Phillip asked, "Mister Caven, have you ever been to a funeral?"
This was the question that started my day. In my mind, I did a quick inventory: Aunt Nell, Darren, my father. I faltered for a moment. Was that it? In all my years and all my associations, I could only come up with three?
"Yes. I have." In my mind, I scrambled for details. Each one was so very clear in my mind, perhaps because I had only attended three. I thought about the car rides and the music and the silences. I thought about the clothes and the shoes and the light. I thought about the way things never felt quite the same afterward. "Have you ever been to a funeral, Phillip?"
"Yeah. I went to my cousin's funeral." A pause. Then, "It was fun."
I tried not to register anything.
He went on, "Well, it was kind of sad. A lot of people were sad."
"But it was also kind of fun." He continued, "There were these two motorcycle cops who rode in front of all the cars, and they made the other cars stop. All of our cars could go through red lights." He looked at me with a kind of halfway grin. "That was kind of cool."
I had to agree with him. Probably out of the entire experience of going to a funeral, he had picked the coolest part. Running red lights on the day that you're really not in a hurry to be anywhere else is a pretty interesting bit of irony. Irony can be cool, can't it?
I decided that I didn't really want to press Phillip about how close he was to his cousin or how old he or she was. It was plenty for him to register at ten years old that he had been to a funeral, and that it was kind of sad and also kind of cool. I tried not to imagine how many more funerals he might attend before he was my age. I tried not to imagine that there was any kind of competition. I was glad that Phillip could remember those moments.
And then he was off to play four square. A much more appropriate preoccupation for a ten year old boy.