Little Esther made a display of pictures of Uncle Jack. They, Jack and Little Esther's mother Esther, and their friends, look like the rat pack in spiffy suits and dresses at their country club parties; he's always wearing a bow tie, is barely recognizable except for the distinctiveness of his lower jaw. Esther and Jack had been in adjoining rooms at the nursing home, his name plaque's gone from the door and I wonder if Esther will have to share a bathroom with the future tenant; if they'll move her.
We'd been in Baltimore on Memorial day, the week that he got sick. Meg (the previously mentioned cousin's older sister who came to Baltimore to work in a library, try and go back to school) and I went to Panera while Dad and Grandma visited him in the ICU; they said he couldn't talk anymore although he tried very hard to. I was sunbathing on the beach in Los Angeles when my mom called to say he'd passed on. Ruth (the younger sister) asked me a lot of questions I didn't know the answers to–how old was he and how exactly did he go, how old is Esther? We tried to dwell on his death appropriately, feeling that this ought to cast a pall on what was an otherwise perfect day to sit beside the ocean and watch surfers.
Our grandmother is actually the older sister, so even given that she can barely squeeze the juice out of a lemon into her water anymore, and is forever forgetting to take her dark glasses off when she goes into a building, she is surprisingly mobile for 91. I aspire to a similarly independent old age, however I hope I will not be too stubborn to get a hearing aid.
Linda from the nursing home came to the service in her green scrubs, "I told you I'd come. He was such a nice man." My mother thought that was funny to say, since he'd gotten difficult and Esther had, apparently, worried he'd be kicked out.
I'd never been to a funeral before or an Episcopal service. Was mostly like Sunday church–people muttering through praryers without much enthusiasm, little discussion of the deceased beyond that he felt closest to God in his boat, the obligatory 'ye though I walk through the valley of death.' His ashes were interred in the wall out back next to his mother-in-law's and everyone went to the reception hall to eat chicken salad sandwiches and delicious little chocolate covered cookies.
Back at the nursing home we sat in Ester's room, looked through what was left of Jack's stuff. Dad inherited a jacket, Grandma took a nice wooden table and as we carried it out, Esther joked to my mother "I guess the question is 'do you want it eventually?.'" We laughed because I guess that's funny. Another nurse came in, a woman with closely shaved, bleached hair and a gold tooth, gave Esther a hug and told us "This is our lady." The building used to be a college women's dorm, the kind that men could only get into the front lobby of. Now it houses old white people being cared for by (almost exclusively) young(er) black women. I don't know what commentary to make on this fact so I make none, but I was surprised and touched by the enthusiasm of the women we met.
I got a little sick from only eating cookies between breakfast and dinner (oh, and a little piece of cheesecake); during my time dealing with said issues at about 1am when we finally got back home I read the pages for that day in The Assassin's Cloak, which is an oddly named anthology of diary entries. One June 9th in 1930, Andre Gide wrote "It requires a great effort to convince myself that I am now as old as those who seemed to me so old when I was young."