the waning

      It’s another November without her. I remember the low thrum of bagpipe. I turned in the wooden pew peering toward the back of the church as the piper’s mournful tune emerged. Her kilt swung solemnly as she walked up the carpeted aisle. Tears flowed, sniffles all around me, I wiped my nose too. The flower arrangement my sister thoughtfully designed around our great aunt’s favorite colors lay before the lectern. She would have approved.

       Today would have been her one hundred second birthday, but instead she is being laid to rest. She, the matriarch of our family on my dad’s side. I’d bought her a solar bobble head Queen Elizabeth on a trip to London in 2017. She’d loved it of course.

       As I look at family photos, especially Thanksgiving pictures, her face beams— usually next to Jane, or between my sister and I. First, the oldest sibling had died. Then a sister, followed by another (my grandmother), then her brother. I asked her once if she felt old. “No,” she’d said. Though she was 100. 

       One of the last time’s I saw her she told me the story behind a farmyard scene that hung above her floral couch. She’d pointed to the girl opening the screen door.       

       “That’s me,” she’d laughed, “going in to wash the dishes. And that’s Diz.”

       The other figure a girl reading lazily on a swing. I unnecessarily defended my grandmother’s work ethic. I remembered an often-quoted directive I’d been given countless times, “Dinner isn’t over until the dishes are through.” How many times had I said those very words to my children?

       Another time, she told me the story of the composer Dvorak coming to Spillville, Iowa. And how townsfolk saw him walking in the woods, writing notes of music on his paper cuffs as much needed inspiration flowed from the wind, trees, and brooks. The Catholic community had welcomed and enshrined him accordingly, along with the Bily Brothers, poppyseed kolaches, and all things Bohemian. Not Czechoslovakia when her family immigrated, but Bohemia! It was important I know.

       An old tape recording captured the ghost of her mother’s voice as she sang a simple song in their native tongue. Her daughters’ soft laughter in the background. The family farm where she’d been raised, milked cows, made lye soap, and yes, washed dishes rests under Lake Arcadia, Oklahoma.

       The last time I saw her, her frail form stood in the door of her apartment. She’d smiled in spite of the pain and said softly, “I’ll see you in the waning.” She passed a week later.

       Yes, I‘ll see you in the waning.

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