Paint It Black

The weekend didn’t turn out as planned. Shortly after I sent my brief newsletter last Friday, my dad called to say that he and Ruth both had a bad flu and I shouldn’t come for the planned visit to them in England, lest I catch it.

Not a dead loss – the weather at home was finally warming up, and I was itching to get to work on my garden, which I did so much on Saturday that my back and knees were aching Saturday night.

Sunday more of the same. I was just coming back into the taverna (our ground/basement floor family room) from the garden when the phone rang. It was my dad, to tell me that my aunt Rosie had died.

It wasn’t unexpected – in fact, when he called Friday, his dolorous tone had me convinced for a moment that he was about to tell me that. Rosie had been in the hospital for about a week this time, with a high fever and at least three different infections. But death, even when expected, comes as a shock. I probably sounded strange and cold to my dad. I hung up the phone, walked towards the door, then crouched on the floor. The most extraordinary sounds started coming out of me. Howls, I guess. I didn’t know I could make noises like that. Even while I was making them, some detached part of my brain was thinking: “Well, at least I still know how to grieve. I guess that’s good.”

I’m still in shock. Sometime later I will explain just why and how Rosie was so important in my life. But I had to deal with practicalities like plane tickets. Which was so frustrating that at some point I said to Enrico: “All this is apparently designed to piss me off and distract me from the pain I’m in.” (I had drafted an article about KLM’s wonderful attention to their customers; as of today, that is due for some radical revision.)

Ross and I will arrive in Austin late Wednesday, the funeral will be held in Taylor on Saturday, and we leave again early Monday morning. Rosie’s daughter Casey and I are looking for a jazz band to play “When the Saints Go Marching In” (Rosie’s request). Casey says the funeral will not be held in the church, “because we wouldn’t be able to have any fun.” And fun, to celebrate a life such as Rosie’s, is absolutely necessary. She was an extraordinary woman, and I owe to her a lot of who I am.

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