“How much do you like him?” Uncle Ray asks, flicking his head in the direction of the kitchen, where Joshua is.
Josh had only met this part of my family a few days before, after we had hopped an overnight bus to Pittsburgh just in time for me to hold my unconscious grandmother’s hand one more time before she died. (We all called her Sito, Arabic for grandmother.) A family wedding last summer had occasioned Josh becoming lightly acquainted with most of my mom’s side of the family, but now Sito’s sudden death from pneumonia was going to be a crash course in my dad’s family for him.
As we all sat, exhausted, after a full day of viewing at the funeral home, people’s dress clothes untucked and askew, my uncle realized that we were short a pallbearer to carry Sito in her powder blue casket up the hill to the gravesite at the cemetery in the morning. My brother, Colin, and our first cousins, Taylor and Jared, were lined up, of course, but their sister, Caity, and I would be in heels and it was expected to snow. Besides, my grandmother, bless her, was not a slight woman. Of her two sons, my dad had had a stroke not even a month before, and Uncle Ray’s knees and back could barely support him, let alone my zaftig Sito and her handsome casket. Her godson, Johnny, was enlisted to help, as was a longtime friend of the family. But this made only 5 pallbearers, not the necessary 6.
I knew what Uncle Ray was thinking about 20 minutes before he asked it. As he wrote out the names of the 5 pallbearers on a little card for the funeral home, I saw his eyes dart to Joshua. My family needed an able-bodied young man, and conveniently I’d gone ahead and brought one home from New York with me. But first, a test:
“How much do you like him?”
“Um, a lot?” I answer, wondering if that is enough.
Apparently, it is.