Every time I tried to say the word, I got sick to my stomach.
I didn’t want to ask him about it but I had to. People were talking. It’d been over a year since my mom had passed away. It should’ve been done by then. In place. The unveiling done and over with. It was time for the family to move on.
So I asked. And out came the paperwork. The estimates and issues. Typical of someone in my family to obsess over the details, the dollars and cents, instead of dealing with their feelings.
We spent some time looking at it all, together. Comparing estimates and pretending that they mattered. And then my dad dropped the bomb, “What would it say?”
“What would it say?” I repeated. Not really sure how to answer.
“Your grandmother’s headstone says Beloved Wife, Mother, Grandmother and Great-Grandmother. What would mom’s say?”
“Well then, I guess it would say Beloved Wife and Mother.”
His response, “But that’s not enough,” felt like a slap in the face. I fought back my tears and continued on with the conversation, focusing on the task at hand.
“What do you mean, not enough? It’s the truth.”
“Your grandmother and your grandfather, their headstones say more. Your mom, just wife and mother. It’s not enough. Maybe we should put aunt and great-aunt, too.”
I swallowed hard.
“Dad, you can have the headstone say anything you like. If you think mom would’ve wanted her headstone to say aunt and great-aunt then you should do that.” I got up to refill my water glass, trying to keep the conversation from getting too awkward. There was no point to saying what was on my mind.
That I’d failed.
My dad thought I’d failed. My mom was lying in the ground without a headstone because my dad couldn’t bear to purchase one that said just, Beloved Wife and Mother. Because that would have meant my mom’s life was incomplete. And that it was my fault.
I returned to the table a few minutes later with a full water glass to see my dad putting all of the papers away, back into their folder. “So, did you make a decision?”
“No. I have to think about it some more.”
“OK.” I didn’t have the energy to push him any further.
That was over 2 months ago. No decision has been made and I have no plans to bring it up, ever again.