Sunday, April 29
This morning I roamed the house like a caged animal, driving Juniper, who really is a caged animal, a little crazy. She followed my anxiety as if it were some kind of Frisbee. I finally scooped her up for a long walk through Evergreen.
A cemetery is a huge garden where the dominant color changes with steady regularity. Those caretakers who were going to bind their daffodil stems into braided chignons had done so. Maintenance workers on riding mowers have sheared the remaining jonquils, daffodils and crocuses to the nub.
What I saw today were the iris tall and unfurling in many plots, yellow replaced by mauve and purple. In their turn, the iris will give way to gladioli and crepe myrtle. Roses will hold steady for months. The plot with the peonies will fade back. I make a note to search for gardenias by their smell.
I was hunting for Lura’s family when a man I took for a wealthy mental patient approached me. But when passed me without stopping, his biscuit-shaped face revealed a normal intelligence. Sloppily fat, wearing loose pink sweats that hung from his belly and then re-draped themselves among the cracks and creases of his body, he jingled an authoritative set of keys.
As I watched, he unlocked the gardener’s shack, a former mausoleum, and entered, returning with a roll of maps, which he laid out on the hood of an old white hearse. Within minutes he seemed to find what he was looking for, rolled up and restored the maps and headed over to the northwest corner, where a green-striped tent was being erected. Someone was moving in today.
Lura’s family plot was as lovely and as insulated from the road and hot sun as I’d feared. Surrounded by a lacy iron fence, her ancestors enjoyed shade and thorny roses. There was a tall, but not immovable jug poised on one slab---the kind I’d like to steal. Briefly, I wondered how to accomplish this.
As Juniper and I left through the south gate, we passed a pair of gravediggers in their blue pickup. Later, on the walk home (we’d gone up to campus and wandered around Kate’s dig) I saw that the new grave had been dug, and about a dozen chairs waited a discreet distance away. The fat man and his white hearse were gone.
That evening as I was taking out the trash, I was distracted by the sight of a man in a new truck with ropes and a mechanical lifting device driving out from Evergreen’s Bear Bryant Road exit. From where I stood, (our dumpster sits nearly against the cemetery’s west fence), I could see that the funeral has occurred and that I had missed the bulk of it, but not its last and most poignant moment.
Four workers carrying shovels, and one carrying nothing at all, were lined up watching as an old man in a dark Sunday suit patted the filled-in grave with the back of a long handled spade. When he finished, he paused, turned and returned the tool to the empty-handed worker, who received it respectfully. The gravediggers shuffled off then, leaving him alone in his suit and white handkerchief.
He must have promised to bury her with his own hands.
In the background another worker trundled a wheelbarrow, spreading the displaced earth elsewhere. A dog barked. A flock of black birds erupted from a wire. A car door opened and shut.