It was a temperature-rising, mid-May morning in the middle of Oklahoma. No matter how long you live in this Southern scorch of a state, you will never fully get used to the heat. I am sitting in the back row of seats of a limousine, with my hands neatly placed and folded in my lap like a napkin on a Thanksgiving dinner table.  My grandmother, Linda, is sitting next to me; she is staring out the window. A tear strolls down her face. Today is the day of her children’s father’s funeral. My grandfather. The man she fell madly in love with early on in life, but lost him in the course of their marriage through Jack Daniels and deceit. My black hair and eyeliner seem to match up perfectly with everyone’s somber illusion of destitute. Although it was a day of grief, all I felt was confusion.

My aunt, Dayna, my mother, Debi, and my uncle, Dustin were tightly squeezed like a nearly empty tube of toothpaste in the middle row, while my sister, Danielle and my other uncle, Darron sat comfortably in the front row.  While most families on a day like today would drink their sorrow into oblivion, we were different. My family was filled with men and women who spent the majority of their lives using bottles of liquid courage as a coping mechanism. So now, all we had to help was caffeine. Lots and lots of caffeine. Also, a few Xanax.

We were sharply twenty minutes late to the funeral because we decided to make a coffee run on our way.  Our lack of time management couldn’t even be fixed on a day like this. We all walked into the double doors of the church, now swimming in a sea of unfamiliar faces. Soon after entering, we see her. My step-grandmother, Helen, who had been married to my grandfather for the last seven years of his life. She wore a hip-hugging black dress. Her thigh high leather boots clicked against the floor like the wicked witch of the Midwest.  I could see into the sanctuary. Everyone was already sitting in the pews; we walked down the aisle to the front row. A small urn and a giant framed picture of my grandpa lined the front of the church.

No matter what I did, I could not cry at my grandfather’s funeral.  The entire church was balling, and there I was, dry-eyed. Just when I thought the worst was over, the back doors opened, and four men in military uniforms made their way down the aisle. One was carrying an American flag. My confusion grew bigger the more they stampeded down the aisle. My grandpa was not a soldier. He played basketball in the war, to keep the soldiers entertained. His stories from ‘Nam were filled with three pointers and slam-dunks. However, now he was being honored as a United States Veteran with the sacred flag folding?

Two of the soldiers looked straight ahead with their feet apart while the other two began folding the flag. They folded from the top left side to the bottom right side, and then from the top right side to the bottom left side, and repeat. When they finished folding it, they stopped. Without realizing along the way, they had folded it crooked, so instead of just leaving it as it is, they decided to start completely over, so they unfolded the flag, and tried again. The second attempt was also unsuccessful.

“Are they serious?” I muttered to myself.

I burst out into laughter. I couldn’t stop. It was the first real emotion I had felt this whole service. How ironic. They folded the damn flag wrong not once, but twice. They are up there with the most serious looks on their faces and they can’t even fold a flag into a triangular shape. It wasn’t funny, which is what made it so funny.

The melancholy music matched up with the melancholy irony of it all. Darron and Danielle joined in. Our little laughs were shushed with sharp looks from Helen. I could not stop. I had to laugh. It was like crying to me. I laughed until they folded the flag right. The soldier holding the newly folded flag, made his way to the front row. He stopped right in front of Danielle who just happened to be sitting right next to me.

“I present this flag to Danielle Mahoney on behalf of our lost soldier, Fred Dunbar.”

Needless to say, I laughed in a United States soldier’s face that day.

The biggest irony of it all was that everyone in the service thought that my uncontrollable laughter was uncontrollable sobbing.  Well, everyone besides the first two rows and the poor soldier.

“It’s really hitting you hard, isn’t it?” one woman said to me. A woman I had never met in my life. I nodded and made my way out of the church.

Kieran Mahoney’s “Unfolded” won third prize in 2015 in the Third Annual School of Visual Arts Writing Program Contest. Kieran is a junior majoring in Film. She has this to say about her essay: “This personal memoir is about the day of my grandfather’s funeral. I write about my family a lot. My writing style is mix of comedy and drama. I like taking situations that are dramatic and turning them into dark comedy.”