Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ghost(s) in the Machine

As a Southerner of a certain age - a comfortable place between 30 and 60-somethin' - I am accustomed to death, tragedy, and very efficiently turning funerals into family reunions, since all the same players are involved. And we eat fried chicken and watermelon on both occasions.

I was not aware we had a Gladys in the family, but then I was not aware we had an Aurelius in the family either, until he was in the family plot. Aurelius died a year or so ago, and the very long funeral in the very small church with the choir consisting of three very large black women marked the last time all the surviving Hardemans (and our kin) were in the same county, bathed, and dressed up. There is a long line of country in my adopted blood.

the Old Black Man just opened my door to inform me that Gladys, whom he thinks I should remember because I met her briefly, when I was 2, is dead. She attended Aurelius' funeral and was "the old woman hunched over sitting at the back ..." Given that Gladys was "just over a hundred years old" I am somehow not surprised.

Neither my father or my cousin will attend the funeral this Saturday, in Luling - our family seat. I suppose it is the thing about being a certain age that one gets my invitations to funerals than parties - though again, the line tends to blur at this stage. Another relation graduates from high school this weekend, which is still a big deal in my family ... but which we not be attending either.

It occurs to me, given that the Old Black Man is the last of his line, and given that all of his brothers and sisters who preceded him to the great hereafter were in their 90s or so, that my father probably has a good decade left in him. I've noted before that he cannot seem to quite get when things stop working, which usually leads to some very interesting conversations.

Of the ceiling fan in his bedroom, which stopped working shortly after our first 90 degree day - in early March - my father's simple solution, a can of WD-40 and me on a footstool trying to aim a needle nozzle into the fan motor. I considered this unlikely and slightly dangerous maneuver right up to the point when he mentioned that the fan worked for five minutes the night before - shortly before it stopped working, started smoking and shot sparks onto his bedspread. This bore too close a resemblance to the ceiling fan I helped him install a few years ago, when he forgot to switch off the circuit breaker. In that instance, sparks flew and I was thrown from a ladder.

I have sense declined to install ceiling fans when he is in the room and have informed him that there is no point in trying to fix the two broken fans (in the kitchen and his bedroom), each of which is around my age.

Money's tight, and it is 87 degrees in my house, so my father's solution is quite similar to his solution for not knowing how to operate the cordless phone - a very long cord. the Old Black Man bought a 50' telephone cord and carried a rotary dial princess phone from room to room, until - that is - I showed him where the talk button was and how to properly hang up the old and large but perfectly serviceable handset. In this case, Dad strung together two extension cords and drags a floor fan from room to room - causing me some mild consternation as I occasionally leave my room and trip over the cord running down the parquet floors in the narrow hallways between our rooms. And given Dad's tendency to turn off lights even when he is still in the room, I sometimes walk into the fan when going to the kitchen. At some point, one of us will have the spare few hundred dollars to install the HVAC unit that fell off the back of a truck, but at this point the only options appear to be the constant and sometimes comforting cacophony of fans going full speed ... and the not so comfortable roll of a bead of sweat down my back.


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