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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I Can't Do It!!!

I know that I’m supposed to be on hiatus, but I can’t take it anymore. To quote Moms Mabley, who most folks have never heard of, “I got something to tell ya!” Life is extremely funny and I love having this outlet to share the funnies. I’m also flattered by the fact that folks stop by here to, not only read my madness, but enjoy it. So here goes.

Last week I had to go home for a funeral. I’m slowly becoming that person that goes home for funerals. I have no desire to go for anything else and one of these days I’ll have to go for my own. I really should be seen at other folks’ to make sure I fill a church when I go. I would really like for folks to come see me off (in lieu of flowers, send cash now!).

So I drove to New Jersey to attend the funeral of Mattie Williams Watkins… Aunt Mattie. I guess I could call her a “play” great aunt. She was my babysitter for a little while, beginning when I was about 2 or 3. Before that, it was Aunt Savannah, but that is long and sordid story. Aunt Mattie’s story is actually very sweet. She and her husband, Uncle Hank, lived across the street with their children. I think one or two were actually theirs. The rest were orphaned by some relative and came to live with them. One of the most interesting things about the arrangement is that all the children received the same treatment. Cousins behaved as siblings, with the full awareness they were not.

Aunt Mattie was a housewife. To supplement Uncle Hank’s income, she took care of other folks’ children. What she had going on across the street would, today, be called a day care center. Working parents from all over town would swing by after work to pick up their kids. Others, like me, who lived close by would be walked home by one of the Watkins children. They only thing that made us different from the Watkins kids is we didn’t live with them, but we all received the same treatment. I could leave my house and go to theirs and have the same level of security and comfort. Parents today don’t get that from daycare. It was a great place to grow up.

I found out she had died the day before the funeral. Every day I read the on line obituaries from the paper back home. Matter of fact, I just finished reading them. No one I know today. I struggled with making the drive back home, but after thinking about Aunt Mattie and what she’s meant to me I knew I had to jump on the road and make the trip. Besides, I needed to go back home to renew my driver’s license and I could kill two birds with one stone.

I left Maryland at 5 a.m. and arrived at the DMV in New Jersey at 10:21. They had me out with a new license in five minutes! I would make the 11 a.m. home going after all. One of the great things I’ve learned is reading between the lines of obituaries. For example… if one of the deceased’s children is listed with another surname, there is a good chance that you might need to do a little investigation to clarify that relationship. A “lengthy illness” usually means AIDS-related, people don’t mind acknowledging a “courageous battle with cancer” but AIDS gets tongues wagging. What I surmised from Aunt Mattie’s obituary is that the service would be rushed.

A service at the Refreshing Springs Holy Temple COGIC can go on for days… as dictated by the Spirit. Aunt Mattie’s obituary had the veterans’ cemetery service listed at 1:30 p.m. The cemetery is a good 45 minutes away and you have to be there on time. I’ve seen folks sent away who showed up late for their appointment. When my grandfather died, we didn’t even play ourselves. We scheduled his cemetery service for following day. We would not have our faces cracked by showing up late and having to take the body back home.

Aunt Mattie’s service started out regular, but by the time we got to my solo I could tell we were on fast forward. I didn’t even get a chance to do the two standard COGIC reprises. By the time the bishop got up to speak I had no hope of getting out of there on time. The real surprise came when the mortician pulled Bishop's coattail during the message, but I expect nothing less from Jackson’s Funeral Home… another long and sordid story. Within minutes we were outside assembling cars for the trip to the cemetery. I left early to get a 10-minute oil change and pulled behind the line of cars just as they were entering the cemetery. Vincent, the hearse driver is a beast. He had to be doing 75 mph!

The cemetery was very interesting. I met a man who was clearly shocked when told who my mother was. I was clearly shocked when he asked who my father was. He seemed pleased when I was able to tell him. This is why I go to funerals. You never know what might jump off.

Posted by Rodney :: 7:24 PM :: 12 Comments:

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Mattie Watkins 1930-2006

Leroy Whitfield 1969-2005

Frankie Warren 1921-2005

Willie Snell 1925-2003

Clayton Jackson 1974-2001

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