My mother does not venture into Jacksonville. To her, Jacksonville is Sodom and Gomorrah and the border states and hell and Afghanistan all rolled into one where people shoot at you for no particular reason except that you’re in the wrong neighborhood. Plus, they drive all crazy-like. True, true, but the shootings are usually only at night, while I have to admit that the crazy driving thing is 24/7. So when she wistfully mentioned that she wished that she would be able to go to her sister-in-law’s funeral except that it was in Jacksonville, I was happy to assist her.
Like everybody of the female persuasion, I suppose, I have my all purpose black funeral dress. It is sleeveless, so I can toss on a woolen jacket in the winter or a short-sleeved suit jacket in the summer. I have matching wraps for all seasons should somebody happen to leave this mortal coil in winter, spring, summer, or fall. It has been awhile since I used it, however. Unfortunately, I found that the black funeral dress doesn’t actually fit anymore. Well, it’s a stretchy knit, but it was kinda bursting at the seams. DANG. What HAVE I been eating? Oh, yeah. Ice cream floats with the grandkids and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows and barbecue and orange soda and….gotta cut THAT shit out. I had no clothes suitable for a funeral! I decided on navy blue Dockers and a dressy shirt; after all, as K.C. reminded me, I was just the cab driver. Might as well dress the part.
There has been a lot of road construction done since the last time I was in that part of Jacksonville. I used to do construction work over there and do my serious clothes and book shopping there at the mall as well. I can’t shop there at the mall anymore because, well, the police officers would probably be asking me things like “Ma’am, why were you beating this young gangbanger with a tire iron in the parking lot?” and I would blurt out something like “Well, I forgot about the handgun I was illegally carrying or I woulda shot his ass because he tried to steal my wrinkle cream from Sephora”, and it would be an awkward conversation that I think would be best avoided.
SwampMan printed up a Google map to the location of the church. He programmed the GPS so that I wouldn’t get too lost. He put his cell phone next to his computer in his workshop in the barn. (My cell phone is broken, but I can still text in an emergency. I tell people that I can’t text which isn’t completely true. I just don’ wanna be stabbin’ those little letters and numbers.) I’m, uh, not sure that SwampMan has any faith in my ability to navigate from point A to point B without accidentally ending up in Miami or Atlanta or Houston. I’m not sure that any member of my family, except my Mom, does.
When Mom arrived, I threw the GPS, the maps, and the phone in the back seat, and told her we were taking a way that probably would take a little bit longer but it was a way that I knew. Bless her heart, she believes in my navigational abilities although I don’t know why, since they are pretty much nonexistent. I avoided all the new construction and roads, and took old back roads to the location. Then I waited in the car while she was in the funeral services because I just could not bring myself to go into a place of worship dressed in Dockers, even though they were dark navy blue and looked black if the light wasn’t too bright.
I walked around the gardens. I sat by a fountain. I surreptitiously scratched my back on an oak tree. I took the opportunity to enlighten myself by reading about the latest theories of dark matter. I read about dark matter for an hour and realized that I still didn’t understand too much about it, and switched to a fad diet book so that maybe I could get back into my dress. If you’re going to die, better schedule it for about
two three months out, okay? And let me know so I can actually start the diet. (I love my Kindle!)
After about two hours, Mom came out to the car just as I was contemplating my napping options. She told me how sad the funeral was. Her poor sister-in-law had survived a botched pacemaker insertion that had nearly killed her the year before, then she got a terrible nosocomial infection and then pneumonia for which she was on a ventilator in a coma for months in the hospital. During all that time in the hospital, after all those tests, x-rays, etc., they did not detect that she was suffering from an advanced cancer that was metastasizing. She went to her doctor for pain in her hip which she thought was from her replaced hip joint. It was metastasized cancer. She died a week after the diagnosis.
“So, do you want to follow the hearse to the cemetary?” I asked. “No. Her husband is so grief-stricken that I can hardly bear it, and it looks like it’s going to pour down rain. No, I’ll buy you lunch for bringing me here, and then we better head back.”
We lunched at Cracker Barrel, a grilled spicy catfish filet with limas and greens for me, and a fried catfish filet with hashbrown casserole and limas for her. The skies were even darker when we left.
“Oh, look!” said Mom as we were crossing a bridge across the St. John’s river. “It’s raining so hard, we can’t even see the boats!” I almost replied “Oh, look! It’s raining so hard I can’t even see the ROAD!” but I bit my tongue in time. That isn’t exactly the sort of thing you should share with a nervous passenger who doesn’t like venturing out of Georgia! As soon as we got across the river, the rain lessened and then turned into spotty showers rather than torrential downpours. Apparently the coastal regions were the ones getting hammered by rain on Friday.
“I do wish” said Mom on the way home “that I knew the way to visit (another sister-in-law and her husband).”
“Where do they live?”
“Well, it used to be a town that started with a ‘B’, but now their address is Jacksonville.”
“Well, that would probably be either Baldwin or Bryceville! Those are both off 301! Do you know the name of the road? Do you have time to explore?”
“Well, I have about an hour to kill before your brother gets off work…..” She told me the name of the road which was indeed off 301. I think. I hadn’t been on that road in YEARS.
“Fantastic! Let’s go look.”
I knew *about* where that road should be, but 301 is in the process of getting four laned. The traffic and delays can get a little extreme, so I usually completely avoid it. “Okay,” I announced. “After this road to the left, I *think* the next road is the one you want. Look for the street sign!” We went across a temporary bridge. The road that I *thought* was the road she was looking for did NOT have a street sign. All the other roads had street signs. Even stupid driveways now have street signs for 911 responders. I’m surprised that there isn’t a sign stuck on our driveway that says ‘SwampieLand’. But no. A major (well, paved, anyway) road does not have a street sign but driveways do. Go figure. We drove on a bit further until I could safely turn around (U-turn) without getting run over by a speeding logging truck with no brakes. I turned in front of a big motor home because I hate them and didn’t want to be stuck forever behind one. (Mom’s car has great acceleration which she has never actually used.) We went past the road again looking for a street sign laying on the ground or propped up in the brush. Nothin’. We looked down the road but as far as we could see, there wasn’t anything indicating what road it might be. If I had plugged the GPS in, it would have enlightened us, but it was out of reach in the back. Oh, well.
We got back to my house, and I turned the wheel back over to Mom. I told her I was pretty sure that that was the road, and I would Google it later. Then I realize that she has no idea what “Google it” means, and I reinterpret my words to tell her I’ll look it up on a map later. (As it turns out, the road I thought was the road was actually the road that we were looking for. That hardly EVER is the case.)
I walked to the house and called SwampMan out in his barn. I’d texted him “We B here” when we’d arrived at the funeral, but I hadn’t actually texted him “We B Crckr Brrl” and “We B gng hm”. “Glad you’re back!” said SwampMan. “I’m STARVING! I’ve been waiting for you to get back so we could go out and eat!” Uh, maybe I should have.
“We stopped at Cracker Barrel on the way home, so I won’t be eating.”
“Okay. I’ll get Chinese.”
We got back with the Chinese food, and SwampMan yawned as he at it. “Are you sleepy too? I can hardly keep my eyes open!”
“Yeah, I could use a nap!” SwampMan confessed.
“Must we the weather. I think I’ll take one, too.”
So we settled back in our chairs for a 15-minute nap. I turned on the whole house fan and put a fan on the floor aimed at our chairs so our feet would be cold. I woke up to roosters crowing and SwampMan had gone off to bed sometime during the night. I hadn’t done the nightly feedings of the dogs or cats or sheep or chickens or ducks, and now it was tomorrow at 8:30! I still felt groggy and disoriented. I leaped up, put my shoes on, and ran outside to feed the dog, then the cats. I was filling the buckets for feeding the chickens when I noticed that it was actually DARKER than when I had started. I went inside the house and checked the computer, and it was still the same date, but now nearly 9 P.M. Well. Still too late to feed chickens and ducks, but the sheep would get fed at least!
I was inside checking the news on my computer @ 11 p.m. when SwampMan came staggering in out of the bedroom. “Dang!” he said. “I hadn’t meant to sleep that long!”
“Tell me about it!” I sighed. I woke up @ 8:30, and I thought it was tomorrow morning!”
He laughed, not with me, but at me.
So that’s how we ended up eating corned beef hash and scrambled eggs at midnight Friday night/Saturday morning and couldn’t get back to sleep until @ 3 a.m.