How little I knew of the area south of Biscayne Drive. Like a typical New Yorker, I had staked out a few blocks for myself and kept to them. Now it was time to stretch my boundaries.
By three o’clock I’d had enough of Arborgate and was itching to leave, if only for an hour. Driving south on Peachtree Road past the abandoned, but still eerily beautiful, Brookwood Hotel, I passed Piedmont Hospital and the Brookwood Train Station, eventually reaching Spring Street where it peeled away from what was now Peachtree Street at triangle where a busy restaurant called the Crossroads was doing a spanking business. Here, or just a wee bit south, is also the juncture for Peachtree and West Peachtree Street. And no, there are no fruit-bearing trees to be seen.
Mr. Invalid had not lied; the Patterson Funeral Home overlooked Spring and Tenth and looked very out of place among the rundown buildings, empty lots that neighbored it. Even under the misty rain that had been drizzling down all day, its tall pines, magnolias and oaks, and the very height of its property, gave it an air of willful detachment. I drove the Cadillac up the driveway to emerge at a peaked and pretty brick mansion complete with porte cochere and gardens ranging in front and behind. The fact that the property also overlooked the downtown “connector,” a merging of Interstates 75 and 85 and beyond that, the Georgia Tech campus, did not detract from its homey dignity.
There were no viewings that day, but a youngish man who looked as if he were going to skip middle age by losing his hair and muscle tone in my presence was standing in the garden clipping wet camellia blooms. (I would later discover these flowering shrubs were actually camellia sasanquas and it would take even longer for me to be able to tell the difference. I was not, in 1976, the gardener I would become.)
Itching to get a look in this marvelous old house, I pulled the Fleetwood over and approached him. When I told him I was helping Susan Suddermill arrange funeral services for her sister, Abigail, he forestalled me.
“I’ve got that right here,” he said, escorting me through a large black and white tiled kitchen and down a hall wide enough to park the caddy. In his old-fashioned ledger book was the dates (December 27-28, 1976) for the viewing and a burial to follow at Oakland Cemetery.
“Did Susan reach you then?”
“Why no, ma’am,” he said. “Her husband arranged this. Kevin. Kevin Snowe, isn’t that right?”
“Lives in Midtown?”
“Yes, just a short distance from here, in fact. He walked over yesterday. With his little dog.”
With his little dog?