The Time Traveler, Ch. 2: The Funeral of Jacob Spelling
The Time Traveler series by Umamor Hunter tells the tale of Marianne Spelling, a time traveling Chicago teen finding herself in a magical realm of ancient Scotland. Chapter One can be found here.

The five of us went south a few hours after I finished my Skype call with Susan. I had finally managed to get some sleep, sprawled out on the couch no less, but even a few hours gave me nightmares that would have me wake up suddenly within minutes. The trouble was, I couldn’t even remember what they were half the time. It was a cross somewhere between something dealing with dragons and fairies, and all I remembered in detail was my grandfather was there overlooking a cliff. He was trying to tell me something important, but I couldn’t remember what it was. It was weird and I didn’t like weird.

But that was at least an hour ago.

Now we were in the car headed into Fort William. The road wasn’t busy. In fact it felt like we were driving through a small town if anything. We were all absolutely silent. My father cleared his throat now and then in some attempts to break the tension, but all in all it was a silent car ride. Then, all of a sudden we turned around a hill and my father perked up from behind the steering wheel.
“We used to go boating down this river here,†my father said as his voice cut through the heavy silence. “Mum hated it every time because it was spring just after the snows melted. We’d come home and half the time Fergus would have mud up to his knees. Always a dirty one he was,†he explained to the four of us. “But Dad didn’t care. He thought it be a great adventure every time.†He sounded jovial as he described this. I supposed happy memories were what kept him going.

“Daddy, did you wear helmets? Like when we went to Wisconsin?†Miranda chimed in timidly. That seemed to get her out of her depression.

My mother tried to laugh through sniffles. “Daddy wear a helmet? Not here. They were rough riding it.â€

“But that’s dangerous!†my sister protested. I felt like snorting in amusement at her comment, but even that would take more effort than I could physically handle at that point.

“Yeah, it is.†My dad agreed, followed by a lower but definitely smug: “But we were Scotsmen.â€

“Jared!†My mother said surprised at his explanation to his daughter.

“But you still need to wear a helmet, Miranda. Your mum’s right,†he said quickly. He brightened a bit as the road winded around another part of the hill. We were following the river on one side and against the hill the other.

“Is that a castle?†My mother asked.

“Yes! That’s not just any castle. That’s Old Inverlochy. Built in the 1200s and one of the strongest attractions for tourists in Fort William. There’s a hotel not too far away from here that’s more of a modern day castle, but that one is my personal favorite,†my dad said proudly. “Very, very old. I’m not sure why it still stands. Dad used to have this idea that we were actually descended from the royal family who originally inhabited the land though. Filled Fergus, Ken, and me up with these bedtime stories of fairies and dragons and the like.â€

“’Old Inverlochy?’†Owen repeated. “You mean we’re descendants of Scottish nobility?â€

“Well, not actually that castle. Many people here think there was another fort or some sort of settlement long before Ivernlochy was even built. I’ve heard stories it may have been under Pictish rule during the Kingdom of Alba, but your grandfather believed whatever was there prior to the castle was really a part of an earlier kingdom called Dál Riata.â€

“So I can be a princess!†My sister squealed with excitement.

“So would probably the rest of the area here,†I chimed with my knowledge of genetics and genepools. “I mean, with the way marriages would go on an island eventually everyone would interbreed. So in a way we’re all couâ€"“

“Marianne do you have to constantly do that?†my father cut in sharp with an annoyed voice.

“Do what! It’s just science!†I was caught off guard at the sudden change of mood in the car.

“Grandpa believed in this,†Owen explained to me. “Don’t ruin it.â€

“But he also believed in science...†I muttered under my breath and folded my arms.

“I suppose since you’ve never been to Scotland you wouldn’t know,†my dad sighed. “In his study there are numerous papers and historical books that Dad collected over the years. We â€" your mum and I â€" were trying to find them the last couple days but he must have hid them somewhere. That was the one thing he cared about most.â€

“Oh,†was all I could say, finally understanding why what I said triggered my father.

As we passed Ivenlochy, all I could think about was what my dad said about Grandpa Jake and his quest for remapping family history. I turned to Owen and saw his face hard and jaw set. This historian in him was itching for an opportunity to reexamine the study. He looked at me and I already knew what he was thinking.

We were going to find those papers where my parents could not.

A few minutes later we crossed a street into town and parked on a street that I thought was too small for any car to be on. There was a stone fence encasing an extremely old church also built of stone, and there were headstones in the lawn even before we got to the church door.

“This is Saint Andrew’s Church,†my mother explained. “It’s very old and has a nice small town feel to it.â€

“Mommy, there are graves everywhere! Are we in a cemetery? I’m scared!†Miranda whined.

“Nothing is going to hurt you. From the looks of things, I don’t think they bury anyone in the churchyard anymore,†Owen answered for our mother her as he took Miranda’s hand.

“The Reverend made an exception for your grandfather because he invested so much time into the community and parish,†came an unexpected response from my father.

“Wait, really? When did that happen?†I exclaimed.

“Fergus and Ken came up here when he was moved into hospice. Everything was finalized the week before he passed on. Normally, yes, there aren’t any more additions to the churchyard, but I suppose your uncles made a good case. I would have too, but I wasn’t there,†my dad said.

“So he’s not going to be buried next to Grandma Catherine?†I asked.

“She’s here too,†my mother chimed in. “They were both very involved members of the Saint Andrew’s Community.â€

“I like how we’re finding this out, now,†Owen muttered.

“It doesn’t matter. This place gives me the creeps,†I whispered to him when my parents walked in front of us. “It’s weird…â€

“I like the architecture, though. I’d like to find out how old the building is, exactly,†he whispered back.

“Oh, you would, too,†came my voice in a sardonic tone.

As Owen, Miranda, and I walked through the gate to the churchyard, we recognized Uncle Fergus and Aunt Emily. I couldn’t remember what my aunt had looked like except through pictures, honestly, and Owen and I hadn’t seen Uncle Fergus since I was ten. His family, all six children in a range of ages from three to seventeen, were bustling nearby. My younger cousins were running around the gravestones and the eldest child, my cousin Moira, was trying to hound them.

“Jared!†Fergus exclaimed as soon as he caught a glimpse of my father coming up the pathway. They embraced in their black suits and from where I was standing I noticed my uncle shudder a little in some attempt to hold back sobs. He was quite masculine and had a large build to him, but even among family it’s hard to control emotion in these circumstances.

I stood there awkwardly as my parents made small talk to my uncle and my aunt. Suddenly, my mother pushed Owen and me in front of her as if to physically tell us to say hello. Miranda had wandered off to where one of my younger cousins was pulling leaves off the bush alongside one of the walls.

“Wow, they’re getting big!†Aunt Emily whispered.

“They do grow fast,†Uncle Fergus agreed with her and let out a laugh with my parents.

“Well, say hello,†my mother prompted me. “They’re your family after all!â€

I froze, but Owen was quicker than me at recovering. “Um… It’s nice to see you again, Uncle Fergus, and to meet you Aunt Emily. I’m just sorry it’s under these circumstances.â€

“I’m going to step inside and say hello to Uncle Ken and Aunt Christine,†I said quickly to my mother, and before anyone could say anything I was already inside the church doors.

The room was packed.

Local town populace had showed up and sat in the back while a few front rows on each side of the church had been marked off for the Spelling Clan. Most of my cousins were already sitting down, and I noticed that even some other extended family attended. It was a sea of black clothing that filled the church, and all the way forward in view of everyone was my grandfather’s coffin decorated with flowers. Off to the side was a picture stand of him holding up his favorite beer with a smile on his face from some gathering that must have happened recently.

I never had realized how well known my grandfather must have been. I always thought of him as just my grandfather, and had trouble picturing him with his own social life. Everything here felt alien to me at this point, and I wondered for a few moments how well did I really know him as I tried to make my way up to the coffin.

“Mary!†hissed a voice from someone sitting in the aisle seat directly to my right when I was a few rows forward. It was Alyssa and she was trying to feed her nine month old daughter discreetly with a bottle while she sat next to her husband, John. Alyssa was my eldest cousin, being almost thirty, and the one I looked up to the most. I personally knew her more than anyone else in my extended family if that made sense.

“Hi,†I whispered, moving the baby carriage so I could sit next to her. “How are you guys?â€

“She kept me up all night, this one,†my cousin lamented in a low voice so she wouldn’t disturb her child.

“I didn’t sleep either,†I admitted.

“None of us have, I’ll tell you the truth. At least those of us that were close with Grandpa Jake.†Her accent made her words seem harsh but I could tell she was trying to be sentimental, as sentimental as a cranky first time mom could be.

“Were you around when he died?†I asked her earnestly.

“Yeah, as much as I could be. The trouble with having large families is that they don’t always agree on what to do, though,†Alyssa muttered darkly.

“What?†I was confused.

“Not everyone wanted to put him into hospice. He suffered a lot, dear,†my wiser cousin explained. “But he kept saying this is what he wanted even after he was judged too weak for his own decisions. I’d feed Emma and talk with him about it.â€

“I thought it was decided already what was going to happen…â€

Alyssa grimaced. “Yes. I don’t know how things work in the States, but we had documentation that he was going to go the way he was going to go, but that didn’t mean everyone agreed to it. There were a couple arguments my dad had with Fergus that I thought there’d be blood. John had to break them up one time last week even!†Her husband nodded in agreement.

“Wow…†I was in disbelief.

“It’s a lot to take in and you don’t need to worry about it at your age,†Alyssa said plaintively, “But I’m telling you because it happened and I think you need to know since you’re old enough to understand and Jared’s eldest. Your dad’s technically head of the family now, but Fergus has been taking the lead in most things since you all live in America. My dad was put in charge of Grandpa Jake’s medical responsibility, however.â€

“Wow, that’s confusing,†I admitted.

“You’re telling me,†she muttered. “But… hopefully things settle down now. Funerals can bring out the worst or the best in people. I’ve seen it happen at John’s grandmother’s funeral two years ago. That was nasty. His mother and aunt don’t even speak this very day!†Her husband nodded again. I noticed he didn’t talk much.
Alyssa and I chatted for a little more until everyone came inside and took their seats for the service. The Reverend came down the aisle and talked about what a wonderful man my grandfather was to the Saint Andrew’s community and the community of Fort William. I started to zone out until one by one, my two uncles and lastly, my father, all gave a small eulogy about their father.

Kenneth Spelling talked about how he’d be covered in mud every chance he’d get to go outdoors with his father, and alluded to what my father had mentioned in the car on the way here. He spoke of fond memories involving him as a kid mostly, and the usual life lessons learned from father to son up until the time where he gave Grandpa Jake his first grandchild, Alyssa.

Fergus talked about how strong his father had been and how much of a leader he was in the family. Grandpa Jake and Grandma Catherine both capitalized on self-reliance and a pursuit to better one’s self for their family. He portrayed his father as the ultimate family man and a man that was loveable up until the end. Then after a pause, he got a little darker and started describing how things were at the very end.

“He was very sick, and he fought and fought. Bone cancer is nothing to think lightly of. His was very aggressive, and I think the hardest thing is to watch a man that you know to be a pillar of life and strength slowly wither away. I wasn’t with him when he died, but it was probably something he welcomed by the end. Even morphine couldn’t help, but he was surrounded by the unity of his family and surrounded by almost three generations. My brother Jared has three children, I have six children, and my brother Ken has another seven â€" and even two grandchildren, Christ!†He exclaimed this last part as he realized it followed by a, “I’m getting old. The youngest of us three boys already has grandchildren and my eldest brother’s oldest children are fourteen!†The congregation laughed at this last respite.

Then it was my dad’s turn.

He walked up to the parapet and adjusted the microphone a little, scanning the crowd. His peppered hair seemed greyer to me than it had a few weeks before. It was a few moments before he spoke, and even then his voice cracked from the emotion.

“Hello, everyone. My name is Jared Spelling. Some of you know me since I grew up here, and some of you don’t. It’s been a long time since I moved to America. I wish you all could have known my father the way I did. That sounds like a cliché in some regards, but really, I do.

“I wish you could have seen him as a man who enjoyed studying history and science, and in his spare time he’d make boats as a hobby. There wasn’t much spare time in my family growing up. He was always working on something while Mum tended us boys and took care of the cabin. I remember when he was diagnosed with bone cancer he called me on the phone â€" something he avoided constantly as we all know,†he laughed at this and again the congregation chuckled. “And he goes, â€~Jared, I have cancer’ before I can even say hello. And I go â€~Well, Dad that’s horrible. When did you find this out?’ â€~Oh, last month. I had a couple pints each day and I’m feeling mighty better.’†Again the members attending the service all laughed.

He continued. “And then I say, â€~Last month! That’s a long time! Why didn’t you call sooner?’ and he answers â€~I didn’t want to bother you.’ So then I ask, â€~Well, have you told Fergus and Ken?’ and he answers â€~Nah, I’ll let them figure that out. I don’t want to bother them. Maybe in a few more months.’†He was like that, I’m telling you!†my father laughed. “He was really like that. So then I ask him, â€~Well, why are you telling me? I’m in America!’ and he goes â€~Because I wanted something to talk about!’†The crowd burst out laughing.

“But he had a good attitude about it, and never let it get him down. Never. Not once. That man was as proud as a Scotsman could be, he was!†Murmurs from those older in attendance agreed with the last sentiment. “And he loved his family. Even if he didn’t see them much.†My dad trailed off at this point, lost in some memory and thinking what to say. “When he wasn’t teaching he was working to try to put food on the table. For those of you who remember, my mum was a seamstress and my dad was a teacher. But, he would take odd jobs in the summer to make ends meet when school wasn’t in session.

“After my twin sister, Rona, died when we were still young enough to be called children, he tried to stay tough and still carry on as normal. He didn’t come home because we needed food and he was trying to put something away so we wouldn’t have to do what he was doing. It wasn’t until I was a father myself that I understood why he did that, and how hard it was. In fact, when he came home the first night, I remember he cried. He cried his eyes out over his only daughter who had drowned the month before. I never saw him cry after that in my entire life. He still carried on.â€

My dad only mentioned Rona offhandedly sometimes. I knew who she was and that she had drowned when she and my dad were eleven, but I didn’t know the story behind her death or what impact it had.

“That was the Jacob Eideard Spelling that I wish you could have known. The honorable man. The story teller who has entertained everyone under the roof of a pub about how this place was a site of a great city in Dál Riata and how our ancestors were the true rulers of this land. He supported a free Scotland, and he supported the pursuit of knowledge. He supported his family, and he knew he was going to die so he lived life to the fullest. My only regret was I wasn’t there,†my dad choked on the last words. “He was a good man, and he was my father.â€

He walked away after that and took a seat next to Fergus and Ken. After a few more moments, the Reverend proceeded with the ceremony and signaled for the brothers and some other relatives to take their places on each side of the coffin. Three men fully dressed in kilts exited the back, carrying Highland bagpipes with them. At a moment suspended in time, it felt like an eternity to see the pallbearers lift my grandfather’s coffin up.

Then the music began.

The pipes were loud and all in unison. I could hear them all the way inside the church. They played a song I had never heard of before. It wasn’t “Amazing Grace†like I thought it would be. I turned to Alyssa and noticed tears on her face.

“What are they playing?†I asked her, finally noticing how emotional I was at that point.

“It’s called “Flowers of the Forest.†Been around for hundreds of years. It’s a traditional, and something normally only played at big events like funerals and memorial events. They’re sending him off right, they are!†And then she broke down crying cradling a sleeping Emma in her arms.

It was at that moment the coffin passed us, and I felt a catch in my throat. I couldn’t â€" didn’t want to believe â€" my grandfather was in there. Even at fourteen I realized the gravity much more than I should have at that age. I didn’t want to say goodbye, but in those slow moments I remained silent as my father marched past me with Fergus behind him, and Ken bringing up the rear on the left side of the coffin. The other side was being carried by three other men I had never met, but figured they had some impact on my grandfather’s life.

After the pallbearers were clear of the church, the immediate families of the deceased were allowed to leave, and then finally the congregation, who were dismissed from the grounds. The burial was to be private. As I trudged in black pumps to the exit of the church, the hum of the bagpipes grew louder and louder. I spied Owen still holding Miranda’s hand walking with my mother and I rushed up to them. When we were outside and gathered around the grave, he turned to me and I saw his eyes were red and swollen. He had a look that told me he was completely drained.

“It’s over,†I tried to say reassuringly though my voice cracked midway.

He shook his head as if to say no. “It’s only the beginning.â€
Comment thread »
No comments!