Monday, September 28, 2009

Three plots

The conversation started when my sister opened my grandma’s freezer.

“Holy shhi…uh, crap, Grandma, that’s a lot of ham. Who died?”

“No one yet. But we have one who’s going to be going pretty soon. The ACME just happened to have ham on sale last week, so I’m stocking up.”

Grandma, The Head Deaconess, is in charge of her church’s funeral dinners. It’s the perfect job for her as it makes use of all of her talents: buying food on sale, overcooking it, bossing around everyone who’s not The Head Deaconess, and standing around the church kitchen to talk about which brazen hussy mourner’s skirt is entirely too short for a funeral.

“How do you know when someone’s on their way out?” my sister asked.

“Honey, that’s what the prayer chain’s for. Well, that and prayer, of course. Speaking of ham, that reminds me of your Uncle Tom.”

Everything reminds her of our Uncle Tom. There’s something about a 45 year old man who has never married, who still has the used furniture he bought in college, who replaces his toothbrush annually when his mom puts a new one in his stocking, who makes a couple million a year but has his parents drive an hour to pick him up from the airport at Christmas because he doesn’t want to spend money on a rental car…there’s something about him that makes Grandma think, “You know what would make this really nice? If Tommy were here.” (Actual words uttered on a warm, sunny day as she sat in a lounge chair on a deck overlooking the ocean during a vacation purchased for her by my mother.)

She went on to explain to my mom why the funeral ham reminded her of her golden child…

“You know how your father and I have those two plots out at Rosemont cemetery.”

“Yes, I remember when you bought them from those guys who had little silver shovels on their tie clips.”

I couldn’t help but interrupt, “You bought burial plots from men wearing shovels?”

“I always thought that was a pretty tacky,” said my mom.

Grandma ignored our little side conversation and continued, “Well, you know how your dad has never really like Rosemont.”

“I did not know that,” my mom said, cocking her head to the side and nodding a bit, as if this was a fascinating thing to learn about her own father.

“Well, he’s never liked it out there. And since I do the funeral dinners, he’s been asking around…you know, to see where people are being buried these days.”

“That has to be one of the best parts of attending so many funerals,” my mom said, “the opportunity to research these things.”

“It is!” said Grandma, a little excited that someone else could appreciate that. “And we’ve decided we’re going to sell those plots and go somewhere else. We were thinking of Oakwood, but they’re full. Well, except for that one spot on the corner, but that’s where all those kids walk past after school and throw their trash. If you’re going to go there, you might as well just be buried in the middle of 4th street.”

I took a break from the veggie dip to ask, “Are there spots in the middle of 4th street? Because if so, I bet you could get a deal on those.”

“Plus,” my sister added, “it probably wouldn’t be very crowded. I doubt a lot of people buy plots in the median.”

Grandma looked at us a bit quizzically, briefly considered answering that, and then decided against it.

“The same people who own Oakwood have just opened a new place out in Stow. Your dad and I have been out there and we both really like it. I think we’re going to buy three plots out there.”

Three plots.

Suddenly, we saw how this story, like all long and winding roads, would eventually lead us back to Tom.

“I was just thinking, if Tommy never gets married, I don’t want him to have to be all alone. So, we’ll just buy three plots and then he’ll have one if he wants it.”

My sister then asked the obvious question, “So Grandma, where exactly would you like us to put him? Next to Grandpa? Next to you? Or…” she asked, her eyes widening with an ingenious idea, “in between you two, maybe?”

“Oh honey,” Grandma said, “it doesn’t matter to me. Wherever is fine.”

“In that case,” my sister said, “I think we should put him in between you guys. Like a metaphor,” she added, under her breath.

Mom snorted and tried to cover it up by pretending to clear her throat. I choked on a small piece of green pepper.

“And like I said,” Grandma continued, “he doesn’t even have to use it. I mean, if he wants to be buried somewhere in Florida with his Mexican girlfriend, that’s fine too.”

But you know she didn’t really mean that.

And, assuming my mother’s children outlive Grandma's Tommy, we will someday pay a couple men with shovels on their tie clips to carve out a cozy little spot for him right in between his parents. Like a metaphor.

Because, we would hate to have her lying there for all eternity thinking, “You know what would make this really nice…”


Blazer said...

I am really enjoying your vacation. Great post, I love how it started out as a discussion over a full freezer of ham and ended up with a plan to bury your uncle between your gradparents. Such a logical train of thought!

Eric said...

Wow, I think we have the same grandma.

jenny said...

loving these posts, when does your vacation end...?

MmeBenaut said...

Fabulous post Terroni. You come from a long line of fine women. Here, we just get cremated.

secret agent woman said...

Oh, that's really too funny.

dive said...

Oh, hee hee, T.
For some reason I just re-read that in a Garrison Keillor voice and it was even funnier.