One of my mother’s boyfriends died last week. She is sad at his passing but glad he isn’t suffering anymore. He was 80 something and had a bag load of pressing health problems.
Bill’s funeral is today. Mom says she is going to pick up her 90 year old friend, Inita and drive both of them to his memorial service at the local VFW hall, which I call a bar.
At the service there will be no body and no ashes. We have discovered that Bill has a fifth wife that he splint from decades ago and she won’t release Bill’s body until she locates his check books and gets his pension.
Bill is still refrigerated in the morgue at the hospital and it’s beginning to look like he might spend eternity in the basement.
Mom has been hinting all week that I take her to Bill’s service. I have been reluctant because when my dad was alive my job amongst us kids was The Funeral Duty. I have spent hundreds of hours at funerals for old folks and I am now all funeraled out.
But, today I’m feeling very low in my mind and my body has followed. I’m thinking, “Gads, I’m depressed. Maybe I need a good funeral experience to cheer me up.”
I also know my Mother is hoping I will come with her and Inita and that desire is fermenting in my mind.
I pull myself up off my shredded chaise lounge cushions where I have been idling in the sun for half an hour and go inside and get the phone.
When my mother answers I say, “Mom, would you like me to come and get you and pick up Inita and take you girls to the funeral?”
“Yes!”my mother shouts. “Oh Honey, yes! We want to be there early so can you get me at 2:00?”
I arrive at mother’s house at two exactly and by golly, she is almost ready.
I grab the clock off her living-room wall and set it to the correct time. I am tired of that clock always being fifteen minutes behind the rest of us.
Mom is wearing the hot pink velour work-out pants I gave her, the ones with the purple stripe up the sides. She has paired the pants with a silky, long-sleeved orange patterned shirt. She’s wearing her sturdy brown leather shoes and her white hair is in a pony tail with something red and gauzy twisted around the rubber band. She has the usual reading glasses and very dark sunglasses with the cords, dangling around her neck. The cords and glasses haven’t tangled up and trapped her, yet, but..they will.
She’s got her black fanny pack strapped to her waist and she’s clutching her water bottle.
We’re set to go, but first Mom calls Inita to tell her we’re on the way.
“Do you know how to get to Inita’s?” I ask.
“Of course I do!”mom says, “I’ve taken her home two or three times.”
We’re in the car now and whizzing down the road. Inita lives just around the bend.
“Do you know the name of the street, Mom?”
Well, no, she doesn’t but she’s been there. Inita’s street is right next to the Winery and across the street from the Deli.
I’m slowing down and nervous as this is a very busy road and cars are pushing me from behind.
“Is this it? Is this it?” I’m asking.
“Well…I don’t know, Honey. It could be.”
“Mom! I have to turn or we’re going to get clobbered here.”
“Oh yes, turn here, that’s the road!”
“Rancho de Oro?”I say.
“Yes, yes…..well, maybe. Yes!”
I turn onto Rancho de Oro.
“So, where does she live on Rancho de Oro?”
Mother doesn’t know!
“Mom, but you’ve been here!”
“Well, keep going….oh! Turn here.”
“Mother, that road takes us into the Winery. I know because I’ve been here before.”
Mother is sure it’s Inita’s road. I am sure it is not. We keep driving.
“Anything look familiar Mom?”
The road is a small paved country road with houses spaced here and there, usually behind lots of trees. The road soon veers off in several directions. Mother has no idea which road to take. I choose and keep driving. Nope. Nothing.
Look for Inita’s mailbox,” Mom says.
“What’s her last name?” I ask. Maybe it’s on the mailbox and that will help us.
Mother can’t remember Inita’s last name!
“But, keep looking for her mailbox,” she suggests.
Mom has me double back and take the split off roads untaken. Then we double back again. And again. Nothing. I drive farther and farther into the hills.
“Take this road!” Mom says.
‘This road’ is dirt and travels up into what has become a mountain covered with brush.
I drive a ways until things seem too narrow and dangerous. Mom is urging me on.
“Do you remember her living up this road?”
Nope. She doesn’t.
I back the car down the tiny dirt, crooked path and we find another road just like it. My mother insists we drive up this one. I refuse.
“You know Mother, this is nuts.”
We have driven by a lady working with her roses, oh maybe three or four times now.
I stop and call out to her, asking if she knows an old lady named Inita. Mother adds that she lives with her daughter.
The Rose Lady is very nice but she says that everyone who lives back here is married with kids. I think, “well, what kind of damn neighborhood is this?!”
There is, she adds, no old lady who lives with any of them.
I’m thinking, ‘No single people and no old ladies. Why do I live in this town?’
(I’m getting pissy but I told you I was having a cranky day when we started this conversation.)
We drive on.
“Mom, I have my cell phone. Maybe it will work back here but maybe not. Do you happen to have Inita’s phone number with you?”
Mom immediately rattles the phone number off from memory! She can’t remember the woman’s last name and she can’t remember where she lives even though she has brought her home two or three times, but she’s got the phone number in her head, by golly.
I make the call. I get the answering machine.
“That’s because Inita is waiting out front for us,” Mom says.
I leave a message anyway, saying we are lost and where the heck is she and I leave my cell number. Then I put my head down on the steering wheel. I need a little rest.
“Mom, we’re going to be late to Bill’s funeral.”
Then I start laughing.
“Remember my old friend, Helen Duval?”
Of course Mom does. Helen was about mom’s age, eighty-five, when she died.
Helen had a much younger boyfriend named Ruben. When Ruben died, Helen told me she went to his funeral, of course. It was held outside in a big cemetery.
Helen was sitting in a folding chair with lots of other people gathered around the burial site. She told me it was the oddest thing, that as the service progressed she just kept feeling more and more puzzled. Finally, she turned to the woman beside her and said, “Who’s this damn Harry they keep talking about?!
Well, it was Harry’s funeral. Not Ruben’s. Helen had gone to the wrong service. She missed her boyfriend’s funeral, entirely. Helen said Rueben would have gotten a big kick out of that.
Mom shouts, “It’s Cobler! Inita’s last name is Cobler!”
“Listen Mom,” I say, “we’ll drive back to your place and I’ll go inside and look in the phone book. If we’re lucky Inita will be listed and it will have her address.”
I step on the gas and my cell phone rings. It’s Inita’s daughter. She tells me we’re on the wrong street. I shriek at Mother.
“We’re supposed to be on Wood Rock!”
As it turns out there are two Wood Rocks parallel to each other and of course I take the wrong one.
Two Wood Rocks and several phone calls later, we locate Inita’s house but no Inita. It turns out that she is waiting for us, hidden behind the horse trailer!
Inita is a tiny lady dressed much more appropriately then my mother but she does have a big, dazzling butterfly clip pinned in her white curly hair right in the middle of her head but very close to her eyes. The wings are on springs. One silver patterned butterfly wing flips and waves dizzily and, as it turns out, it waves and dips through out the entire memorial service and our time together. I am fascinated and hypnotized by it.
The service itself is uneventful and the food is tasty and home made. Or, maybe it’s not. A brownie sits in my stomach like a paper weight.
I do know that my former malaise has been lifted by my mother’s and my adventure in our hunt to find Inita…and is good.
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