. When Tommy came out, Homer said "I just saw a guy go from the bank to the drugstore (across the street) without taking a single step." This was clearly a puzzle, and Tommy couldn't figure it out. They watched until the guy came out of the drugstore--in a wheelchair.

Homer had a gig mowing the cemetery near the farmhouse. Every Sunday, he would load the lawnmower into the trunk of Ford Fairlane (that's the car I remember, I don't know what he had when Mom was a kid) and go mow the cemetery. Mom would spend Saturday night with her grandparents every week, and she would go with him and play in the cemetery while he mowed. She knew all of the tombstones, and would hear the stories about the ones Homer knew. When my granddaddy died, Mom and her siblings decided to bury him there instead of at the Ennis cemetery. It just felt like home to them. Grandmother would obviously be buried in the same cemetery.

Anyway, back to the funeral. I had assumed that the funeral would be at the funeral home in Ennis, the address Mom had texted me. I planned to drive down and get to Ennis about 11:45, get something to eat for lunch, and then head over. As I was driving, Mom kept calling me, but I couldn't answer because it's illegal to talk on the phone in Texas. I give the phone to Mariah, who had been asleep and was still functionally so, and Mom said that if we wanted to see Grandmother in the coffin we'd have to be there by 11:30. We were still about 20 minutes out and couldn't get there until 11:45, and I'm not generally into the whole viewing thing. So we just said no, it's OK.

So we get to Ennis and stop at a locally-famous barbecue place for lunch. It was pretty awful, a big disappointment. Right after we've tasted the food and expressed our disappointment, Mom calls and tells me for the first time that the funeral is actually at the cemetery, 20 minutes away, and that we have to be there at 12:30. In other words, we have to immediately drop our lunch, meet her at her hotel, and drive to the cemetery. I don't know the arcane driving directions to get there, so I have to follow my dad. He's driving like a maniac and drives through two yellow lights, leaving me stopped on a red. I'm catching air and bottoming out my car trying to keep up with him in my little car as he's driving 65 on twisty country roads. We manage to get there right at 12:30, and...we're the only ones there. All that stress was just so Mom could be there first, I guess? I dunno. I was frustrated by the rush that could have been easily avoided if Mom had just communicated to me ahead of time what the plan was.

So then it's just standing around for 45 minutes in wool suits in the hot Texas sun, with nothing to drink and no bathrooms, making awkward small talk with extended family as they pull in. I was frustrated and in a pretty sour mood at this point, I didn't have time to stop and get something to drink and go to the bathroom, I'm sweating through my suit, and generally wanting to get going.

Then the funeral started. My mom's uncle, grandmother's younger brother-in-law, is effectively officiating, though there's a preacher there. Uncle Larry is a genuine Texas character, spent most of my life owning a patch of gravel where he would buy and sell farm equipment. He later ran for county commissioner and won, serving a term or two. His son, Brian (or BW more commonly) read the insert of the funeral program, which hilariously described Mariah as my "life partner." Then, in a pure country moment, we sang Amazing Grace and Precious Memories a capella. Larry gave a speech about how when his dad died, Granddaddy and Grandmother provided guidance and support to him as a teenager. By this point, tears are just streaming down my face, and I'm filled with memories of Grandmother from my childhood. Larry asks if anyone would like to share anything, and though I had previously thought of some comments, I couldn't compose myself enough to get them out. Then the preacher stands up and talks about how he knew my great-grandparents Homer and Mattie Mae from childhood, and he'd seen Grandmother and her siblings grow up. He talked about Mattie Mae's legendary skill as a dressmaker and how "Neiman Marcus wishes he could hold a candle to her dresses." He didn't do much in the way of real preaching, and then said a simple prayer and concluded the ceremony.

We stood around and chatted for a long time after the ceremony. Afterwards, we drove by the old farmhouse (which is no longer in the family), and we took pictures next to the St. Clair Rd. sign. Mariah's stepmom's maiden name is coincidentally St. Clair, so we sent her the picture. The huge old pecan tree by the farmhouse had fallen down and the enormous split trunks were still lying in the pasture. Mariah, the apprentice arborist, said that pecans rarely grow so old and they are naturally prone to splitting and falling over when they get to 30 years or so. This one was already enormous when I was a kid, and Mom remembers it from her childhood. The farmhouse looked radically different. The grapevine-covered porch was gone, and they have replaced it with an aluminum peaked roof. They replaced the front door with an AC window unit. They painted (or put on siding?) and it looked very different. I wasn't sure it was the same housee at all until Mom told me later.

We went back to Ennis and everybody went to the bathroom before hitting the road. Nick was driving back, Mariah and I were driving back, and Christine and Adam were driving back. Mom and Dad were staying the night and meeting with the financial guy in the morning.

We hit atrocious traffic in Dallas, despite our efforts to leave as early as we could. By 4:00, traffic was already at a standstill, and it took an hour and a half or so to get across town. We then had heavy traffic all the way to Denton, really almost all the way to the border. Every time I go down, it seems like the Dallas traffic is extending further and further, and eventually all of North Texas is just going to be part of the Metroplex. We stopped to get some Dogfish Head beer in Denton, and when we pulled over we were finally in fifth gear, then ten minutes later when we got back on the highway traffic had caught up and we were crawling again.

I got home almost exactly twelve hours after I left. About nine of those hours were spent driving. I was exhausted.

Oh, before we left Ennis I stopped at the Kolache Depot and got a mixed dozen. I told Mariah she wasn't allowed to take one bite out of every single one because I was going to take them to work. To my surprise, NO ONE at my office had ever heard of kolaches. I figured someone had family from Texas, or from Yukon, OK, or from Prague, OK, or had, you know, driven through Texas at some point and seen these pastries that they sell at every gas station. But, no. They were nevertheless well-received.

Date: 2014-10-18 08:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
What a journey! I'm glad you weren't alone.

Your granddaddy sounds like a firecracker :)

Date: 2014-10-19 05:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I assume you mean great-granddaddy Homer? He was a firecracker and a half, for sure. Mom tells me that when she would ride in the car, Homer would wind it up to over a hundred miles an hour, then leg off the gas and slow down to a crawl, then floor it and wind back up, for no apparent reason. She always though great-grandmother would be like, seriously, Homer, cut it out, you're driving me crazy. But she never did. I think of Homer every time I put on a pair of overalls and go out to work in the garden. My mom calls me Homer every time I say something clever or punny that she doesn't get right away.

My own Granddaddy, my mom's dad, was a complicated person. I didn't intend for him to be a character to the story, except insofar as his younger brother gave him a shoutout for being a big support after their dad died, and to mention that he was buried at the same cemetery where grandmother was being buried. They have one of the double-sided gravestones. Grandmother's side did not yet have the death date inscribed during the funeral.

Date: 2014-10-19 05:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
After I got home, I got up the next morning and went into the office for a couple hours. At about 10:45, I went to go get some lunch then go to my scheduled mediation. The mediation was at the workers' compensation court. Usually, the mediator will spend half an hour or so talking to the claimant, and then come over and talk to defense counsel. I brought other stuff to work on while I was waiting, then after about 40 minutes, I was like why hasn't the mediator come by yet. I walked around and didn't see him. It turned out the claimant's attorney had canceled the mediation, and no one had told me. Apparently the day I was off, the claimant's attorney had called my secretary and said they needed to reschedule. My secretary assumed they had already talked to me and didn't bother to mention it to me. I spent an hour sitting at the court (more, if you count time traveled to and from the office) because of her failure to mention this pretty important detail.

Had I known the mediation was canceled, I almost certainly would not have bothered to come home on Thursday night. I would at least have stayed the night in Ennis. I might, depending on arcane football schedules, have decided to take a long detour to hill country for barbecue. Instead, I drove home for a mediation that had already been canceled without my knowledge.


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