Aunt Helen was awake for a while, and was sort of in and out of lucidity. She’s really struggling to speak, but occasionally manages to find the words and force them out. She asked Kay if there were any boys she liked, to which Kay replied, “No. Boys all have cooties.” I’m never really sure how serious she is when she says that, but it’s funny coming from her, and Aunt Helen thought so. She even laughed a little bit.
Going to visit gets harder each time for me. Each visit brings us one day closer to a trip to the ladies’ department at J.C. Penney’s. I’ve mentioned my promise to Aunt Helen before, that I would wear a red party dress and matching pumps to her funeral.
Aunt Helen doesn’t want a bunch of mourners at her funeral, she wants a party. She wants her life to be celebrated, rather than mourned for its loss. She once told me that she didn’t want people to wear black, but rather to put on their best red party dress. She specifically wants red, because when she was young her mother scolded her once for
wearing a red dress to church bringing my young cousin to a funeral wearing a red dress. Red was the color for whores, my grandmother told her. Aunt Helen has a defiant streak, I suppose.
That’s when I told her I would do just that. I would go out and buy myself a red party dress and matching pumps. I promised to wear them to her funeral. I was half-joking. She was not.
While I’m fairly certain that a party’s going to be impossible, I’ll do the best I can for her and wear the dress and pumps.
I guess it’s one thing to promise such things in the abstract, another thing entirely to look that promise right in the eye as her trip to California draws near, far too quickly and far too soon. Still, I fully intend to keep my promise to her. I imagine it will cause quite a ruckus, but I made that promise, and Aunt Helen, even now, hasn’t forgotten it.
It’s not that I don’t want to wear the dress, really. It’s not even the prospect of shaving my very hairy legs. It wouldn’t be the first time for either of those occurrences, but I won’t get into that just now. What’s killing me is of course that I don’t want to face the occasion of having to wear the dress.
When I was nearly incapable of staying any longer for fear of a major melt-down in front of my daughter, Aunt Helen told us we needed to leave because she had to go to the bathroom. As I left, I smiled as best I could, and told her to get better because I wasn’t ready to go buy a red dress. I wasn’t sure whether she would get what I was getting at.
She smiled. She laughed. She spoke.
“You better go get the dress. It’s time.”