On the way to the funeral, Kerry told me about the last time she saw her grandmother. She wouldn’t use a fork and scooped up bits of manicotti with a sugar cookie instead.
“I don’t like this,” the grandmother kept saying, crumbling the miniature Christmas tree between her fingers.
“It’s ok. You don’t have to eat it,” Kerry’s father said.
“Mom,” Kerry’s mother said. “Ma! Do you want something else? Something else?”
After Christmas they moved the grandmother to Care Center, a maze-like network of hospital buildings. Kerry’s father worked with the insurance companies, and her mother brought over bags of towels. Folding them reminded the grandmother of sewing. The grandmother caught scabies and had to wear a metal anklet that beeped if she strayed too far. For her birthday, Kerry’s parents bought her a special clock that displayed the time and the day of the week.
“I don’t like this,” the grandmother said, sweeping a pile of crumbs onto her lap.
“I hope none of us gets it,” Kerry’s mother said as she cleared the table.
Kerry’s parents had begun playing Scrabble every week and were learning Spanish online.
I turned into the driveway of the funeral home, and a man in a grey suit holding an umbrella waved me towards an open space.
I watched Kerry’s reflection in the passenger side window.
“Scabies is contagious,” I said. “That’s why you didn’t visit.”
She nodded, patting her swollen belly.
We unbuckled our seatbelts and stepped into the rain.
Category Archives: Leah Brennan
I brought you shells from Hawaii. I hope you like them, but maybe you don’t care. They look good here, though. Like they belong.
Each shell has a hole near its edge. Special predator mouthpieces drilled through the little walls and pierced the animal inside. That’s what the tour guide said.
I thought about threading them onto a black cord, but what would you want with a necklace? They would just hang together in a neat row, most of them hidden.
Pick a shell, any shell.
The night after you were buried, we stayed with you, huddled together in the dark on the cold patchy grass. We told stories about high school and poured a beer into the ground.
At your matzevah, your mother told us to leave a stone each time we visited, and now your grave is adorned with pieces of the roads we’ve travelled, favors from our weddings, a red CHS pen from our ten year reunion. You were there. Here is your souvenir. Your shells.
Hawaiians call them puka shells. Hole shells. They are supposed to bring good fortune, and sailors wear them to ensure safe travels.
But, I know how you always felt about superstitions.
In Hawaii, I knelt on the ground to sift through the sand for something to take home to you. You, who sailed down the Niger River on your homemade boat, your body pulled from the water by fishermen, you knew there was nothing to wait for, that every piece counted.