My friend Katie sat across from me at our picnic table. She was dropping off some homemade lentil soup and a loaf of bread a couple weeks after the death of Grace, my husbandâ€™s stepmother. Grace was memorableâ€”opinionated, funny, and fashionable into her late â€˜80â€™s, an aficionado of spike heels and sequined purses, a gourmet cookâ€”and my friends had heard all about her in the fifteen years sheâ€™d been married to my father-in-law Stan.
â€œWe wereÂ having dinner with my brother-in-law Hilary,â€ Katie began suddenly, bursting with a story to tell.
â€œHilary was telling us that heâ€™d been happy to see his sister recently. She lives in North Carolina, and sheâ€™d come to Ohio for a funeral for someone on her husbandâ€™s side of the family.â€
Katie and her husband listened to Hilaryâ€™s story. No connections yet. Then he said something that caught their attention.
â€œHe said it would have been nice to know the relative who died. She was a character, apparently. At her calling hours, visitors had to wait in a long line to see the family, and all around the rooms where they waited were displays of this womanâ€™s shoesâ€”dozens of fancy, high-heeled shoes.â€
Katie and her husband shouted in unison, â€œYouâ€™re talking about Grace!â€
Eventually all was explained. Hilaryâ€™s youngest sister is married to one of Graceâ€™s grandchildren (by her first marriage), who came to Ohio for her husbandâ€™s grandmotherâ€™s funeral. For Graceâ€™s funeral.
But how, Hilary asked Katie, did you know who I was talking about? Easy, said Katie and her husband. Itâ€™s about the shoes. We know allÂ about Graceâ€™s shoes.