Monday, February 22, 2010

Make Mine A Vanilla Shake

Next to eating at Cracker Barrel after church on Sundays, Mama and Daddy’s favorite social activity is visiting the funeral home. My, how they love a good visitation followed by a stop at Dairy Queen. I’m not sure what it is about going to the funeral home and viewing a body that makes them crave a Dilly Bar, but apparently, something stirs their appetite for dairy while they’re at a wake.


They’re at the funeral home several times a month. They go to the funeral home the way some folks go to the Piggly Wiggly. It’s like a reunion of family and friends when they show up, and they sit and visit until the cows come home. I guess some of that comes with age or maybe it comes from living far out in the country where you have only one neighbor, but Mama and Daddy take their visitation duties seriously. If someone they know or the loved one of a friend or family member passes, you can count on them to show up at the funeral parlor at the appropriate time. And don’t be surprised if they bring food. That’s what we do in the south during any sort of tragedy you know, we send food. Nothing soothes grief like fried chicken, baked ham or a green bean casserole, and every church below the Mason-Dixon Line has a Feed the Bereaved committee. Yes, Mama and Daddy are serious about funeral home duty, and it was obvious last night they are ready for me and my brothers to do the same. I’m not quite ready to admit that I’m old enough for that, though. In fact, I try to avoid the funeral home whenever possible.


I was in my old hometown last night for the visitation of a family member’s relative by marriage. It’s kind of sad, but a funeral or wedding is often the only time I make it to my old hometown. It’s a small town, so if you don’t know which funeral home to go to, you just show up at the first one and if nobody’s there, you drive across town to the other one. In fact, it’s such a small town, you could probably stop at the bank on the way into town and ask any clerk where the visitation for so and so is, and she could tell you off the top of her head or ask the teller next to her and get the right answer. I love that about home.


My plan was to visit with the family for a little while and scoot home to get things ready for a new work week. I arrived shortly at the start of visitation and sure enough, Mama and Daddy were already there, had spoken to the family and were starting to make their rounds of talking to other visitors. (Mama had dropped off the spiral ham earlier in the day.) Mama latched onto me, made sure I signed the visitor’s book, took the appropriate card and led me around to introduce me to folks. She was on a mission to make sure I did all the right things and understood the process, and frankly, acted as if I’d never been to the funeral home. About thirty minutes into it, it hit me that she was grooming me for future funeral home duties. Grooming me for her position. The position she expects me to take when she’s gone. As if I don’t already have enough dairy in my life.


We made the rounds, and much to my surprise, I ended up staying longer than I expected. I saw my old Sunday school teacher, an old grade school classmate and the parents of three people I went to school with as a kid. Before I could help myself, I was kicked back on a sofa in the front parlor, yakking it up with folks I hadn’t seen in a long time, and talking a blue streak. SuperCop came in, and I stayed a little longer to see him. (And guess which favorite nephew climbed up on the kitchen table yesterday and flung a pepper shaker through the air? Yee haw, somebody’s walkin’ now!) Anyhow, I stayed longer than I ever expected and shall I say it? I enjoyed seeing some friends, cousins and an aunt and two uncles I haven’t seen in a while and left feeling satisfied with the dose of “home” I got while I was there. Is this what Mama and Daddy get out of those visits? Does this account for why they go so often and stay so long? Am I getting old? Is that why for the first time in my life, I didn’t mind going to the funeral home? AM I getting old? Are Mama’s instincts right in that it’s time for me to start getting used to that kind of thing? I don’t know, but I can tell you, I had to fight like heck, the urge to pull into the DQ drive-thru for a vanilla milk shake on the way home.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yep...thats what you do when you get older...its just part of the living dying thing. It's almost like a reuion..you get to see people you havent seen in years...funny how that works. I have my funeral outfit just hanging in my closet..ready in a days notice. Guess you will have to get one too! We go for ice cream also...whats with that???

The Church Lady said...

Yeah, I guess the older we get, the more often funeral home visits become. The best part is seeing old friends and family. Part of life. I was just thinking yesterday that I needed to buy a new pair of black (funeral) dress pants. One should always have a funeral outfit on standby.

oreneta said...

Nothing like spending time with folks you go back with. Something I miss here, they would never dream of a feed the bereaved committee. That's all taken care of by the family. I do find I miss that sheer neighbourliness that we have in NA, even in the big Canadian cities like Toronto. *sigh*

A New England Life said...

Now my own parents, especially my father, hate funeral homes. My dad will not go unless he is forced. My uncle is not doing well with his cancer so I'm thinking there may be a reunion very soon : (

I could just see my parents stopping off for ice cream on the way home though! LOL!

Allie said...

Yes, I would say you are being groomed. I've taken to reading the hometown obituaries, so now you have me curious, but is only Tuesday. I'll have a to wait another day or two for the weekly paper to be online:)

In addition to your funeral training, there are those who are just "funeral people", my mom and stepdad are among the ranks. Dad won't darken the door, but they go to EVERY visition in the tri-state area!

Allie said...

Yes, I would say you are being groomed. I've taken to reading the hometown obituaries, so now you have me curious, but is only Tuesday. I'll have a to wait another day or two for the weekly paper to be online:)

In addition to your funeral training, there are those who are just "funeral people", my mom and stepdad are among the ranks. Dad won't darken the door, but they go to EVERY visition in the tri-state area!

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.