Saturday, March 08, 2014

I Wear My Grandad's Clothes

My grandmother died recently; she was 96. She was my last remaining grandparent, my father's stepmother. Arrangements were made to have us all meet at her home on the morning of the funeral to read the will and divide up a few things. It sounded like the tedious sort of thing you would normally equate with preparing one's taxes or having a colonoscopy. But it's all part of the life cycle.

My daughter was away at college, but I got my son and husband, and pep-talked them into getting on board with this activity. We found a pair of pants my husband could get on over all the bandage/drainage stuff that wasn't a pair of sweats, and my son coaxed his dad into a red bow tie from TJ Maxx as compensation for having to endure a day of funerary festivities.

We made it to the house with seconds to spare. We all exchanged the normal niceties and enjoyed coffee, Danishes, and grapes, courtesy of the assisted living folks who really just wanted us to get everything out so they could rent her house to someone else.

Now, I had never actually been to a "reading of the will" event, and had no idea what to expect. And really, I wasn't expecting anything beyond a free lunch and the opportunity to visit with a couple of cousins I had not seen in decades. The will was read. Some paintings and photographs were divided up with the key players getting to make a choice according to the numbers they had drawn. Then, we were introduced to "the bags." Take a bag, fill it with whatever was left. Put it in your car. Get another bag. Do the same. Basically, it all had to go.

The will calls this stuff "residue." If I were to die now, the amount of residue would be insane, but my grandparents had a very manageable amount. So everyone started to go through their stuff. And that's where the fun began.

I went to my grandmother's closet, and we pulled out hats and scarves and handbags galore. At the amusing suggestion of my aunt, all the women picked a hat, and we wore her hats to the funeral. I think she would have been amused. But it was not until we dug into my grandfather's closet that I found this gem: a circa 1976 textured polyester coat in a patriotic red, white, and blue pattern. How cool is that? I think it was the find of the day, personally.

The real find of the day, however, was the laughter we were able to enjoy. It turned out to not be weepy, or tense, or morbid. It was fun, and perhaps even a bit healing. My grandfather and I had not had any relationship for the last decade of so of his life because of his refusal to accept my decision to adopt a child of color. So I wonder how he feels, looking from beyond the grave at my son, lounging in the satin pajamas of a grandfather he never knew. Or at me, strutting about in my grandad's clothes like a hip hop star?

I guess we'll have to wait and see.


Michael Eagleton said...

It feels too close to your family members.

anne said...

Enjoyed your story very much.