Jungle

jungleWe breathed the thick air of the jungle of Omaha, the day after Grandma’s funeral.

There were fuzzy gibbons, one of them with a baby hooked to her, and we looked hard at the two of them, my mother, my sisters, me, us four.

We walked through the butterfly house, watching our feet to not crush anyone.  We stepped through sliding doors into the butterfly check room, where there were mirrors, and a woman in a wheelchair told us to look ourselves over, check our pockets for butterflies.

I read Ecclesiastes, as I had at Grandpa’s funeral, same podium, same passage, me twice as old.  My hair is shorter, blonder, I have wrinkles that stay between my eyebrows and my forehead, and you can see now on my jaw, where it will sag.

I spent the mass looking mostly at unpainted wooden St. Joseph, just as I did twenty years before, because their Jesus there looks too pained, St. Joseph with his carpentry square, useless old St. Joseph, there to teach Jesus nothing he needs to know.

My reading included cryptic bit: “Every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labor, it is the gift of God. I know that, whatever God does, it will be for ever.”  I emphasized the drink.  What the rest of it meant, who knew?

I experienced the pleasure of, for two solid days, having the circus of my extended family around me, aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, great-aunt, second cousins, cousins removed, everyone someone to talk to, one baby to kiss, two toddlers to chase, one wore a cape. “You can’t catch me!”  We could, we didn’t.

Just the four of us saw her at the mortuary in her casket.  I touched the dead her, just a bit, to say hi, not much, you know you can mess the body up, there is makeup on her hands.

I was once criticized for wishing aloud death was more real, less made up.  And now I like makeup for dead people, why not?  At the grave, though, we did not stay to see it lowered, a stranger, a man, stayed alone, not that we wouldn’t have, but it was snowing and so cold we were pressed as tight as New Yorkers under the green tent while the priest zipped through what should be said, my sister was next to me and her legs spasmed from the cold, our breath hurt to take in.

We got back into the cars and Grandma went down on her own, not that she needed us.

Back at the wacky hotel, where all the rooms were named after U.S. presidents, my family took over the breakfast room with beer and tequila and whiskey and our traditional trivia competition, louder than it’s ever been.  I was very wrong about one question, one of my cousins correctly answered first man in space, my sister was robbed of who invented the television.

The butterflies sat on trays, on browned bananas and slices of fruit.  The macaws in the jungle picked pieces of fruit off of wires hung for them.  We had lunch in a room overlooking the jungle exhibits, I ate a yellow banana, two tacos, and burned Spanish rice.  The gibbons were still swinging and pausing and looking back at us.

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