Aunt Marie’s Funeral

 

Aunt Marie was an icebreaker, the family iconoclast. If a commonality could be found among her 12 siblings, it would be their feigned seriousness. Aunt Marie was a comic, a cut-up. Even when she was stern and chastising you with a shattering voice, there was a twinkle in her eye she couldn’t hide. At family outings, to the delight of us kids and the irritation of the adults (a common occurrence), she would dress up in baggy pants, take out her false teeth, stick a corn cob pipe in her mouth, and, as a finishing touch, would flip up her eyelids with bobby pins and strut around like a hayseed.

God, we loved her.

Then one day, before it became a dreadfully frequent and a grave concern to the population at large, Aunt Marie discovered a lump in her breast. It grew bigger and bigger and got worse and worse. Too late, she went to the doctor; too soon for the treatments we have today.

Too bad.

She died.

And left behind Uncle Freddy, Joan, Patty, Ida, Cecile, and --- a menopause surprise --- Alfred, Jr.

Funerals themselves were always fuzzy and vague to me. But, I remember, we always went from the cemetery to, usually, the home of the deceased to wind down. There were about thirty or forty people gathered in the Gallant house after the mourning. Uncle Ted, the family patriarch, was seated at the kitchen table with Eva and Florence, my aunts the nuns, and Aunt Rose. The rest of the adults just stood around looking lost. The kids (we of high school and college age) gathered in the living room.

"The time for crying is over." Announced Uncle Freddy as he went to the kitchen closet and took out a half-gallon jug of Wild Turkey. Freddy insisted that everyone have a drink – or two – or three.

Now, there was always music in our family. My younger brother Dave brought in his guitar and we sang. Meanwhile out in the kitchen, the bourbon took effect. Uncle Ted, the nuns, and Aunt Rose were looking up dirty words in the dictionary. When Dave started playing ‘Kansas City’, the adults merged with the kids in the living room. Before long, everyone wanted his favorite cities added to a verse of the song.

"Hey Dave," said Uncle Freddy, "sing Bouctouche."

"Oh Bouctouche, Oh Bouctouche here we come..." We all sang. Then came Lynn, Salem, Memramcook, Shediac, Cleveland, whatever. The song went on for an hour.

Then, as if by tacit mutual agreement, the time came to leave.

Marie’s kids stood in line with Uncle Freddy on the front porch as we all left.

"Thanks Uncle Freddy," Said brother Dave on his way out, "We had a great time."