A Week After Your Funeral

I’m sick of waiting for Jane to pick up your tools.

Sure, she’s probably zonked from looking at caskets and flower arrangements, too pre-occupied with insurance claims and Vicki’s latest dramatics, but if she gave a damn about your drill bits and socket wrenches she should have mentioned them by now.

Jesus, I had to twist your arm just to borrow them. Promise me you’ll have them back by the weekend, you said. I took great care of your tools; I even gave the case a good cleaning. If Jane really wanted them back (unlikely) she’d have said something by now.

This is ridiculous. Tomorrow, they’re going to the garage. It’s what you would have wanted, right? I mean, what’s Jane supposed to do with a bunch of tools?

***

I must assume Victoria’s grief, while not abated, has at least subsided to a manageable level. As long as she is in my class, she is expected to do the work. Her negative energy when staring off into space or failing to turn in assignments affects the other kids. They slack off. Their grades slip. Is that fair? Victoria isn’t the only one who suffered this year. Need I remind you of what happened to Tara Russler? What those animals did to her in the park? Yet she’s still here. She does the work.

So. Victoria is welcome to take as much time off as she needs, I understand. Finish the course next year if she must. But if she wants to be in my class, I expect her to do the work. If only out of consideration for Tara Russler. Can you imagine what she goes through, knowing those animals are still out there? You think the heartache of a dead father compares to what she’s suffered?

***

I wasn’t really going to ask Jane out. Christ’s sake, I barely know what fuckin’ Jane looks like. She could be Sophia Loren or a tenfoot tall Zulu warrior. It was a joke!

Everyone at the Mansion House hoisted a glass in your honour. We were real sincere, like. I only said what I did about Jane to break up the tension. It was a joke!

Tammy tacked a picture of you up behind the bar. From last Grey Cup. Then she noticed you still had an outstanding tab. You lucky bastard. What’s that old joke? “You want the last cheque you ever write to bounce.” Tammy pulled your tab down and crumpled it into the trash. I wish I’d pulled it out and saved it. Bet you would’a gotten a big kick outta that.

***

Because of lost revenues from advertisers jumping ship, I received conformation this morning that the network has decided not to renew your favorite TV show. I’m going to beg them for a half-season, just enough to wrap things up and give the series a proper send-off—for the fans—but I don’t think they’re going to go for it. Networks don’t believe in fan service. So, congratulations, you got the complete story. If people want to watch us a thousand years from now, they won’t get a single moment more than you did. You didn’t know at the time, but you saw The Complete Series.

Okay, there is a meeting with Netflix to discuss moving over there, but frankly, I don’t feel it.

***

I wanted to dedicate a poem in your honor.

Every line taken from junk email received after you died.

I asked Jane but she didn’t know your email password,

all those solicitations inaccessible,

piling up.

It was a good idea.

Jane denied knowing your password pretty quick, like, before I even finished explaining why I needed it.

I don’t have a suspicious mind, but I think that’s very significant.

***

Jeanne Louise Calment lived to be 122 years old.

I can’t imagine what sins that woman committed to be condemned to such an atrocious lifespan. When your brother died in ’78 (I still say “goddam” every time I see a jeep tooting down the highway, the passengers holding their hands into the breeze, seemingly unaware they’re vulnerable as eggs out of the carton) I held myself together by thinking, At least this grief is the worst you’ll ever experience. God wouldn’t dare strike His lightning twice in the same place.

Jeanne Louise Calment saw changes in the world we couldn’t imagine, yet all people ever asked her about was the time she met Vincent Van Gosh. As a teenager she sold him some pencils. She said he was dirty and nasty. He probably looked down her dress.

I’ll never tell this to anyone, but the grief isn’t the same as when your brother died. He’d been 16, his whole life ahead of him. You sowed your seeds, you raised children. God forgive me, but losing you isn’t the same as losing your brother.

Jeanne Louise Calment outlived both her children and her grandchildren. That is the final bridge I cannot fathom crossing.

When Jane called to tell me precious Vicki put herself in the hospital, I rushed to the garage, jumped in the car, but something stopped me from pulling out. Suppose I’m too late, Vicki didn’t make it, and the grief I feel now is a golden age I’ll soon look back on with envy? Perhaps the best thing to do is turn on the radio, recline the seat, and let the exhaust pour in the windows. Considering my clean health, the other options are too frightening. Fifteen, maybe as much as twenty more years with no guarantee the remains of my family will go in the natural order. I don’t know if I have the guts to play those odds anymore.

I’m sitting in the running car, wishing I’d never heard the name Jeanne Louise Calment.

***

I’m only going to say it one time, on the bus so lots of people will hear.

“I’m glad you’re dead.”

***

Mom promises years from now I’ll be happy to be here. She expects me to believe that. She thinks when you’re lying in a hospital bed you believe anything you’re told.

Grandma never came with the car, so Mom took the bus. People stared at the bruises marring her face—purple blobs the colour of donut jelly—their worst assumptions about her injuries true.

I wish I’d held out longer, but the pills sang to me from their hiding place.  Eager to pour from the bottles and go skinny dipping in wine, they took advantage of my impatience, hinting their potency would evaporate if I waited too long.

Everyone assumes your funeral triggered this. By doing it so close, I’ve tied the two events together forever.

I’m not pained by your death, only the phantom presence left behind in your “archives”. I wanted to escape witnessing the Great Exhumation. It was only a matter of time before Mom dug out your tools and unscrewed the hinges on your locked den. She’s never been inside your sanctuary has she? Only me.

Mom understands. She promises to leave your private room sealed. We’ll lay new carpet in the hall and stick a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf over the door, one we’ll fill with a million books. The room has no window, so we can pretend it’s no longer there.

“Let the new homeowners deal with it,” Mom says.

Grandma arrives looking woozy, needing to sit on my bed. Mom rushes into the hall to fetch a nurse. How dangerous, driving here in this state. She should know better.

It’s only been a week since your funeral, but that small pebble of distance is enough to make me optimistic that Grandma and Mom are right; years from now, when you’re bones in a rotted suit, I really will be happy to still be here.

The Blessings

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