I watched as they slowly lowered the coffin into the grave, tears streaming down my face. I was glad that I wore the veil; no one else could see how much I hurt. Daddy, why did you leave me? He'd always been there for me, strong and resilient. Always ready with a hug, an encouraging word, and often the perfect solution to whatever problem was plaguing me.
I didn't wear any eye makeup either, and that was good, because the mascara would have run down my face, a dead giveaway of how sorry I was for myself. With no brothers, it fell to me, as the oldest daughter, to execute the family tradition ... to be the first crush a carnation over the casket. God! I don't think I can do this! At least it wasn't raining. That was a constant hazard in the spring.
Pearl stood at the head of the grave, waiting for me to do my duty. It felt out of place, inappropriate for her to be standing there where Mom would be, were she alive. We never were great friends, Pearl and I. I suppose I had been somewhat resentful. It seemed to me that she had filled in behind Mom so easily, displacing her memory in my dad's heart. She had never been unkind to me, though, or to my sisters; and maybe it wasn't a coincidence that Dad rejoined the living when she came along.
I walked to the grave, and crushed my carnation, letting the petals fall on the casket, and I turned to join Pearl at the head of the grave. My sisters followed me, filing by the grave, dropping their petals into that abyss that would soon swallow my father's mortal remains. They and their husbands stopped to give and collect embraces, before leaving to resume their own lives.
Dad had few friends, but those that lived were here to wish him farewell. Most of the people attending were relatives, my friends, and my sisters' friends. Each one stopped to say a few words of sympathy and encouragement, and to offer help if needed. Good people. Would my children get as much support if it were me, instead of my Dad in that grave? I couldn't say.
The last of the mourners had gone, and the interment crew was waiting for Pearl and me to leave, so that they could finish their work. I turned to her, and saw the pain of loss in her face. It's the second time for her. I should be more sympathetic. We reached for each other simultaneously, hugging and crying out our mutual misery.
When we had both regained some equilibrium, she stood back slightly and said, "Carol, would you please come over to the house? I have something that your Dad asked me to give to you."
"What is it?" I asked, surprised.
"All I can tell you is that it's a sealed envelope. He made me promise, on the direst of oaths, that I wouldn't open it. I have no idea what's inside."
Curious, I nodded my agreement and declared, "I'll have to clear it with Karl, but I'm sure it'll be okay."
"One more thing," Pearl said. "He asked that you open it alone. No witnesses."
"That might be more difficult. If I send Karl and the kids to get ice cream, could I get a ride with you?"
Pearl nodded her assent, so I walked to the car where my husband and children waited. Karl and I had had another big fight on the way to the cemetery, and he'd stayed in the car, sulking, through the entire ceremony. The kids had had enough of the funeral at the chapel, and didn't really feel like standing around an open grave for half an hour.
"Karl, I need to make sure that Pearl is going to be all right. How about taking Kelly and Abigail to the DQ for awhile? You can pick me up at Dad's place afterwards."
My contentious offspring looked pleased with this turn of events, but Karl just got grumpier. He didn't fight it, however. He just started the car and drove away. I turned away and went to join Pearl in her car.
When we arrived at her place... Dad's place! ... she indicated that I should follow her into Dad's study. She extracted a large, sealed brown envelope from the desk that dominated the room, and handed it to me.
"If you want, you can open it here," she said. "I'll leave, so you can have some privacy. Take as long as you need." With that, Pearl turned and left the room, closing the door behind her.
I sat in Dad's office chair, and opened the envelope. Inside I found another envelope, also sealed, and a letter. I started to read.
I know that this might seem odd to you, but I assure you that it is necessary.
I'm leaving Undine to you. Of my children, only you ever showed an interest in her. It was never in the cards for Pearl to own her. I've already told her, so you needn't worry about her being unpleasantly surprised.
In the other envelope, you'll find the title and all the keys. You'll observe that title is already in your name. I made the transfer as a gift, so that there wouldn't be any questions about it.
There is a secret drawer under Undine's nav station. It's not hard to open, but it's not obvious either. Once aboard, look in there, and you'll find my log book. You must find it and read it alone, at least the first time. After that you can decide for yourself who should be allowed to see it, and when.
Please destroy this note, or you'll run the risk of someone else finding the log before you can. I love you with all my heart.
I re-folded the note, and slipped it back into the large envelope, then I opened the other envelope and examined the title. Sure enough, it listed my name as the owner, as of just a little more than a year ago. I wonder how the others are going to take this... We hadn't yet read the will, and Dad didn't own much outside the boat.
That wasn't my problem, though. Undine was mine, and everyone would just have to deal with it. The more I thought about it, the more pleased I was with that outcome. I loved Dad, and this was a way I could keep his memory alive for me and for my children.
Maybe they'll come to love her as I do... I put the title and its envelope back into the large envelope, and stowed it in my handbag. By the time Karl and the children arrived to collect me, I had a plan.
"Have you lost your mind?" Karl demanded. "I can't just arbitrarily decide to take a vacation. The timing just isn't good. We have three new major design contracts, and we're behind on the work we already had. If I try to cop out now, the other partners will hand me my head!"
"That is just so much crap!" I spat back. "Except for the funeral, you haven't taken a day off in five years! You're a stranger to your children, you never sit down to a meal with us, and we hardly ever go to bed at the same time. It's been weeks since you even woke me up for sex! Is your work more important to you than your family?"
"That's not fair," he protested. "I work hard, just so you and the kids can have a decent lifestyle. Whether I enjoyed my work has never counted, just whether it improved our financial and social position."
"You just don't get it, do you?" I yelled. "It's been years since we had a money problem, and I don't care about social position. Your family needs you, not just your income! I need you too! Not just a money tree."
"You want more than I have left to give," he protested, "all these years of work have left me zero energy to deal with your emotional crises." He stopped and picked up his coat.
"If you walk out that door tonight," I threatened, "don't bother coming back. This won't be your home anymore."
He threw the coat down and held out both hands, palms up. "What do you want from me? I love you, but I just can't seem to satisfy you!" he shouted angrily.
I told him. He balked. He protested. He complained. But in the end, he gave in.
"I can't believe this!" Kelly exclaimed. "You want to ruin my social life, just to spend my entire summer with a bunch of people who could really care less if I lived or died. No thanks!"
"Two things," I replied. "First, you are wrong about your family. We may be dysfunctional, but your sister, your father and I do love you. Furthermore, your social life notwithstanding, this family is exploding, and you have just as much responsibility to help try and fix it as anyone else here.
"Second, if you think you have an option in this, you're sadly mistaken. I don't need your permission to do this, but you do need mine to do anything else. Do we understand each other?"
"Yeah," he sneered, "I understand. You're pulling the same I'm the boss crap that Dad does when he can't come up with a better reason to make us do something. I understand perfectly, and it'll work just about as well."
"Threats of disobedience won't work with me, young man," I responded angrily. "I can still kick your ass and lock you up in your room. If you doubt it, just try me!"
For a moment, it seemed he just might, but his instinct for self-preservation kicked in. He stomped off to his room and slammed the door behind him. That went well.
"But Mom! I want to go to cheer camp this year!" My daughter was still trying her best to be blonde, despite the overwhelming physical evidence of her brunettehood.
"There will be at least four different cheer camp sessions over the summer, " I replied. "I checked. I'm sure we can get you into one intime for you to finish camp before the auditions start."
"But all my friends are taking the first session! If I do a later one, I won't know anybody in the camp, and I'll miss out on other things we were going to do together! Who will I hang out with, when we're not practicing?"
.... There is more of this story ...