We parked the car in the lot and climbed the steps of the funeral home to the wake. Scanning the gathered, we spotted our neighbors Nancy and John, and made our way toward them, shimmying through the crowded room. Nancy’s mother had died, and although we never knew her well, we were happy to pay our respects. We had known the deceased’s daughter and her husband John since we moved into our home fifteen years prior. They lived in the lovely yellow house on the corner – their home was the gem of the neighborhood – brimming with an ambiance that mirrored the friendliness of its two habitants.
Through the years, John often knocked on our door to give us half a bushel of cucumbers or something delicious from his garden, and Nancy was one who had a kind word and a smile for everyone. They had raised their children and now spent time keeping their corner plot picture-perfect, with manicured landscaping and eye-catching rock gardens. We often saw the two of them sitting on their shady portico, passing evenings with Nancy’s elderly mother, enjoying the warm summer breeze.
At the wake, the two of them were busy with family and friends, so we moved toward the photo albums and picture collages to browse, eventually making our way to Nancy and John to offer our condolences. We greeted and hugged one another and I put my hands on her shoulders, offering sympathy for the passing of her mother. She looked at me and hesitated, allowing a slight smile to grace her lips. Taking my hands doubled over in hers, she looked at me and said, “Deb, I have something to tell you.”
I leaned in intimately, clasping my hand over hers in a reciprocal gesture of comfort, and murmured, “It’s okay.. of course…”
“Deb,” she whispered, “my name is not Nancy. It’s Pat.”
I drew back sharply.
“PAT?!?!” I blurted.
“Yes, Pat,” she said.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
(a question I will never live down to my dying day).
“I’m quite sure that my name is Pat,” she offered gently.
“Well, where in the hell did I get Nancy?” I exclaimed.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, I’ve been calling you Nancy for fifteen years!” I lamented in sharp anguish.
“”It’s okay,” she offered, “It’s okay.”
She patted my arm – smiled, and gave me a hug. I hugged her back, slightly wilted.
My husband slipped his arm into the crook of mine and steered me gingerly toward the exit. Together we left the parlor in silence and headed out to the car. I shook my head in disbelief, and he chuckled and looked at me.
“Are you sure?” he mimicked, with a twinkle and a grin.
“Oh, be quiet!” I barked.
Nope, I’ll never live that one down.