My grandmother died in December. The day after my birthday, and a week before Christmas. She succumbed to an aggressive form of leukemia, and her decline was too swift and too ugly. I have always been close to her, and have always admired her charm (that Virginia accent was one in a million). I sure do miss her. More than that, I miss knowing she’s not far away.
Her memorial service was held on a gloomy winter’s night, right after the holidays, which might be the single most depressing time of the year. We were all feeling pretty low. (Nanny, seriously, couldn’t you have passed away in the spring? Birds chirping? No? You liked the idea of the drama that comes with a gloomy winter’s night? Fair enough.) My friends, I discovered something new about myself that night. Something I didn’t know. Was it my own personal inner strength? Was it the bittersweet retrieval of my grandmother’s voice in my memory, telling me to be strong? Alas, no. What I discovered was that I make fat jokes about my husband when I’m in an uncomfortable situation.
It started when we arrived at the family homestead in Winston-Salem to get dressed for the service. As Matt brought his suit inside, I announced to the entire room of family members, “I guess Matt had better go see if that thing still fits! But I don’t know what we’ll do if it doesn’t! Haha!”
My family jokes around a lot, so this wasn’t immediately spotted as a completely inappropriate comment. We all laughed, and Matt glanced at me quizzically and went to put on the suit. When we got in the car to head to the funeral home, he said, “what was with the suit comment?” I said, “what suit comment?” He repeated it. I said, “Did I say that? Oh man. I’m sorry. I don’t know where that came from.”
We began greeting friends and family, and I did it again.
Obscure Third Cousin: So this is your new husband!
Me (cheerfully): Yep!
OTC (Smiles and holds my hand, saying nothing):
Me: …We were worried he wouldn’t fit into his suit!
When Obscure Third Cousin moved along, Matt gave me an incredulous “WTF?” look, because the only thing more fun than spending an evening at your wife’s grandmother’s funeral is to be called fat at the same time. I threw my hands up and said, “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what’s happening.” I was genuinely astonished at my compulsive need to comment on Matt’s dietary failings at my grandmother’s memorial. I finally started explaining it to people in an attempt to stop doing it, succeeding only in making it much worse.
Some Woman Who Can’t Believe How Grown-up I Am: It’s really nice to see you again!
Me: Nice to see you too. That’s my husband over there. I keep making jokes about his weight. I don’t know why.
Some Woman: …
Me: …So thanks for coming.
I am not a spiritual person, but part of me took comfort in imagining Nanny’s laughter at this uncontrollable humiliation of my poor husband. She’d have said to Matt, “Don’t pay any attention. You have the prettiest legs,” which she’d said to him more than once before. I know she would have loved it. She would have appreciated the humor on a gloomy winter’s night.