I was not meant to be a father. The world didn’t need another asshole hothead.
I realized that if I followed that line of thought, I was saying Finn would have been like me, another kid with a bad-tempered dad who fucked him up. And then he’d be one.
The world had broken the chain, chosen for us.
One of the black suits came down the aisle. “Guests are arriving,” he said. “Shall we begin seating them?”
Mrs. Rotheford nodded.
“If you’d like to follow me, I can take you to a family room,” he said, gesturing toward a side door.
“I am NOT leaving Finn.” Corabelle clutched the side of the coffin like she was never going to let go.
Time for me to help. I came up behind her and put my arms around her waist. “Let’s go wait.”
Her head fell forward, her back starting to shake as she sobbed. “Don’t let them close it until I’m ready. Promise you won’t let them close it.”
“I won’t,” I said. “You’ll get to be the last one to say good-bye.”
She turned around to me, her forehead resting on my collarbone. “Okay. I’ll go.”
Relief washed over me. I had envisioned her refusing to leave, standing by the casket the whole service. I led her out the door behind the funeral home employee.
Behind us, mournful music started playing over speakers. The organ dirge faded as we walked down the hall, and I thought we had escaped it, but when we arrived in the small room lined with sofas, I realized the same song was piped in.
Corabelle and I sat on a flowered loveseat.
“Should I locate the other family members?” the man asked.
“No,” I said. “No way.”
The man’s face didn’t register any change of expression. “I’ll come for you when it’s time.” He nodded solemnly and backed out of the room, closing the door behind him.
Despite what I’d said about my family, I did wish for June, a happy distraction, as we sat there and stared at the floor.
Corabelle made whimpering noises, trying to hold in her sobs. I felt my heart was disintegrating, piece by piece.
After an eternity of silence, one organ song blending into the next, the black suit returned and said, “It is time.”
Corabelle seemed numb by then, standing as she was told, letting me hold her shoulders and direct her through the door, down the hall, and up the aisle. When we got to the front, she didn’t turn toward the chairs, walking as though she were going to go stand by the casket again.
I led her gently to the front row. I wished we had long benches like in churches rather than separate chairs, as I couldn’t keep her as close as I wanted.
My parents were seated on the other side of the aisle, my father with his arm on the back of Mom’s chair, casual, like they were at a concert. My anger bubbled up again at his smug expression. He clearly didn’t give a shit that we were burying my son, his grandson.
I tried to think back to his father, my grandfather, but I couldn’t pull up any memories. He’d died of cirrhosis of the liver when I was four. My grandfather on my mother’s side was more typical, kind and funny and always bringing me little gifts like the geode we’d split in half.
Maybe my father had a bad father, and maybe he thought he would do better, then didn’t. Mom didn’t talk much about their courtship, but there had to be something to him that made her marry him. And I guess he was different with her, and with June, more funny, lighthearted. Something about me was always what triggered him.
I tried to imagine what I’d do if Finn had done something bad, broken a window or stolen a pack of gum from the grocer. As much as I didn’t think I’d blow, clearly it was in me, that slow burn that just ignited.
The world knew what it was doing.
The minister droned on. Corabelle watched the coffin, probably not registering any more than I was. I tried to focus in. This was all Finn would get, his baptism, his funeral. I should pay attention.
“God’s will is a mystery to all of us.” The minister looked over the smattering of people in the chairs. “But we know Finn rests safely in the hands of the Almighty, and will know no pain or suffering in this world.”
He’d just said all the things I was thinking. Finn had been spared. Been saved from me. I glanced at Corabelle again, so pale and fragile, barely sitting up in her chair. Her dress was damp, I could see. I hadn’t even helped with that. I’d been useless. Pointless. And quite possibly, a threat to the well-being of her children.
“God speaks to us on the matter of death and sin in Romans 6, verse 23.” The minister laid his finger on the open book in his hand. “The wages of sin is death.”
His words crashed over me like the walls had collapsed. He went on, but I couldn’t hear any more of the verse. The wages of sin is death.
Finn’s death was the wages of sin.
Not Corabelle’s sin. She was his mother. She had done nothing wrong. She was innocent of everything.
But I was not. I had a family history. A black mark. And I’d tempted her, over and over again, until we’d hit disaster. It was right that I was the one to sign the papers taking him off life support. I was the one who would have ruined him, like my father clearly had ruined me.
The minister bowed his head to pray but I kept my head up and turned to my old man. He didn’t look down either and rolled his eyes when he caught my gaze. The burn began again. I wanted to hurt him. I wanted him to be in pain. This was no way to live around anyone I could harm, and certainly not for children. I would never have any. I would not do that.