This One’s for You, Pat
It was the day of Patrick’s funeral. I had to find something to wear. I am not one of those people who will just wear anything to funerals and weddings. I find that disrespectful. I finally found in the back of my closet a black dress, a little short, and some would say a little flirtatious, but quite elegant. Robbie would love it. Then I found a perfect hat to go with it.
At the funeral were a few of our department colleagues, with whom I did not mix much, since they think they are superior, being full time instructors. After the very short service, we gathered in a reception room. There was an abundance of wine at the bar, around which hovered Pam Cadell, the department know-it-all and alcoholic. She was wearing a slightly louder version of her everyday jumper-type outfit, which Robbie called “the pinaform” (a word he had coined from pinafore and uniform.) Her dreams of becoming a lawyer having been squashed by middle age and lack of brains, she contented herself with torturing her colleagues with political announcements and unsolicited legal advice. She had already put away several drinks and when she saw me, she said,
“Fancy dress! Isn’t that a bit expensive on a part timer’s salary?”
My friend Doreen, whose free and expressive use of profanity I’ve always admired, would have responded with a hearty “Now that’s none of your f***ing business, is it?”
All I could manage as my voice rose higher was, “Ha-ha thank you my mother made this dress yours looks very practical with the red flowers to hide the wine stains in case you spill it and with those big pockets you could carry out grapes crackers sausage cheese just kidding ha-ha.”
“Francine, my dear, you look divine,” Robbie said when he saw me. Robbie looked strangely relaxed, and when I commented, he admitted that he was relieved that the ordeal was over. It had been very sad and stressful for him, caring for Patrick while he helplessly watched him suffer. Robbie’s and Patrick’s gay friends were mostly elegant, except for one, whose loud handbag caught the attention of both Robbie and me at the same time.
“Cow skin? Really?” Robbie gasped. “With a leather jacket? Should I say something?”
“You know you won’t,” I said. And we comforted ourselves by shuddering and saying “Ugh!” a few times.
People kept coming, and the little reception room was getting quite crowded. The line at the bar was a twisted mess; drinks were being spilled on the nice gay suits; napkins were on the floor, some wet; but I noticed that the disorder did not bother me a bit.
I met Patrick’s young sister, Jane, and had a very nice conversation with her. She rejoined a group of their relatives, and I could see that I had caught the eye of an old man among them. He was a tall, thin, really old man with a thick shock of white hair. And he kept raising his glass to me every few seconds.
People were leaving and I wanted to say goodbye to Robbie before I left, so I went into the room with the coffin where I thought I’d seen him go. But there was no one there but Patrick, with his colorful silk ribbed tie in the Windsor knot, a beautiful contrast against the pale pink shirt. Suddenly I heard,
“I’ve been admiring your lovely chapeau…”
It was the white-haired man. I’ve always liked men complimenting my attire, even when it’s not sincere. I think it shows attention to detail and dedication to craft. And the use of the word “chapeau”, common with the gentry of the early part of the twentieth century was refreshingly cute.
“Merçi,” I replied.
“I could buy you several hats like that,” he said, “if you’d marry me.”
I looked at him, amused. I could tell that he must have been pretty hot in his youth. His body was still straight, relatively tight; he had nice teeth (not the original, certainly), exquisite clothing, and very likely, plenty of money. Half a century too late.
“I’m just guessing,” I said, “but I think we’d have only a few years together before I’d be left a grieving widow, and I don’t think I could stand that.”
“But what wonderful years they’d be,” he said, smiling, and looking deep into my eyes.
Just then, a woman about the same age as my admirer appeared at the door.
“Are you coming, Al? Jesus Christ!” She said, and downed the rest of the contents of her glass.
Suddenly Al’s shoulders dropped and the twinkle left his eye. He did bow to me, though, whispering “Adieu!” Then, mumbling “Yes, dear,” he went to join Mrs. Al outside.
On my way out, I overheard Pam Cadell say, in her most drunken, sanctimonious, over-indulgent voice, “He didn’t deserve to die.” And I thought, now, that’s just stupid. Nobody “deserves to die,” or “doesn’t deserve to die.” Death comes to everyone. And when is not a matter of merit. Otherwise, you would not still be here, Miss Pam Cadell. It certainly was sad, and it was nice that so many people had shown up to comfort Robbie and Patrick’s family. But from all the talk from those who’ve had NDE’s, the other side is pretty awesome, because they never seem to want to come back from it, what with the bright warm light full of love and everything. We, the living, are the ones who are left to suffer. So, we just have to deal with it and hope that time really does heal us quickly.
(I am going to tell you about the wedding in the next blog post as I don’t like to make things too long.)