Josephine pulled the seams on her polyester pants straight. She thought it wasn’t right to wear dark clothes that said mourning on a warm day that said Texas summer. Fanning her face and damp underarms, she glanced at her daughter while the undertaker spoke. What Josephine really wanted was to go home and shower.
Cirrhosis took Josephine’s husband to an early grave, but not soon enough, she thought. She loved her husband, “Great guy,” she always said. She meant it despite his gambling debts.
Her daughter’s face colored thirty seconds after Josephine asked, “How much does the funeral usually run?”
Mother, apple pie, wrapped in ribbons, red and white and blue.
Mother pie? Did you say you put your mother in the pie? In pieces? Only a madman would do that. Don’t upset your mother. Now try again.
Some things are patriotic. Apple pie, mother, blue and red and white, for example. And Blue Stockings. Because mothers are revolutionary. And so is the white, blue, and red. A proclamation of revolution was the original intent.
What the hell are you saying here? They’re colors. And food. And who wears stockings anymore. You make it too complicated. Light a sparkler. Relax.
A small black woman stands on stage, the sinews of her arms taut against the lectern. Do you hear her?
The call: “Ain’t I a woman?”
The response: “You are a woman.”
God revealed, though even now not everyone has heard, that women are entitled to respect, to equal rights, to the dignity of their person, to freedom. 150 years ago God spoke through this tiny woman who endured hard lessons about society, about the people close to her, most importantly about herself. Do you know the saying, “The truth will set you free?” Be a sojourner. Find the truth.
We are prohibited from shouting, “Fire,” in a crowded theater where a (citizen, terrorist, madman, patriot, bad guy) will shoot, among others, a legislator who voted against gun control. The legislator’s good friend, asked who permitted the gun in the theater, will burst into hot tears of grief.
Still he says, eyes dry, gun rights are in the Constitution. Other rights aren’t. Women fighting for choice. Sanctuary. Union organizing. Driving a car. Registering to vote. The legislator’s friend explains that there is room for disagreement. These issues evolve. But on guns, the wording is clear.
Popping wheelies on a walker equipped with bright yellow tennis balls to keep it from slip-sliding away, he makes light of his infirmities in a dangerous, delightful way. Nothing interferes with watching Wimbledon on ESPN on the Fourth of July.
An old man, young at ninety, never one to let pain triumph over life. Not early on when it might have done. Not in the war. Not when the press of reporting the news, nor the ups and downs of politics sent him low and high for fifty years. Not even when his dear wife slid away like a dream.