“Luis, I’m just so happy you are here!”
“I was planning on coming this weekend anyway, I had planned on visiting Grandma.” The last sentence was accompanied by a deep sigh.
The two had hardly visited with their grandma while she lived, but she had always doted on Luis whenever she did see him. In a family prone to having girls, boys were treated as a treasure. That was probably to do with her being part of the older generation too, but it was true that besides their Uncle Nate’s son Thomas, Luis was the only boy grandchild in the family, the only living boy child, anyway.
“Where is mama anyway?”
“She’s in her room with Stella, Luis, she’s not herself. The doctor had to give her something to calm her down last night.”
“Yea, well that’s to be expected, poor mama. Hey, how are you doing by the way?”
“I’m okay. Stella and Sandra have been over a lot since it happened and Dad keeps by mom’s side pretty much, I wish I knew what to do. I don’t know how to help and it makes me feel useless.”
Luis gave her arm a squeeze. “You’re okay. Mom will be up soon too, and then we’ll figure out our next steps together. Hey, I know. If you really want something to do how about being useful and making me a sammich?”
“Oh you din dong, I can’t believe that you are still hungry. I guess that you’re still eating enough for two. Remember when dad used to say that we must’ve been triplets and that you must still have our brother inside of you?” Lucy tried to swat Luis with a pillow but he ducked out of her room with a laugh and it hit the frame where he had stood instead. She thought for a bit and then walked through the door and called after him, catching him just as he walked into his old bedroom.
“Luis? What do you want on your sandwich? But don’t get used to this!”
The funeral was a long, drawn out blur. There were tons of relatives that she didn’t know and tons that she only vaguely remembered. They had made her and her siblings sit near the front of the funeral home, a row behind her aunts and her uncle. It felt weird to have everyone wishing her condolences and all she could do was to wish them condolences too. Luis leaned close to her and whispered, “Lucy, just nod, smile and shake hands.”
So that’s what she did. Then everyone starting from their row on had to stand up and view her grandma in her coffin. She had never had to do this before and it unnerved her. She had watched her sisters lean into the coffin and peck Grandma’s forehead, but she couldn’t bring herself to do that. She felt less guilty when she saw that Luis was not going to kiss their grandma either. Grandma Margarita didn’t resemble herself at all, her skin had lost it’s powder like softness and she seemed a stiff mannequin of herself. To make matters worse, someone had colored her lips and cheeks in with a garish shade of red that she would have never worn in life.
Afterward they gathered at the cemetery and stayed by their mother’s side only moving when it was their turn to lay a rose upon the pearl colored casket. They returned to their mother’s side and although the air turned cold and they felt chilled in their dress clothes, they all stayed until the casket was lowered into the ground.
Usually they would’ve all met somewhere to talk about Margarita while they ate little sandwiches and drank large amounts of sweet tea but Tia Maria had decided against this. Most of her mother’s insurance money had gone on the funeral; whatever was left over could go to the poor. That would be what her mother would’ve wanted. Janie knew that her mother had always cared a great deal for the poor, but she also knew that family was important to her as well. She couldn’t help but think that her mama would have wanted all of the siblings and cousins to come together and reconnect. She had even offered to put something together and pay for it herself. Maria had been enraged at the suggestion. “We don’t need your help now, Juanita. You come in here with your fancy clothes and your nice cars, now you want to sweep in and throw your money around. It won’t make anything better and it won’t make you a good daughter.”
So after the funeral everyone left in their separate cars and met in small groups all over town or headed back to their homes or towns, it felt so wrong. If Maria was the new family spokesperson than any delusions that Janie had of becoming close to everyone again were quickly disappearing.