Though I don’t remember my grandmother’s funeral, I do remember the burial at the cemetery at Cold Spring.
Reverend Rowe presided–and as is his custom, asked everyone to join hands to form a large circle in the grass around Lila’s grave.
At 14, I refused. My loss was too personal to be shared. I remained sullen and apart.
Later, my sister and I were hanging out in the car. I thought it was the Pinto that Nana won on the boardwalk, but it couldn’t have been because that’s what she was driving when it broke down and the truck crashed into it, dragging it 300 yards across the bridge before landing on top of them.
All they found was her teeth.
It must have been the Mustang, and I must have confided in my sister because I remember her telling on me. “Kelly hates God,” she said to my Uncle Jeff–who was a pastor. He had something to say about that.
My hippee aunt who taught me how to meditate also had something to say about how much I was crying each night. She sat down beside me on my bed in the dark and massaged my fingers while she told me that I was being indulgent.
I thought the food after the funeral was indulgent. Who wants to eat all this food when the person you love the most has died? And what sick person brought her favorite candy and why was I eating some?
I watched my betrayal in Nana’s large dining room mirror and felt the vacancy of her house despite how full it was.
My recent adolescent rite of passage into “her kitchen” no longer mattered. Everyone could be in there now–even the real little ones–without Nana to shoo them away, “No kids in the kitchen!”
In the evening, I was permitted to accompany the adults to dinner because I was the oldest “granddaughter“–something that no longer mattered either.
We were seated at Zaberer’s very own tables–pushed together to accommodate close to two dozen Salasins and guests. The Monsignor joined us and spoke of the $6,000 statue of Mary that his diocese had built in front of the church.
“What a waste of money!” I blurted out from my end of the table. “Think of how many people you could have helped with that.”
The room grew silent and I felt even more alone without Lila.
In the car ride home, the brothers argued over her belongings. Their sister was taking things from the house already. Some of the wives said it wasn’t fair.
“Why not,” I butted in. “Why shouldn’t she have her mother’s things? You guys don’t care about Hummels and china.”
But I was silenced for not understanding the value of certain items.
Once Lila died, it seemed as if our family was on a ship without a Captain. My grandfather sunk into himself in grief and the great house became dark and hollow.
Our beloved “Poppop” still made us silver dollar pancakes and banana splits, but without Lila, the house was spirit-less. He moved to a condo off shore.
Later my own family resuscitated “6012” by filling it ourselves. But it didn’t last.
Three divorces and almost a fourth ripped through the family in the years after Lila’s passing.
The River Place was sold.
And except for weddings and funerals, there were no more family gatherings.
The loss of a Matriarch is a hard loss to bear. But Lila left behind the gift of granddaughters–19 of them: Kelly, Robin, Michelle, Stephanie, Bonnie, Lauren, Sandy, Kristen, Denise, Karen, Deborah, Jessica, Grace, Joy, Beverly, Terri, Lisa, Rian and Devon.
As her “first granddaughter,” my child would be named Lila. But she never came.
Reverend Rowe told me that my deep grief over the miscarriage was really over the unresolved loss of my grandmother, 15 years earlier.
My father told me that on a scale of 1 to 10, a “miscarriage” was a “3” when it came to the sorrows my life would bear.
Who knew there so many rules to grief.
For more Lila stories, click below: