Hey, do you remember when?Published 11:00pm Friday, August 31, 2012
“Do you remember when ….?”
Oh, how I love to hear those words. They almost always take me back to a happy place in time.
Anthony Skeen’s words Monday night after a Brundidge Lions Club meeting at Skeen Funeral Home took me back.
Sure, I remember the night that my little nephew, Tater Bug, and I screeched to a halt, just minutes before visitation was ending at the funeral home.
I told Tater Bug that Mr. Odias Green had died and was at the funeral home. I needed to run in there for just a minute.
“You wait here. Do not get out of the car,” I told Tater Bug.
I rushed up the steps and barely glanced at the large gathering on the porch. The hallway was crowed and I didn’t see anyone I knew. But it was late, probably just extended family. I stood in line with folks I didn’t know from Adam.
I didn’t recognize the family members when I got closer but I expressed my sincere sympathy to them. When I finally got where I could see inside the coffin, I didn’t recognized the corpse. Never seen the man in my life. But, I continued through the line, expressing my condolences and then made a beeline for the car.
“Did you see Mr. Odias?” Tater asked.
“No. He wasn’t there,” I said as I made a quick U-turn and squealed off to the town’s other funeral home.
“Where is he?” Tater asked.
“Down here at the other funeral home.”
“How’d he get down there?”
Now keep in mind that I was talking to a wide-eyed, 10-year-old and flying to get to the other funeral home before visitation was over.
“Tater, that was not Mr. Odias in the coffin back there. It was somebody else.”
“Somebody else got in his coffin?”
“Yes,” I said and then retreated. “No! Nobody else was in his coffin …”
“But you said somebody was in it.”
I hurriedly parked. “Stay in the car. I’ll be right back.”
“I wanna go with you. Mr. Odias might come out here,” Tater said in a pleading voice.
“Mr. Odias is dead,” I said. “He is not going anywhere!”
“He came down here!”
I grabbed Tater’s hand and pulled him along with me. I didn’t think his mama would want him to view a corpse. But, luckily, the casket was closed.
“Where is Mr. Odias,” Tater asked, peeping around from behind me.
“He’s inside the casket,” I said.
“Did they close it so he can’t get back out?”
On the way home, I explained to Tater that I had gone to the wrong funeral home. That Mr. Odias was never at the first funeral home. But that just spawned a million questions. I wished I had said that, yes, they just closed the casket so Mr. Odias couldn’t get back out. That would have put a final nail in that “coffin.”
That funeral home remembrance conjured up another.
Several years ago, I was in the vestibule of Dillard Funeral Home in Troy with several dignitaries, including Rep. Alan Boothe and Sen. Wendell Mitchell.
I began to smell smoke but everyone else seemed oblivious to it. The smell got stronger.
“Do y’all smell smoke?”
The dignitaries tightened their lips and slowly shook their heads.
About that time, I felt the heat on my leg, my thigh to be exact. “Something’s on fire,” I said whispered. “Don’t you feel it?”
The dignitaries shook their solemn heads.
The heat seemed to be coming from behind the door and burning into my thigh. Everything I had ever learned about fire safety surfaced. I reached for the doorknob expecting to find it burning hot. But, no, it was a cool as the center seed of a cucumber.
But my leg was burning? Suddenly, my pants were on fire.
Instinctively, I reached in my pocket and began throwing hot smoking keys and batteries to the floor right at the feet of the stone-faced dignitaries. I pounded my palm against my smoldering pocket. About that time, our group was summoned to the back by the undertaker.
With my foot, I pushed the hot items over next to the wall. I would get them later.
What happened was that I had dropped my keys in my pocket on top of several rechargeable batteries. That combination, rubbing and scrubbing together, had set my pants on fire.
A couple of years later, Alan Boothe and I were waiting for a flag dedication service to begin.
He began to laugh, “Do you remember the time …?
“Yes, Alan. I remember.”