At Pappa’s funeral, I get this urge to laugh. I don’t know why, there’s nothing funny about my Pappa laid out in his casket, soon to be lowered into the ground. But I can’t help it. First, I begin to giggle; I try stopping, but that only makes it worse. Nana digs her elbow into my side, but that doesn’t help, either. But now, I’m holding my sides and laughing so hard that the entire congregation stares at me. Father Salvatore has just stopped the Requiem Mass, and I’m sure they’ll all be gossiping for the next 50 years, but who gives a fuck? I’m only 23 years old, and I’ve just lost my Pappa. A very funny man who did gross things with his false teeth, who told humorous stories about a curly-tailed dog that died long before I was born, a man who had taught me the fundamentals of booking bets at the dog track. I have lost that forever. I have the right to laugh however and whenever I want. It’s just that the absurdity of living and dying–or maybe it’s the echo of the eighth grade choir in the throes of their hormone war–has hit me in a way that I can’t ignore. The absurdity of finally figuring out what family is all about, only to have a significant part of it ripped away forever. I can’t stop the obscene guffawing. Guttural sounds rise up from my gut, and I’m gagging. Cousin Jimmy comes for me and says, “C’mon, Samantha, let’s go outside for some fresh air.”
As Jimmy leads me away, I look around the church, and I don’t see any strange children there. Not that my grandfather’s family would ever need to hire children to attend his funeral–the church is packed with mourners, most of whom I don’t even know–but, still, he was my grandfather, and I would have hired children anyway, just for good measure, for extra Indulgences, even if we had to stack the little brats in the vestibule or stuff them into the trapezoidal confessionals or make them stand outside on the icy steps.
Outside on the landing, I feel nauseated; I lean over the wall and let loose of the bile and waste of the past 23 years, and it keeps on coming up, and I know it’ll never stop unless I make it stop, and even when the stuff is gone, my gut is still racking with spasms.
Finally, I’m finished, I’m tired, and I’m ready to go back inside, to say goodbye, to mourn.