It's such a minor thing, but when I travel with my dad it really makes a huge difference. Man snores like a grizzly bear! So all night long, I'm tossing and turning because I can't sleep a wink because someone is using a chainsaw to hack down the entire Amazon forest a few feet away.
After getting dolled up in a simple black dress for the funeral, Dad and I made an emergency run to Target so that he could buy a belt and so that I could have earplugs the rest of the trip. Funny that Dad forgot something, let alone something as routine as a belt. Even stranger was the fact that this was my Dad's first time in a Target. (He's never been to a Wal-Mart, either.) I mean, the man's lived within ten minutes of one for the last fifteen years and never once bought a pair of pants or a DVD there.
Despite the last minute shopping trip, we made it to the funeral on time. Early, in fact, which meant we stood in the receiving line and shook hands with people as they walked in. I can't begin to express how awkward that was, since I barely knew Donald's name. But apparently in the South even remote family is family, so you smile - but not too much, because it is a funeral service - and stick out your hand and thank everyone for coming.
The service was nice, as far as funerals go. I think. I can count the number of services I've been to on one hand. Dad and Aunt Bonny both spoke about their uncle, which was lovely, but they were the only family to talk about Donald, which seemed strange. I mean, Dad probably hadn't spoken to Donald more than a handful of times in the past two decades, but he made a presentation while others who had seen Donald on a more regular basis, like his grandson, said nothing. Maybe it was too hard for them? It just seemed unusual to me.
After the service, Donald's coffin was taken to the cemetery to interred and we had fried chicken and mashed potatoes a a relative's house. I don't know who owned the place, or how we might have been related, but I guess that's how things roll in the South. Show up, shut up and eat, 'cause you're family. There were very few people my age around, which makes sense - most people in their mid-twenties would be away at school or at work on a Tuesday morning. It was only luck of the draw that I wasn't otherwise occupied.
Around mid-afternoon, things were wrapping up and we didn't know what to do with the rest of the afternoon. My Aunt Suzanna (I'm not named after her) suggested that we go up to her lake house and hang out. Apparently, in Florida, everyone has a lake house, judging from the way she talked about it. So we grabbed our swimsuits and went to the lake, which had pleasantly warm water and little nibbling fish swimming in it. If you sat still in the water, the fish would come and bite you, targeting dry and dead skin. It was strangely therapeutic, like those Turkish spas where you pay to have fish nibble at your psoriasis patches. Some cousin-child of about eight was splashing around, trying to catch the fish, but other than that the lake was pretty quiet.
It was nice.
I didn't learn too much about my cousins, but my Aunt Suzanna seemed happy enough to see me and Dad. She invited us to go over to Uncle Donald's farm - that is, her father's farm - the next day and see what real country livin' was like.