Driving down the hill I see the same bend in the road the school
bus took me around for years. I can see in the headlights the wildflowers
ringing the curve like a necklace--goldenrod, cornflower, Queen Anne's Lace,
God's gift to country roads in the fall. You don't see anything like that in
the city but I'm getting used to living there.
I see the house ahead, one light on, upstairs. It's midnight and
my father's dead and my mother's in that room praying and maybe crying, waiting
for me to pull in. She knows it's a six-hour drive from the city.
The wake will be tomorrow night at Egan's mortuary. There will
be 15 decades of the rosary to say and I still have trouble getting through
five. Then there will be three hours of listening to my mother's friends
console her, ancient ladies all, many of them widowed long before her.
Many times my mother has been in their place so she knows what
they will say but she will find some comfort in it anyway. The old farmers
still alive will simply say "sorry for your troubles" which serves as both a
condolence and a prayer.
Mass will be at 10 in the morning with Father Murphy in the
pulpit sounding like Bishop Sheen. My dad told me long ago that when he finally
died Father Murphy would confer sainthood on him at the funeral, no need for
any miracles. Father Murphy has a long history of canonizing every farmer who
dies unless he committed one of the seven deadly sins in public. My father said
he hoped Father Murphy would talk loud enough for God to hear.
After the procession to the graveyard and the consignment of the
casket, everyone will drive back to the church hall for the funeral
meal--wonderful food prepared by good women and arranged in a long buffet.
The farmers will assure my mother they will be out to her place
tomorrow and the next day to put up the hay. After the hay is taken care of,
they will take turns coming to feed the cattle and they'll go to town to pick
up whatever she needs. Things will work out, they will tell her. Not to worry.
After everyone has eaten, the ladies, one by one, will rise and
bow to my mother and tell her to go home now and get some rest.
The men will shake hands with me and ask how long before I have
to go back to the city. I'll say I have a week, maybe two, uncertain as to what
night I'll have to leave. I know it will be around midnight. And the same light
will be on, upstairs.