Scenes from Silver Creek. The Funeral.
When Aunt Lenore finally wound down, at age 94, the whole town turned out for the funeral. The family bought five uniforms for the high school marching band and had them lead a New Orleans style parade down Union Street from St. Edith’s church to the cemetery out behind the softball field. It lacked some authenticity, as the band didn’t know how to play “Just A Closer Walk With Thee.” The best we could do was “Joy to the World” (the Creedence version, not the Christmas Carol). Since Aunt Camilla was already “appalled, disgusted, and sickened” by what she called “The Spectacle,” the bullfrog was just one more detail to offend her delicate sensibilities. She’d tried to put her dainty, size 5 foot down on the horseshoe wreath Aunt L had explicitly requested and her request to be buried in jeans and her beloved “I Love Dachshunds” sweatshirt. We outnumbered Aunt Camilla who washed her hands of the whole thing, and did as Aunt L wanted. (As a child I always thought Aunt Camilla must have the cleanest hands in Silver Creek as she was always washing them of something.)
The Reverend Polehouse delivered a lovely sermon about “loving thy neighbor” which, considering Aunt L’s many love affairs, seemed to be full of double entrendres that kept me just this side of giggles the entire time. Then we all stood and sang, “There is a Green Hill” and went outside to join the parade. All except Aunt Camilla, of course, who demanded to be driven the ¾ of a mile to the cemetery in a decent manner. We played rock/paper/scissors to see who had to drive her. My cousin, Daniel lost and helped Aunt Camilla into his pickup, which she regarded with horror, as if being asked to purposely step in manure.
After the graveside service (the solemnity of which was marred somewhat by the intrusion of a large and muddy sheepdog that came out of nowhere with a repulsive tennis ball in his mouth and a hopeful look on his face and who would not be dissuaded from bumping into us until someone, I think it was Mr. Jeevers from the hardware store, threw it for him.) we all headed to the Foreign Legion hall for casseroles and condolences and some much-needed, heavily-spiked Hawaiian Punch.
The day was hot and all the ladies were attired in light dresses. They were so heavily talcum powdered that when they went to hug you, small clouds of white rose like tiny dust storms from their bosoms and my sedate black dress soon had a grey tinge to it.
The men loosened their ties and took off their jackets, retreating into male groups to discuss sports and business. Across the street, the children were terrorizing the elementary school playground, their excited shrieks accompanied by the frenzied barks of the sheepdog that had followed the procession to the hall.
Inside the hall it seemed oddly dark after the brightness of the day. Amid the photos of old veterans shaking hands with Bob Hope there were displays of Aunt L. Pictures of her as a child, hugging a dumb looking sheep. As a bobbed-haired teenager with overalls and an arm slung around a girl that nobody could identify. On her first wedding day, and all the subsequent wedding days (four in all), in dresses of varying degrees of laughability and with husband of varying degrees of suitability. The only one any of us had ever liked was husband number three, Otto. A man of stunning plainness who obviously worshipped Aunt L and always went around looking slightly confused that such a force of nature had chosen him. When he died of a heart attack on an Over 40 Club bus trip to Branson, Aunt L went into the only period of depression I’d ever seen her experience.