The day my mother was scheduled to be buried, she went missing. She just waltzed out of the funeral home with tubes still sticking out of her body from the embalming process. She had said she wanted to be buried in her hometown, not this town, anywhere but my hometown. She said she needed a break.
According to my mother, she was never treated well when she was alive in Parkson, so she could imagine how bad it would be dead. There was no such thing as a pause button from motherhood, she said. She knew how many slumber parties she’d still have to plan. She claimed her neighbors, when they joined her, would probably still come knocking on her coffin every afternoon to ask for a cup of sugar for their coffee.
She was nervous of being buried next to those people for the rest of her dead life. She knew how many intrusions she’d have to become accustomed to again. How many interruptions.
It was an average day in Parkson when she died. The sky was a medium-rare shade of gray. There were fifteen cars parked along the side of our street as usual. All of them seemingly not moving, like statues in a living room watching TV together. All of them except for the ruby Toyota Camry that kept shifting forward like a cat creeping up to a dead bird. Mother didn’t see it moving into the right lane. She didn’t see it following her down the street without anyone behind the wheel. She didn’t hear it accelerating as it went downhill after her.
She did, however, feel it crush her tibia first. Then her femur, moving up to her wide hips that she never liked after childbirth. Her thoracic bone cracked as loud as knuckles in the middle of church. She hated that sound, especially when it came from Mrs. Roberts, the neighbor two doors down.
Her internal organs exploding like water boiling over is what killed her, initially.
I’m sure she would have said something about how nasty the color red is for a car had she survived.
Two days later she was all set for the prep station that I wasn’t allowed to enter. The funeral director said, “It’s not sanitary.”
“What’s not sanitary about a bunch of embalmed dead people?” I asked.
So my mother joined the ranks with the other dead people and that was the last time I saw her bruised and broken like a six-year-old’s favorite doll.
Suzie Whipwright, from across the street, said she saw my mother sprinting toward a Greyhound bus station in the satin dress she wanted to be buried in. Laney Coperland said she saw mother driving a hearse, doing 85 in a 40. “Good thing she’s already dead,” Laney said.
The funeral director went into partial cardiac arrest at the sight of a missing dead body. “From the looks of it, someone just ripped her off the table and took off with her,” he told me on the phone. But I knew it was her own doing. She was so damn stubborn. She would make it to her hometown even if she had to walk on broken legs and hotwire a hearse. And she almost made it, too.
By almost, I mean not even close. By not even close, I mean she got lost five minutes into the drive and decided to go to the house to look up directions online.
I can say that when I heard a knock on the front door that I wasn’t expecting anyone. But I should have been. She was always shoddy with directions. When I opened the door and there she was, glowing from the layers of sprays and chemicals sinking into her skin like chemo, I couldn’t help but laugh at the woman that used to be my mother.
She was lying on the ground as if begging me to drive her but I was not going to comply. She never let me take the car when she was alive so it served her right to not get her way. I left her on the porch and called the funeral home, told the director that she had returned to the house. Her wake was the next day.
It was a beautiful wake. The kind where everyone who has ever known the dead, whether it be asking for a cup of sugar or seeing her flee from a funeral home, faked a tear or two. And faking means caring because if they didn’t care, no one would have wasted their time.
So, she didn’t get the funeral that she wanted, but if I know my mother, she’ll get off on never letting it go.
The times I visit her, she complains about the lack of sugar she has from giving it out all the damn time. She complains about the color red for cars. That only whores drive red cars. She complains about how life after death just goes on. The slumber parties. The Book Club meetings. “There is no break for a mother,” she calls out to me every time as I walk back to her car. I don’t say anything. Don’t look back.