We all stood by quietly as the casket was opened... Watching as Grandda stood for a few moments gazing into the face of his life's mate, we could see the panoply of emotions playing across his visage. Then the tears began to flow once again down his strong, weathered face.
"Oh, Martha Jane! Where are you? Where are you? I can only..."
Then, turning away, he patted the shoulder of the funeral director, nodded, and left the house, heading for the barn, his place of solitude.
We all looked at one another. What was that all about, visitors were wondering. It was evident from the obviously puzzled looks on their faces. I said nothing, because I had no proof of any decision my Grandma might or might not have made, besides which, I didn't consider it to be my place to interpret his remarks.
My Ma just said, "Would anyone like some coffee? I just made a fresh pot."
The moment was over, and conversation flowed once again. People began to approach the casket, murmuring the usual comments like , "Don't she look natchural?"
I joined those gazing on her remains and thought she looked like a wax figure like I had seen in a museum back home. She was the first dead person I had ever seen. My Da's body had been cremated because we hadn't the money to bury him and he was not in a state for us to look at anyway.
After a while of standing around, hearing inane comments, I began looking for Les and Marie. They were not in the house anywhere that I could see and it was beginning to get colder outside. I asked Ma if she had seen them.
"I think they were worried about your grandfather, and went out to look for him, Zebbie."
Ah! Yes, they would, not understanding his need to grieve alone for a few minutes.
"If you are going outside young man, put on your coat! It's cold out there, even in that drafty barn!"
"Yes, Ma," I replied, as I donned my cap also, practically on my way outdoors.
As I shut the door, I heard my Ma saying, "I swear, those kids seem to live in that barn!" I had to laugh, because she was almost right. It was a new experience for us, and Grandda made it a place of interest.
The cold gravels crunched under my shoes as I neared the barn. I could hear the murmur of their voices as I approached the door. Grandda was telling them what sounded like a story. I swung open the barn door to see the three of them in a circle, or so it seemed.
Les and Marie sat on a low stool in front of Grandda, who sat on the bench. His hands were in motion, as he was apparently describing something to them. He looked over at my entering, and smiled.
"Come on in, boy, and shut that door! It's got a cold breath!"
(To be continued)