The Shake of Death
Can vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry survive the test of time?
Illustration by Robyn Jordan
My grandmother’s funeral was an awkward affair. I was in the sixth grade and it was on a school night. The preacher my aunt got to do the service said things about her personality that were so general it was clear he had never met her: “She was kind.” “She enjoyed reading.” “She loved her family.”
Afterwards, I got in the car with my mom and my dad, who loosened his tie and let out a sigh of relief. “O.K., it’s over. Who’s ready for a milkshake?” he said. I was caught off guard. Weren’t we supposed to be, like, mourning or something?
“You can still be in mourning and have ice cream,” my mother explained. She told me this was tradition — that when she was a little girl her father took her and a handful of her cousins out for milkshakes after the death of an elderly relative instead of subjecting them (and cleverly, himself) to the tedium of the at-home funeral formalities.
This was my indoctrination. That night we stayed out late telling stories about my dad’s …