I got the news early Thursday morning from Lafourche Parish that Chris had joined the Club. His mother Jane McCulla Riviere had passed away. He told me that her death was peaceful and that she was surrounded by her family. She was 88 and her health had been declining.
Comes to us all. And we should all hope for a peaceful end.
The Club of which I am referring to is the "Without Parents" club. I officially joined in 2009 when my mother passed away during a 30 minute stretch when nobody was looking. Nobody but the lady from Hospice, that is. We were told that they will do that sometimes. Bob, who was pulling the night shift, had just gone home. I was crossing the Faulkner County line around 5:30 AM when I got the call.
They will do that sometimes.
I may be wrong, but as far as I know, our friend Don is the only one of our group that still has both parents. I saw them a couple of summers ago when I traveled to Birmingham to attend my first and, so far, only baby shower. Big Don and Virginia are doing pretty good. Still live in the home and are independent. Big Don delighted in referring to me as "that old retiree."
It did seem sort of odd to both of us at that.
My own father, of course, passed away when I was a senior at Hendrix. At this stage of the game it is almost as if he had never existed. After all, he's been under a white stone at the Veteran's cemetery for 38 years now by my counting. That's a long time to be away.
I don't know if this has happened with Chris yet. But I was asked by more than one person if i felt like an orphan when Mother passed. That struck me as odd. If somebody asks him, I'm sure he will find it to be equally so. After all, orphans are children, and typically are wards of either the state or a member of the extended family. I was in my fifties when Mother died. I was a full-grown man (to use the country expression) practicing law, fending for myself in a house I own and otherwise getting on as best as I could. Not much different than now.
I didn't much even get the notion that I had been orphaned in the psychic sense but I kinda do. There is this an awareness of the magnitude of the situation on a certain primal level. It doesn't last for very long-at least it didn't with me. But when your parents no long exist, it is a sign that time, like a rolling stream, bears all who breathe away.
That's original with me by the way.
Perhaps I would have felt this more keenly if I hadn't been without one of my parents for such a long time. My friend Becky's dad up and died two weeks after they buried her mom. I see from her post on Facebook that their loss still resonates with her on occasion. That has got to be hard to shake free from your mind. Anyway, while I imagine, as I say, that Chris might find such a question to be odd, still, he is not made of wood. And when your remaining parent passes, it is a marker. And it is heavy.
When I sat up with Mother during her deathbed coma, Chris would call from time to time to check on me and keep me company. Mostly he would tell me jokes about the hapless Cajun known as Boudreaux and his wife, girlfriend, foil (whatever the story requires) Miss Marie. Chris has been telling me these stupid Boudreaux jokes since our law school days. He is a bottomless repository of these stories, few of which may be told in mixed company. A couple of them he has told are unspeakable.
But here is a clean Boudreaux joke.
Boudreaux, him, was crossing the state highway to get to the mailbox to see if the welfare check from the State of Louisiana had come when-summamabitch- he get hit by a truck driven by Miss Marie, non? Miss Marie got on that cellphone and called "neuf un un." Then she grabbed a blanket out of the back of the truck and ran over to Boudreaux who was laying in the road. She put the blanket under Boudreaux's head.
"Boudreaux," Miss Marie say as she knelt down beside that boy, "Are you comfortable?"
"I make a good living, mah Boo," Boudreaux say back to Miss Marie.
Chris loves these jokes. And he knew that he could make me laugh at him in spite of myself. That's what friends do.
Death never comes at a convenient time. I am usually pretty flexible. But I just can't make it to Thibodaux for the funeral. Melissa thought it would be nice if I sent flowers to the house and so I did. Women are great at stuff like this. I made a memorial gift to a charity the family suggested. And I said a prayer of thanksgiving both for Mrs. Riviere's life and for the repose of her soul.
Hopefully I can get down there in the next month after things have settled. We will probably sit on his veranda with a couple of glasses of something amber. His sister lives next door. If she comes out in the yard he will call out to her "Come see! It's Paul!"
North of I-10 they say "come here." Cajuns say "come see." Which I catch myself saying occasionally. I can think of no more pleasant way to get someone's attention.
And while out there we will raise a toast to Jane and Donice. And I will ruefully welcome Chris to the Club.
That's what friends do.