Wallpaper and Other Forlorn Furnishings

My grandfather died. Johny was a teetotaler, a Quaker, and a farmer. I’m not really sure what to do with myself. Somehow, eating goat cheese* in his memory doesn’t seem as satisfying as the whiskey we had when Boyfriend’s grandfather died last November. 

Because I’m not very good with being serious about death, but I don’t want to be disrespectful or inappropriate with Grandpa Johnny’s memory, I’m going to tell a story about when my other grandparents died. Those funerals were years ago, and my mom’s parents were delightfully dark-humored, so they won’t mind.

When the man who gave my grandmother’s eulogy was introduced, I think my uncle said the man was a Methodist minister and a friend of the family. Not only had I never met this “friend of the family,” but his presence seemed to imply a religious aspect of my grandmother’s life that didn’t exist. From the side-eye my mom was giving him, I assumed she also thought this was weird.

As the man began to speak, he started with all the usual funerary airs and graces about sadness and love and loss. Then he told a story about an old woman in a retirement home. Apparently, he would visit her once a week and talk with her. Old Woman was depressed and lonely. Every week she would question why she was still alive when she was so ready to pass on, and every week Mr. Minister would quote peaceful passages of scripture and talk about the miraculous gift of each day. She wasn’t comforted. Finally, one week he quoted John 14:2 and told Old Woman that the Lord was preparing a special room for her and must be having difficulty picking out her wallpaper. From then on, Old Woman was more cheerful during her weekly visits with Mr. Minister. “Guess he’s still picking out my wallpaper,” she would say.

If you’re like me, you’re starting to wonder what the lamentations of suicidal old women and the anti-depressant powers of divine interior design have to do with my grandmother.

"… and so the Lord has also prepared a room for Marilyn. What must her wallpaper look like?" he asked rhetorically. As he went on about all the ways my grandmother was special, my mom leaned over and whispered, "She didn’t even like wallpaper."

We started cracking up.

Why is it that the more serious a situation, the more difficult it is to stifle giggles?

A few years later, Mr. Minister returned to give a eulogy for my grandfather (which was even weirder, because Jimmy was Catholic, but whatever). My mom darted a look at me that said, “Here we go again…”

Sure enough, he eventually got around to his story about decorating in the afterlife.

Without turning her head, my mother whispered through clenched teeth, “Don’t. Even. Look. At. Me.” We maintained decorum — but just barely. I started to relax, and I thought I was going to make it through the funeral without inappropriate laughter.

Mr. Minister began talking about Grandpa Jimmy’s service in the Korean War and how the Marines are a subgroup of the Navy. That’s when the boat metaphors came — families as safe harbors, the rough waters of life, the way we tie our boats together in times of crisis.

I slowly leaned over to my mom and asked in a somber whisper, “So, does that mean I’m your dinghy?”