Saturday, November 06, 2010

Clocks and corpses

We all would be well advised to set our clocks back an hour before retiring tonight as Daylight Saving Time ends and Central Standard Time returns. I still don't understand why we can't settle on one or the other and leave it alone --- but greater minds than mine have pondered this and all we can do is live with it.

The clock here, as you well know, is in the courthouse tower. As you also most likely know, it was brought home by Smith H. Mallory from the Colombian World Exposition of 1893 in Chicago and installed in our most siginficant and then new public building. Although gutted of its original mechanical works and electrified, it still functions --- sort of. But since the death some years ago of Quincy Robb, who loved and understood it, things have not been quite the same.

I always think fondly of my late maternal grandfather each time the time changes and I run around trying to remember how various digital mechanisms work. He declined to acknowledge Daylight Saving Time.

This caused some difficulties, of course, because he was rarely on time for anything during the summer saving months, but he persevered.

So far as I recall that caught up with him disastrously only once, when an old friend died and he decided to overcome his intense dislike for the late Sam Beardsley (dead then at least 20 years) and attend last rites at Beardsley Funeral Home. At that time, Edith Beardsley still lived upstairs and Keith Fielding, then running the establishment for her, was merely a pup. Naturally, Granddad was late.

At that time, one entered the funeral home from the southeast and came into a long "chapel" carved from rooms along the south side of the large old house it had once been. I recall lots of pastel green, a rather peculiar floral mural and rows of bentwood chairs, although I could be mistaken about the nature of the chairs.

Running late and preoccupied, he slipped into a chair at the rear of the chapel; and hard of hearing (a hearing aid was never considered) and with relatively little distance vision (he would have been in his mid-80s at the time and wore glasses, but never in public), settled down for the duration.

At that time, it was the practice of the assembled mourners to arise once the preacher was done and traipse forward to view the deceased one last time before exiting the building through a door off the southwest corner of the chapel. As he peered into the casket, it occurred to Grandpa that he did not recognize the corpse.

As it turned out, he should have been at a funeral beginning at about the time the last rites he had just attended ended but at Miley Funeral home, a block northeast. He decided to leave good enough alone --- and went home.

So something like this could happen to you if you neglect attend to your clocks tonight.

Beardsley Funeral Home also was the site of my maternal grandmother's last stand against the establishment.

To say that Grandma was determined would be putting it mildly. In this instance, feeling money could be far better spent on good works not involving her mortal remains, she left behind four-part orders: The least expensive coffin within the bounds of decency available, burial in her favorite print housedress, no viewing and no flowers. Such edicts at that time gave undertakers palpitations, and I believe Keith tried to talk my dad into increasing the stakes of perceived suitablity. But no one messed with my grandmother, in life or in death. Except Keith.

From somewhere, he dredged up large bouquets of plastic flowers placed in tall wicker flower stands that were flanking the casket as we walked in (I was 12 at the time). And some pour soul had not gotten the "no flowers" message and so one lonely, cheap and distinctly bedragled spray of something or other had been delivered, now positioned front and center. I remember very little about the funeral, but do remember just how odd that pathetic spray looked. We always referred to the funeral as Keith's revenge.

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