Sins of the Father-Full Story
The chilly air wrapped the mourning funeral procession in its grip. The grey clouds drizzled rain onto large black umbrellas as the family of Alvin Felton emerged from the black limousines. Entering the church, Katherine Felton was flanked by her two grandsons Amari and Austin. Her face was stoic, her walk heavy. For a great portion of her life, she loved this man and to see him lying in this casket was almost too much for her to bear.
But Katherine was a dignified woman. Her veiled faced hid her tears, the soloists’ melodic voice masking the sound of her breaking heart. She’d seen Alvin lying in the hospital bed before he was pronounced dead by doctors. The heart attack took him quickly, not giving his family time to comprehend what happened. Katherine took great care to ensure her husband’s funeral was regal, the celebration he deserved. Even though she’d seen her husband lying dead more than a few times over the past couple of days, today was exceptionally hard.
Followed by Katherine was Monica and her husband Jaison. Although she was not Alvin’s oldest child, Monica needed to be close to her mama. Not that she was any good to her mama. Jaison had to support her as she walked. The closer she got to the casket, the more audible her cries became. Of all of his children, Monica took his death the hardest. She’d wailed the day he passed and hasn’t been able to be consoled since. Jaison, along with attendants from the funeral home held Monica as she viewed him and then to her seat. Jaison was relieved that Monica finally sat down. He wrapped his arm around his wife wishing there was something he could do but she was a true Daddy’s girl. Alvin’s unexpected death broke her; she had to take medication to sleep most nights.
India rolled her eyes behind her shades at her sister’s theatrics. She was embarrassed that Monica had to be drug to her seat. When she made it to the casket, her daddy looked as if he was sleeping. Viewing her father like this was a bag of mixed emotions for India. Sure she was sad but their relationship wasn’t the best. Whenever she felt guilty for her nonchalance, her girlfriend Naomi reminded her that her father had her whole life to build a relationship and he chose to only do so when it suited him. Naomi squeezed her girlfriend’s hand letting her know that she was there for her, just as she’d always been when it came to her daddy.
Alvin’s youngest daughter Alivia barely viewed him. She’d avoided seeing him since the day she got the phone call. Looking down at the man that did nothing for her except sign her birth certificate pissed her off. She didn’t even want to come today but India convinced her that she needed this closure. Alivia couldn’t wait for this circus to be over so she could get away from all these crying, fake people. Her sisters included. Alivia stood out in the processional to view her daddy. Always the defiant one, Alivia wore all black instead of the white her sister’s decided on. But Alivia was in mourning; she was not celebrating the life of Alvin Felton. She barely knew him.
After the rest of the immediate family filled in the entire middle section of the church, the funeral home signaled for Katherine and Alvin’s daughter’s to come close the casket. Alivia stood back, not caring to be included in this part of the service. As expected, Monica was inconsolable; she dropped to the ground in a mess of tears and anguish. As Katherine closed the casket on her husband, Monica’s sobs were deafening. India tried to help with her sister but the closing of the casket did something to her. Suddenly, she was overcome with emotion for the man she wished loved her the way she expected a man to love his daughter, his first born. Tears she didn’t know she would cry slipped from her eyes and she ended up on the floor next to Monica. Naomi jumped up to get her girlfriend while Jaison went to his wife. To the congregation, they saw two sister’s grieving. Only a few people knew they were crying for two very different reasons.
As Monica and India were helped back to their seats, the service began. Katherine listened intently as her pastor praised her husband. She smiled as people shared kind, thoughtful and funny remarks about him. Meanwhile, Monica was zoned out, not hearing a word. India was staring at each speaker, letting their words roll around in her head. She felt…cheated for not knowing this man the way they did. Alivia rolled her eyes more times than she could count. These people have no shame lying in church, she thought. Alvin Felton was a lot of things but a loving husband and dedicated father wasn’t one of them.
Finally, the service ended and Alvin’s body was wheeled out of the church and his family followed suit. Again, Monica was a mess. Alivia already made up in her mind that she wasn’t going to the burial. As the family piled into the limousines, Alivia ducked off to the side of the building and pulled out her cell phone.
“Hey, come get me. From the church. Nah, I ain’t going to the burial. I’ve had enough of the bullshit today,” she spoke not even caring that she cursed on church grounds. If people could lie on her dead sperm donor in church, she could cuss, she reasoned.
Alivia watched as the funeral procession left the church heading to the cemetery. She considered going but that thought lasted only a few seconds. When she saw Twan pull up, she almost ran to his car. She kicked off her shoes as soon as she was in the front seat. She knew she should wait but she couldn’t. She pulled a joint out of her purse and lit it up. As the marijuana traveled through her body, she felt relief. That tight, panic feeling in her chest was disappearing. Though only temporary, Alivia was grateful for this calm.
Meanwhile, Katherine and her family attended the graveside portion of the funeral and were heading back to the church for the repast. Katherine was exhausted but she knew she had to smile and mingle with the people that came to celebrate her husband. The more she thought about it, the more she needed to be around people. These past few nights of sleeping alone were hard for her. For more than 40 years, she shared a bed with Alvin; she didn’t know how to sleep without him.
Like her mother, Monica mingled with her family and friends even though she didn’t feel much like it. The hurt in her heart would never heal, she mused. Her father was her first love. He showed her how a man should treat a woman. It was no surprise to anyone that she married a man that reminded her of her father. Jaison Hollis was a family man. Nothing was more important to him than his job, his wife and his sons. He was handy, funny and a quiet leader. Everything Alvin Felton was.
India sat at the head table as if she didn’t belong there. And honestly, not many people really knew her, wondering why she was there. As Monica hugged and spoke with her great aunts, uncles and cousins, India felt as if she was surrounded by strangers. Naomi noticed India bouncing her foot under the table. Over the years, Naomi learned that was India’s sign of irritation.
“You ready to get out of here?” Naomi whispered to India. The last thing she wanted was for India to curse someone out or to cause a scene at her father’s funeral. Monica already tried India when they were writing the obituary. Monica refused to add Naomi’s name.
“You’re not married, India. Even if you were, people don’t want to see that, not at my daddy’s funeral!” Monica had exclaimed.
It was Katherine that had to intervene and convince Monica that listing Naomi’s name with India’s wasn’t that big of a deal. Even if she didn’t approve of India being with a woman, she didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. There were more important things to deal with.
India looked at Naomi with gratefulness in her eyes. She was only there because it was expected. But no one was even paying her any attention. Without speaking to any one, the couple joined hands and excited the church.
The next Saturday, Monica pulled up to the parking lot of 1800, the Mexican restaurant in downtown Americus. She really didn’t care for Mexican food but this is where India asked her to meet for lunch. Monica had to drag herself out of bed to meet her sister; she was tired. After her father’s funeral, she was so lethargic. Everyone was gone. No one was checking on her. Everyone has moved on but she was stuck in the moment her father passed away. She wasn’t prepared for this feeling and she didn’t know what to do. Eating lunch with her sister would be a good break from the hurt she still felt.
Monica saw India sitting at a booth near the bar. She was relieved that Naomi wasn’t there because she wouldn’t be able to stomach them. For the life of her, Monica couldn’t figure out why India was a lesbian, not when they had a father like Alvin in their lives.
“Hey, India,” Monica spoke while sitting down across from her sister in the booth.
“What’s up?” India asked taking a huge sip of her margarita. She needed this liquid courage to make it through this lunch. After their daddy died, India decided they needed to spend more time together. This task would take a lot of liquor and prayer because Monica and Alivia acted like they were mortal enemies.
India started to ask Monica how she was doing but that question was moot. Monica looked terrible. She looked as if she hadn’t slept in days. Her hair that was usually covered in weave was in a curly puff and a baseball hat. She looked like she lost weight.
“Nothing much. Just trying to make it.”
Though only two years older than Monica, India didn’t feel like the big sister. They didn’t grow up together because while they had the same daddy, they didn’t have the same mama. India’s mama Sylvia caught Alvin first. According to Sylvia, Alvin promised to marry her, especially after getting pregnant with India. But no matter how much Sylvia begged and pleaded with him, Alvin had no intentions on marrying her. Instead, he married Katherine and soon came Monica.
“How’s your mama?” India asked. She had nothing against Ms. Katherine; she liked her. If she felt any ill will towards anyone, it was her daddy.
“She’s ok, I guess. She’s trying to stay busy.”
India nodded her head and looked at the time on her cell phone. She desperately wanted to tell her sister she needed to get some rest or eat or something but she didn’t know how to say that without offending her.
“Hey, India, sorry I’m late. I was just-“ Alivia announced as she plopped down in the booth next to India. She didn’t see Monica and stopped talking as soon as she saw her. “Monica.”
“Really India? Why didn’t you tell me she was coming?” Monica scoffed. She was irritated that India tricked her into coming.
“Because,” India replied. She hoped it wouldn’t be that big of a deal but she should have known better. “We’re sisters. Why can’t we sit down and have lunch together?”
Prior to their daddy’s funeral, the sisters rarely interacted. India served as the mediator but she could never get Monica and Alivia in the same room. She hoped that after their daddy died, they could be closer.
“Whatever,” Alivia mumbled.
The sisters sat in silence until the server came to take their order. Monica didn’t order anything and India couldn’t hold her tongue anymore. “When’s the last time you ate, Monica?”