DIANA I remember when that picture was taken, the one that took the place of both Dad and me at his funeral. It was a sunny day, and we were by the pool. I was wearing a hand- me- down bathing suit that I had inherited from a cousin, a brown calico number with large circular cutouts that left one vertical strip of material to cover my belly button and one to cover my spine. I had put it on that morning, all by myself, in the bathroom I shared with Liz. All those holes made the suit difficult to negotiate. Bare ass on the cool tile, I stuck my feet through the wrong holes and yanked the suit up my thighs. I had to get up and sit down three times before I got it right. I thought it was the coolest thing until my sisters told me it was hideous. This was after Dad, towel slung over his shoulder, had scooped me up for the camera that Mom held beneath the wide brim of her straw hat. I squeezed his neck, smushing my cheek to his. He laughed and said I was getting big. Then he threw me up in the air and into the pool.
DAN Dad never cri ed. I cried a lot when I was little. I was a momma's boy, always hiding behind Mom's legs because I was scared of a bunch of things: cats, horses, geese— you name it. This one time, Dad and I were walking down the driveway, and I was crying and acting spoiled. Finally he said to me: "Stop crying, or I'll give you something to really cry about." He never told me that men shouldn't cry, but it was implied.
Like in the movie The Great Santini, there's a moment where Santini's wife has died. He and his son are in the hospital, and he says to his son, "Okay, you have fifteen minutes to go cry. And that is it." The son went into the hospital room and cried for fifteen minutes and that was it. The mourning was over. That stuck out in my mind. I thought, "That's what I should do. That's what men do."
When the pallbearers walked down the aisle, each holding a corner of Dad's coffin, I saw a tear roll down one man's face. For the first time, I thought it was okay for men to cry.
DIANA I don't remember much else about the four years I spent with Dad. I now know he was one of seven, born in Quincy, Massachusetts, three girls and four boys, raised by a widower. He was the quarterback for North Quincy High, making the local paper a couple of times for his handling of the pigskin. He worked, got fair marks in school, and teased his sisters mercilessly. My grandfather, known to us as Grampy, was a drinking man born to a long line of drinkers, and after school, our father and his brothers were often greeted in the kitchen by their surly and slouching dad, his bottle half empty on the table in front of him. The unlucky son who was ordered to the basement for a bout with his old man would glumly descend the wooden stairs, strapping on some gloves. Uncle Russ, an artist and interior decorator who died of liver failure in 2003, got it the worst.
It was Russ who held me the day Dad's coffin was lowered into the blazing green earth of the cemetery grounds. I hadn't been at the wake or the funeral, but Mom brought all of us up to Massachusetts for the burial. There were people crying all around, looking at the coffin, the hole, the grass, their shoes, the sky. Russ looked at the grass. My hands gripped the back of his neck and patted his puffy, prickly cheeks. I looked at his eyes, red and wet. They looked as if they hurt. I looked at his big ear and at the hairs that curled from the waxy hole.