Here’s an excerpt, from when the kids and I visited him, in his last earthly existence, in the funeral home.
They touched their father then, over the sheet. His legs. His chest. Did anyone touch his hands? They were under the shroud, a lump on his chest. I touched his hard, bony small knee through the sheet.
“Remember the wolf pack?” asked Eli, putting one hand out to hover over Jimmy’s chest.
We nodded and looked across the body at each other, remembering that time in a dark-paneled and stuffy TGI Fridays in Niagara Falls, on the rain-soaked first night of our summer vacation. Tired from a long car ride, we longed for hospitality, not our cramped hotel room or the awful food in front of us. To break a rotten, collective mood and restore family togetherness Eli had declared, “Wolf pack of five,” and led us through the stacked-hand gesture.
Ten years later, in Levine Chapel, Lydia put an outstretched hand on top of Eli’s. I put my hand on Lydia’s, and then Grace topped my hand with hers. With our hands making a sandwich and hovering over their father’s body, Eli commanded, “Wolf pack, last time.” Our hands released, fluttered up like birds, and then dropped back to our sides.
There was a lightness in the air; we were relieved. Jimmy, estranged husband and troubled father, on the run and missing for days, had been found. We walked out of the room, and he was gone.