My grandfather was known for being stylish. Ever the classy one, he kept an extensive wardrobe with all manner of suits, boots, and hats. He was particularly fond of Kangol hats.
I remember being shocked during a family reunion picnic in the early 2000’s, “Does my granddad have on Jordans?” Yes. Yes, he did. He had on the black and red Jordan XIV’s. I almost passed out right there in the park.
Due to my grandpa’s reputation, the pressure was on us to make sure his funeral fit his elegant image. Obituaries are keepsakes. People send them to relatives who were unable to attend the services. There was no way we could use a picture of my grandpa with a jheri curl on the cover.
Thankfully, I was able to crop my hand out of the picture from last year’s family reunion and the family was more than pleased with the result. I completed the rest of my writing duties and left the rest to my aunt and uncle, as my dad and I would be leaving for Atlanta in the morning.
The next morning, we were all supposed to go to Craft Funeral Home and choose my grandfather’s casket. After that, my dad and I would hit the road headed to Atlanta. As plans were being made for the next day’s activities, I thought it was a good time to consult my dad about my toe, which hadn’t gotten any better despite my faithful water pill routine.
“Dad, maybe I have an ingrown toenail or something. Can we stop in Memphis in the morning and have your pedicurist friend look at it? At least she’d be able to tell me if that’s the issue.”
My mom was from Memphis and after her passing, her friend Laurice made it a point to make sure my dad wasn’t lonely. She’d invite him to Memphis events and through her, he made a lot of friends in the city. One of these friends, Mary, has turned out to be more special than the others. At first, I was pissed at the thought of my father dating again but she ended up being an awesome woman. Plus, she buys me MAC makeup during the holidays. This is the quickest way to get in good with me.
My father always raved about Mary’s pedicurist so he agreed to give her a call once we got on the road in the morning.
Morning came and I got dressed in just enough time to make it to the funeral home on time. To my surprise, I was the only one ready. My dad was upstairs yakking on the phone and my Uncle Jerome wasn’t even dressed! The rest of my family was walking around looking dazed.
It had been stressed that we needed to be on time to the funeral home because the woman handling the business had other obligations for the day. She couldn’t sit around and wait for us. So, why was I the only one ready?
Eventually, I fussed enough at my dad that we ended up leaving everyone else. About half of us were there within 10 minutes of our appointment time and got started on the paperwork before my Aunt Lois and Uncle Jerome arrived. We got some of the questions answered but for most of them, my dad said, “You’d have to ask Lois.” And when she finally got there and the funeral home representative started asking her questions, she would look at my dad and there would be an awkward silence. These questions consisted of things like, “How many death certificates will you need? How many insurance policies were there? When would the services be held?”
In all things, my father takes the lead. I was both frustrated and alarmed that he would take a back seat on this. He is always the authority and always leads the charge. What in the world was going on?
I struggle with impatience so, all the blank stares and awkward silences were really bugging me. It only got worse when it was time to pick out the casket. As I looked around the room full of caskets, I immediately saw the one I thought would be best. It was two toned, black and silver. Black on the top and bottom with embossed silver along the sides. It looked elegant and manly, just like my granddad.
I stood next to my dad and pointed to the black and silver casket in the corner. We all agreed that this was the best fit but my Aunt Lois and Uncle Jerome wouldn’t bite the bullet. They just stood there, looking back and forth between us and the casket. No argument was being made for or against the thing, they just looked.
It came time to choose what type of vault we’d put my grandpa in. There are only two types: the kind that has a decorated top and the other kind that doesn’t. More standing and staring occurred. I don’t remember which one they chose because sometime along the way my brain shut off.
We went back into the woman’s office and she instructed us on the next steps: bring the clothes he’d be buried in by Friday and bring the insurance policy information by the day of the services. Ok, got it.
We got back to The House and my Aunt Lois and Uncle Jerome went to pick out a suit for my grandpa but only one could be found. I reached in my purse to text a friend, “Lord... someone done stole all my granddaddy’s suits!”