Cody T Luff
She hung on to pretty until the end. Long hair pulling down her back. Braids sometimes, curls breaking ranks, pushing through. Thin fingers, wrists, even past fifty her hands spoke music. I remember her under the good quilt, throat naked of flesh, cancer cutting curves to angles. I held her hand. Her thumb against my knuckles. She looked at me a long time before she said, “We didn’t do this much, did we.” I remember saying no, we didn’t. I remember getting up, making coffee. I remember wishing her to sleep.
Funeral is not for the dead. My daughters taught me that. They wanted their mother laid to rest in the best way. I told them what Hanna wanted and they nodded and touched my hands. Hanna didn’t want to be planted, grow a stone with her name, didn’t want grand kids chuffed up in black walking by a “here I was and now I’m not” headstone. She wanted the fire. We both did. That’s what we started with and that’s how we wanted to end.
They got her a coffin, all three girls agreed. Brass, mahogany. Big enough to crush our bed. She’d be lost in there, inside that padding. In the dark.
When she was young she could sing in German. Her mother knew enough to pass it down. I’d stand outside the bathroom and listen to her. She couldn’t sing in front of anybody. Just in the bathroom, water running in the tub. She’d sing and I would hold my breath to hear every word, dizzy enough by the time the spigot stopped and I imagined her legs slipping into that deep heat. I never told her and she pretended not to know. She’d come out, towel around her hair, bathrobe hand-me-down striped in the way everything was striped back then. Have a good bath? She’d nod, take the towel off and her hair would come down like chocolate thread.
The girls wanted a preacher man. They knew my feelings on that. No man can earn his bread by telling another man what to do. But they found God anyway, one through her husband and the others through their sister. Their father might be a lost cause but their mother needed a guarantee. I tried to tell them if Hanna didn’t make it to heaven, who would? Preacher cost three hundred. The girls wanted to pay but they don’t understand, she was my Hanna.
She wasn’t easy. Me neither. I won’t say like drew like because the old folks know that isn’t true. You find your opposite, at least in some way. Sometimes you’re the key sometimes the hole. There were things she wanted that I didn’t have. Things I gave that she didn’t take. We fought. Wouldn’t have lasted if we didn’t. I’m not saying there weren’t mistakes. You get scars as you go but it’s the big scars that show how tough you are.
They didn’t want to sell anything. Rented a storage unit. Fed it everything that was Hanna’s. The old rocking chair, the broken sewing machine, the tether ball set that spent one day up before I backed into it with the old Jeep. Her books too. Took everyone of them. They took Hanna’s Bible too. I wonder which one got to it? For the pictures, the letters. All those things that Hanna slipped inside were talismans. Memories. I thought about it some. Took a walk, down the way Hanna would go when she was mad at me and needed trees. I walked and I tried to find if there was anything in there that I might want back. If there was a way I could ask for it back. The girls loved their mother and I am sure they love their father too but the providence of memories is feminine. Something I had no handles to hold to. When I got back, Hanna’s trees still thick on my skin, I sat in my chair and looked at the space she left in the world.