At the risk of bringing down the Sandwich Party with a sobering tale, I want to tell you the story of my father’s last BLT. It’s a story I promised long ago, and though it’s a tearjerker, it’s also full of love and joy. I promise.
Did I ever tell you about the time I buried a lady?
No? Oh, okay:
At the time, I was living with my then-partner (let’s call him L) in his hometown. When his grandmother died peacefully, L’s mother wasted no time sorting out the arrangements, as they are so decorously called. She booked the service and visiting hours, found the
grave plot, arranged for the cremation, and — ever the frugal soul — persuaded the cemetery sexton to forego the gravedigging excavation fee by arranging for her brother to dig it with his backhoe.
But, see, her brother lived a few towns over. With his backhoe.
A few towns is a long way to go on a backhoe, I reckon.
He kept not coming over to dig that
grave hole. Day after day, he didn’t dig that grave hole. And she fretted over it.
After a few days of this, I asked her “Exactly how big does this, uh, hole need to be?”
She pulled out the notes from the sexton. “A few feet deep, and a few feet across. Big enough to fit the cracker box.”
Grammy’s ashes were in a saltine tin. Perfect.
L and I exchanged glances, threw two shovels in the trunk of the car, and grabbed the gardening gloves from the garage. “You be sure to call the cemetery guy, let him know we’re coming,” I urged his mother before we left.
grave hole took a little longer than we expected, but it was a sunny day and a peaceful one. We had quite a cheerful afternoon, digging and resting, digging and resting. We chatted freely. No one at the cemetery did more than raise an eyebrow, though (we found out later) his mother never had called to alert them.
[The interment was private. I won’t discuss it here.]
Only as we backfilled the
grave hole did it occur to me: You’re burying his Grammy. Jeez. He and I eventually split up, and with no malice at all I can say I am profoundly glad that we did. (And I imagine he is, too.) But… I helped him bury his Grammy. It still feels like a… a link, you know?
Only a scant few days of classes left, and I am a jangling bag of nerves because everything seems to be going so smoothly. This can only mean that there is some massive crucial project that I have utterly forgotten since it was first assigned in January. Right? Right.
E., my first partner and dear friend, used to say, “Elsa, if you were a super hero, you’d be Worst Case Scenario Girl!” (For the full effect, you should stand straight and proud with your shoulders thrown back and arms akimbo, and call it out in your most stentorian voice: “Making mountains out of molehills! Leaping to the most disastrous and farfetched of conclusions! It’s Worst Case Scenario Girl!” Really put the exclamation point in there. Good work.) He would tease and deride me right out of my twitching fits of fatalistic nerve-burn, threatening to get me tights and a cape and a crest emblazoned WCS.
E. doesn’t say this anymore, not because I have learned to
tame the nightmare blood weasels that populate my brain manage daily stress, but because he died a few years ago. But his derision lives on. When I catch myself going right off the rails, imagining that a possible mishap is only the first step towards the Worst Case Scenario, I picture myself in full regalia, flying off into the sunset to inform someone of just how bad this could be, and I start to laugh. He left me a legacy of laughter and mockery, and I imagine that suits him fine, wherever he is, as the flames lick at his heels.
I have been using the image of WCS Girl for years to defuse my panicky bouts, and it is only this week that I noticed something rather obvious: Dude, you got sick and died. Worst Case Scenario Girl was right! In your face, dead loved one!
I miss you, honey. Thanks for getting me through finals. Again.