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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Southern ghosts......



There's just something about being a southern girl.....
First of all, you gotta know how to make biscuits. I was taught by three of the finest southern women I know, and I'm passing it on to Wesley, only we are altering them for a vegan diet. They were pretty damn good!


Being southern means inviting people over if they don't have anywhere else to go for the holidays. My friend Barbra and Wesley's friend Lazarus joined us today instead of our families. It was nice, quiet, low stress and pleasant conversation. Barbra brought Highland breweries winter beer and some Gaelic ale. This was a really great Thanksgiving. I missed having our family here, but I didn't miss the exhaustion that comes after. 



Funerals in the south are a mystery to me. Wednesday we were in South Carolina for a very sad one. I was viewing this service from a different perspective. I was sad and my heart felt for the family, but I am not so much a part of that family, so I observed without the usual crushing sadness of most funerals I end up at. 
Wrangler jeans and plaid shirts mixed with expensive black suits, the familiar words to The Old Rugged Cross and Amazing Grace barely filtered through my mind as I was distracted with memories of my own dad's funeral. Wondering how many in the room were remembering other funerals, loved ones they have said goodbye to. The sickening smell of carnations and orchids and roses filled the room that was painted a very odd light pink. The room was too bright for a casket that was opened,
revealing the dead body, not looking anything like the person that had lived in that body. Gerry's dad approached the pulpit to conduct the service. Scriptures were read from his mothers bible, a preachers story of a rose pressed in those pages, I think that rose was given by Wesley at her great grandmothers funeral. Then we all file out of the room, how do we all know instinctively how to do this? The police cars and the black casket-carrying car pull out, we follow. Cars pull over in the oncoming lane out of respect for the family and the dead. How many of them are thinking, that poor family, burying someone on Thanskgiving Eve. I would have been thinking that. I was thinking that....



Then the long drive down the country roads to the cemetary, thick with tall pine trees, a brick house that had been built around a blue trailer caught my eye, what in the world...half house, half trailer. The little towns have put up their Christmas lights on the telephone poles, reindeer, bells, Christmas trees all twinkle through the raindrops on the windshield. It's pretty and festive on this rainy dark day.

Gerry's dad says a prayer and comforts the family at the cemetary. He is a pro. I watch him, he is at work, this is his profession, and he has done it for over thirty years. He does it well. Southern baptist preacher. I am married to a preachers kid.....
I can't believe he is an eighty year old man. He looks sixty. He is burying his sister, twenty years younger than he is.




Gerry and his brothers are pall bearers. They are not big guys. She was a big woman. The casket is heavy. They had to walk up a hill, they nearly drop the thing. What happens if a casket is dropped on its way to the hole dug for it, I wonder to myself.... There is my husband, preachers kid, carrying a casket to its hole in the ground. I am standing in the very back behind everyone, alone....taking pictures, trying to understand the presence of my dad with me. Is he really there? Such a strong memory of him, even now twenty years later.



I find comfort in cemeteries. They are like art to me. I am drawn to them like a moth to flame.
Everyone went to the "fellowship" building for refreshments, which I found odd.... There was chicken soup in a crock pot, and Mountain Dew, and I didn't see what else,because the walls closed in on me and I walked across the street, back to the graves of civil war soldiers and families that lived in the 1800's. The black crosses were marked with a rebel flag and the letters C S A. Confederate soldier honor markers. 
I walked around looking at the graves of those that fought for the south in the civil war and in the distance I heard an argument going on by the hole just dug. The men filling in the hole. Six white men and one younger black man. I was reminded of how racist the south still is. As these redneck fools shoveled dirt onto the fresh grave of my husbands aunt, they argued about the justice in Ferguson and the recent shooting there. I heard one of the men say, "you people are always blaming the white man for everything". Really? You are standing on the fresh grave of a woman that was planning to cook Thanksgiving dinner with her daughter today and you are bullying this poor man about being black as he shovels dirt on this grave? I was flying across the grass to say something, more and more furious as I approached them. They saw my anger and all shut the fuck up. They just started shoveling their dirt in silence. God Almighty! I am proud to be from the south, there is so much richness and amazement here, but there are stupid rednecks that just ruin it sometimes. 

We headed for home. We passed a muddy baseball field where Gerry hit home runs as a kid. We passed one of the many churches his dad preached at. He told me a story of riding to school in the morning with a neighbor, the car radio on, a morning church service, his dad's voice preaching on the radio. That's the damndest story to me.....

We stopped to see Gerry's mom in the Hospice center. More sadness. More stupidity as the nurses came in and laughed and joked with his mom and did idiotic things with her, nevermind that we were there for only a moment to visit. Go away you stupid silly girls. I had to take another walk. Our healthcare system is beyond fixing it seems to me. What are we doing with our elderly? There is no dignity in dementia. 

Oh dang, y'all, what a week! In spite of everything, there was laughter and comfort and acceptance of those things we cannot change, and time with family, hugs and understanding. And my daughters beautiful smile, and her friend, here, so far from his own home and family, trying to find his way in the world, becoming a young man. Gerry, watching his mother, the one in his family that always knew him and protected him, slipping further and further from reality, holding her hand and smiling at her and she has just a glimmer of recognition in her eyes.... I know you.....

7 comments:

Sandy miller said...

I read this post and the first thing that comes to mind; thank God some of us are conscious and no longer willing to stand by and let the shit fly.

I am listening to more music in the studio these days, Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills and Nash, etc. The songs I listened to that were my generations war songs. My husband was at Kent State for the shootings, I was marching for Mother Earth and Ecology....... And living in a geodesic dome with other committed souls. I've lived a life time and think, what the hell happened? Things I fought passionately for didn't change. What changed, me. I still fight the fight but now I return to my gang of two daughters and a fine husband, for peace and a little piece of sanity during these days when little makes sense........ Stay conscious and vocal...... And tell your stories while baking biscuits.....

d2eclaylady said...

Somber, sad, joyful, insightful story, Tracey ... you might want to add Writer to your list of artistic talents. Thanks for sharing.

Dennis Allen said...

I like really old cemeteries, like the ones in downtown Boston.They really point out how much customs and beliefs have changed. Still strange, just different.

just jody said...

Tracey…if you haven't watched this video about the Dementia Village in Amsterdam you should. It's an awesome idea although probably only the wealthy could afford to be there. After seeing the movie Quartet several years ago…I've often thought how great it would be to have "themed" retirement homes….one for artists…or musicians…etc. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwiOBlyWpko

Michèle Hastings said...

Funerals are strange and interesting at the same time.
I have been to formal Catholic ones (I was raised Catholic) steeped in rituals and mystery and to a simple funeral, on an island off the coast of Maine, where the casket was put in the back of a pick up truck and driven down a dirt road from the church to the cemetery. Funeral goers walked behind the truck as it drove slowly to the burial site.

Lori Buff said...

If you ever get to Puerto Rico you need to go to the Museum for Funerary Architecture in Ponce. You’d love it.

It’s been a difficult year for both of us, nice we can still find warmth and thanks in our lives.

Laura Smith said...

Lovely sentiment Tracey. I wish you Peace and Equanimity in the New Year.