Friday, August 06, 2010

The Funeral


As you can see, love of cats runs throughout my family.

This was Carol's favorite picture of Ken; she called it "The Cat Strangler." He loved to take self-portraits, but to get their beloved cat Wilson in the photo, he had to get a wrestler's grip on the cat.

When I called Carol the day Ken died, she said, "How do people do this when they have children? I don't even know how I'll tell our cat that Ken is gone."

I'd hoped to meet Wilson when I went to Arizona, but he hid from the houseful of people. It was great to see my cousins and their kids, all of whom are becoming smart and funny adults, but I was very emotionally shut down through the entire trip, feeling numb and distant and despondent.

At the funeral home in Phoenix, packets of wildflower seeds, printed with the Cat-Strangler photo, sat in a bowl next to the guest book. I took two packets, although plants die when I look at them, and our non-yards aren't exactly conducive to growing anything anyway. I may ask gardener Katharine if she wants some wildflower seeds for her yard. I had to have the packets, though, because of the photo.

The next day, we all drove up to Flagstaff for the burial in a family plot that holds my great-grandparents and great-uncle. It's a gorgeous spot, shaded by a huge tree. My uncle, Ken's dad and my mother's brother, is an entomologist who specializes in bees and has discovered many species. His granddaughter, my cousin Jim's daughter Maggie, travels and collects insects with him. On a previous trip to the family plot, the two of them discovered a ground-nesting bee, a new species they named after my aunt Barbara, known to the family as Bobbie.

After the burial service, Uncle Jerry and Maggie kept walking purposefully away from the plot and mourners. I thought maybe they needed alone time. Then I saw Maggie come back from the car with a white collecting net, which she began swirling in vigorous figure-eights. They'd found a nest of Bobbie-bees (not their scientific name, of course), and Maggie happily captured several for her collection.

Rather unfortunately -- at least from my point of view, and given the occasion -- this involved killing the insects by stuffing them in a test tube containing cyanide. "You don't want to stick your nose into this test tube," Maggie said cheerfully, evoking an oft-told family tale of how an ashen Bobbie once found toddler Ken (or was it Jim or Steve?) happily teething on a collection cork. Luckily, the baby hadn't gotten to the cyanide yet.

The best part of the trip, for me, was the drive Liz and Gary and I took from Flagstaff back to Phoenix, via Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona, and mountaintop artist's colony Jerome. Liz and her husband once made the same trip with my mother. Liz discovered she was pregnant when she threw up in Oak Creek Canyon, so it was a memorable journey, and I still have the beautiful silver ring and handwoven rug my mother brought back for me.

You've already seen the photos from our drives.

Gary loved Sedona and wants to go back sometime when it's not blazingly hot. I loved Sedona too, because Liz and I found a splendid yarn shop there, and I bought some lace yarn the color of the red rocks.

I love my family, and I love Arizona. I hope I'll get to see both again when I'm feeling less remote.

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