Saturday, September 20, 2008

Red Eye: Red Georgia Clay

The small town where my father grew up is about a 4-hour drive. Once you leave Interstate 10 to go north, your scenery is limited to a lot of pine trees, cotton fields, pecan groves, livestock pastures, and towns too small to have a car dealership but which still sported multiple heavy farm equipment dealerships.

My uncle drove my father's fancy new pick-up truck. For the first time in his life, last winter he had treated himself to a brand-new vehicle, with every bell and whistle possible, down to the heated front seats. (I learned in Virginia in March that the back seats are not heated, thank you very much.) Unfortunately, he only had it a few months before he became too sick to drive it.

My short-legged mother and her sister sat in the back. I was assigned navigation duties, not like I knew how to get there, but my mother is really bad. She starts chatting and then says, "Oh, you were supposed to turn right back there." Of course, after having to get up before dawn and just being worn out, I wasn't too good at staying awake.

There's a small town called Monticello, Florida several miles south of the state line. The only thing really notable about it is the courthouse which is literally smack-dab in the middle of the road. Not just the middle of the town, but of the main road, effectively making the building a large roundabout.

I was basically off on Planet Karen most of the time at the funeral home. Seeing relatives I hadn't seen in many, many years or had forgotten completely is generally overwhelming on its own for me.

For the service, my mother had asked one of my father's colleagues to speak. He gave a very complimentary talk with a little welcome humor. Then a minister, whom my father had never met but who had talked to my mother a while at lunch, began.

My grandmother had died in March, also from cancer. The minister there, who hadn't known her either, gave a very subdued, tasteful service, which my grandmother would have liked, as she liked things simple, and which my mother also appreciated. The minister presiding over my father's service was... different.

About halfway through the litany of the various places my father had lived and places he had worked, I leaned over to my mother and then my aunt and told them that right about now, my father would have been making his impatient throat-clearing cough. Then I zoned back out when he started trying to make parallels to my father's life with Ecclesiastes chapter 3.

I think I swallowed about a dozen Georgia gnats at the cemetery.

During both drives, we listened to some of my father's classic country cds left in the truck. I still have a medley of early Johnny Cash songs in my head.

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