Creative Non Fiction ~ Until the next death, Big Blue

Standing outside on the sidewalk on Wallace Street. Just walked out of the big blue funeral home. Directly in front of me is the church where I attended preschool. Hated that place. Who hates preschool? I did. Mean old lady teacher, still gives me flash backs of her yelling at us.

For the life of me I cannot remember the name of the funeral home that I just walked out of. Big Blue on Wallace Street is all I can ever remember calling it.

I have walked in and out of this place well over a 100 times. That is a lot of time spent in the house of death. It’s the family funeral home. My Grandfather was one of thirteen kids. They created quite a lot of offspring, in turn lots of deaths throughout the years. Top that off with the fact that I was an altar boy for St. Michaels Church right down the road from big blue. A couple times a month I would be standing next to Father John holding the smelly smoking incense as he recited the rosary for the mourners. More often than not it was someone who was somehow related to me.

Today I was at big blue paying my respects to Mrs. Waterston. I knew Mrs. Waterston my whole life and never new her first name. It was always “Hi Mrs. Waterston” followed by a hug and kiss on the cheek. A kind lady, she will be missed.

Mrs. Waterston is Jimmy's mother, my best friend from elementary school. This was the first time I have seen Jimmy in over twenty years, at his mother funeral.

Jimmy and I did not have much to say to each other besides the general niceties about our lives. “Kids?” and “Yes, two boys and a girl.” “You?”, "One girl. She is four, five this January.” Next I would have asked how his mother was doing but that topic of conversation was no more. He asked about my parents. I said goodbye to Jimmy then proceeded to kneel at the casket and say a prayer for his mother and to thank her for all the cinnamon toast that she made us.

It's nice seeing your first best friend, even if you have nothing to talk about. Talking, that should not have been a problem for us. We never did have much to talk about even as kids. Jimmy was smart and bad at sports. Me, I was not interested in school and getting better at sports every day. No big childhood break up; one day I went to the ballfield and he went to the library and that was that.

There would be one more time that Jimmy would come into my life before the death of his mother. Right after college we were both dating sisters at the same time without either one of us knowing it. My sister was here in Pittsburgh and his sister was studying at Penn State. The sisters did not turn out well for either of us, especially me.

So here I stand on Wallace Street, outside on the sidewalk in front of the big blue funeral home across the street from my preschool after having a short and slightly awkward conversation with my childhood friend at his mother's funeral viewing.

The street is dirty, littered with garbage day. My car is parked between two pickup trucks that are filled with junk they must have collected on trash day. You know those trucks that drive around picking up broken lawn mowers and old TV’s that no longer work? Those types of trucks.

I sit in my car and think about the fact that the only time I come back to this town is to go to the big blue funeral home. Nobody ever gets married here, they only seem to die. How odd is that?

Drove past the elementary school. Still the same but with a new playground. Drove past the ballfield that I spent the majority of my childhood at. It’s a mess. The basketball backboard is torn down. Two big metal polls are left standing where backboards used to be hung. The ballfield is over grown and the batting cage has been removed. My childhood ballpark is now a ghost town and is no field of dreams.

Drove my old paper route to see what has become of the place. Houses condemned, abandoned or just not kept up. This is why people only die here, I think to myself. There is no life left.

Drove past Jimmy's house on 10th street. Big yellow house with a For Sale sign in the front lawn. All I could think to myself was 'Good luck unloading that Jimmy.'

I had one of those moments where I could see the eight year old in me playing in that yard, climbing that big tree that still stands in the backyard.

I loved the town that I grew up in. It was old world. Everyone was Italian, we were all Catholic, and even the non-Catholic seemed catholic to me. We listened to Bruce Springsteen, drank iced tea out of paper cartons. I delivered newspapers to old ladies who would give me cookies and to old men who would let me sip the wine they made in barrels in their garages.

Today I am 41, Mrs. Waterston died at 77. I never even knew her fist name, never even thought about it until I started writing this.

Until the next death, Big Blue.