From the story Angelfish
At our grandmother’s funeral, Leslie’s eulogy is a beam of sunshine through rain. There is also an edge to it because there was an edge to Beth.
She loved her neighbors and especially their children. Still, there was what she termed “creative tension” between her and the stubbornly conservative—she would say “hidebound”—political leaders in rural, northeastern Oregon. And that is what Leslie explains, forthrightly, to a gathering that includes more than a few of the principals from past disputes. Henry Stonewalter once complained that the county had hired “Madame Ho Chi Minh” as its director of libraries. Now he sits three rows back, in respectful silence as Leslie talks about Beth bringing Charles Darwin, Dorothy Day, William O. Douglas, Betty Friedan, Bishop Romero, Martin Luther King, Jr., blue whales, Mayan astronomers, and Phoenician traders to life in her curriculums.
There are dozens of floral bouquets on either side of Leslie as she speaks. Gordon Blancer’s mother quickly raised $3,000 for an exquisite marble headstone.
In the reception line at the Masonic Temple people bring their children to Leslie, who knows all their names. She bends to give them hugs and hear their condolences. She reaches into her large handbag to pull out a green plastic triceratops for a boy who came dressed in a plaid shirt and a bow tie. She hands a Marie Antoinette figurine to a shy girl whose legs are in braces.
I have never seen so much food. Here at the potluck wake there are hams the size of car batteries, epic casseroles, and enough pies to feed the high school graduating class and then some. My favorite comes in a five quart dish. It is comprised of at least two dozen eggs, chopped flank steak, a brick of cheddar, button mushrooms, sliced green olives, tomato wedges, chorizo, a quarter-inch blanket of parmesan, topped with small log cabin built with asparagus spears. A robust Mexican woman wearing a large, proud grin and wielding an enormous spatula explains:
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