Tuesday, August 24, 2004

21 aunt's funeral, new mouse, "family only", rocks

08-24-04 mayatime: 5 Cauac 2 Mol (portal)

I want a t-shirt that says “I survived my aunt’s funeral.” Actually it wasn’t even a funeral. It was a wake and a service.

Before we went to the wake, Will wanted to get me a new sound card & I also need a new mousie because my ancient and much-loved Logitech Mouseman Plus was cracked and the scroll wheel was refusing to scroll. I did my homework and decided on a Logitech Mx500 which is the same size and shape as my old mousie, but it’s black and optical. We also picked up a little tiny scrolling mousie (also a logitech) for the laptop for only $8. Plus the sound card (some no-name weirdo brand). I love computer shows.

We went home and my husband wanted to sleep for a little while before we went to the wake (he works 50+ hours a week on his feet). I was next to him reading and we had a pile of cats (well, two, but they FEEL like a pile sometimes) with us. The sky got darker and darker and if I hadn’t known it was only 1:30 I would have said it was around 7 or 8 at night! Then the rain started, and the thunder, and the lightning. The cats didn’t know if they wanted to press into the window and watch or run away (they took turns doing both). It was an absolutely torrential downpour, so bad that when Will got up to change into his nice clothes, he actually dug out an umbrella. (I hate them and I didn’t even know we owned one.)

I wore my all-purpose long black dress and debated over wearing my sandals. I decided that sandals probably weren’t appropriate and went with flats instead. Will wore nice pants, a collared shirt, a tie and a suit jacket. Why we bothered to look nice, I don’t know, because other people were wearing shorts and t-shirts (one person had on a red t-shirt and red shorts with sandals) and all kinds of casual clothing. My cousin’s sister (henceforth known as W) had on FLIP FLOPS. At her grandmother’s wake.

My aunt actually looked better in her casket than she did the last time I saw her. Her body seemed awfully thin, but they had plumped up her face and it looked like her. (I hate it when the dead person doesn’t look like herself.)

The saddest thing about her wake: no one cried.

Not her daughter, who was supposedly grief-stricken at hearing that her mother had died while she was on vacation. Not her supposedly loving granddaughter. No one. (I had done my crying already, but was fully prepared to engage in sympathetic/empathetic tears if necessary.)

Some nice things: They had a collage of photos of Aunt Bert outside the room and a few more inside. They had brought some of her elephant and cardinal figurines and placed them on a table with her photos. The pictures were nice, but not one of my dad or me with her. After all the years that they all came to my parent’s house for Christmas dinner and not one photo. Yes, that hurt.

Then I had to listen to W going on and on about her job in California at a big name network doing production on some reality TV show. And how sad she is for her mother because now her mother “has no family” (my father, her mother’s first cousin who grew up in the same house as her, was sitting about three feet away when she was moaning this to one of her myriad of ex-boyfriends who evidently came to the wake to flirt with her). I really, really wanted to smash her face in. She’s so condescending, so fake.

Then I learned some more facts. That Aunt Bert was indeed diagnosed with Alzheimer’s earlier this year (why bother to tell my father & I? Why would we care?) And that for the last few weeks of her life she was so bad she needed round the clock care. And yet, knowing these facts, her daughter chose to go on vacation incommunicado.

I bought a newspaper the night before her wake so I could read her obituary. I was surprised to see my dad mentioned (especially when I heard W saying her mother had no family the next day). They also mentioned Aunt Bert’s best friend, which was very nice. The funeral was listed as “private.” My cousin had already hedged on when it would be (and he’s not a very good liar) and yeah, I’m hurt that “family only” once again excludes me and my father.

(When my cousin graduated from HS his parents & Aunt Bert had a party for him. So I attended, naturally, since he’s my favorite second-cousin-once-removed [or whatever we are]. I parked just in the back driveway, before the fence. My cousin’s parents hurried right over and told me I couldn’t park there, that that area was for “family only” so I simply went home. If I was no longer family, there was no reason for me to be at the party. Then, when I was on crutches a few years ago I went to visit Aunt Bert and parked right next to her house, so I wouldn’t have to hobble slowly down her very long driveway, and since the house where her daughter lives has it own driveway, which they chose not to use. Aunt Bert’s daughter came home, saw my car in the driveway and laid on the horn until I hobbled out and then I had to back up with her HIGH BEAMS in my face, up a long narrow driveway, because she was too lazy to drive around the corner and use her own driveway. Another time that I simply went home rather than dealing with the rudeness.)

The friend of Aunt Bert’s mentioned in the obituary was not able to come. I am sure she was very upset by that–she was in the hospital herself. Her other friend did come, and her next-door-neighbor who is my mother-in-law’s good friend (it’s a small world, which is why I’m not using too many names). Mostly it was Aunt Bert’s daughter’s friends, all of whom are deaf and make some interesting noises when they sign, and W’s ex-boyfriends. My cousin’s girlfriend sat with Will and I, and later my parents and his mom also sat with us. We were going to go out to eat with my parents but my cousin mentioned there was something be catered at a restaurant which he thought we had been invited to (again, nice of them to tell us).

My butt kept going to sleep so I went outside to walk around. The priest was sitting in the corner in the lobby looking crabby. I tried smiling at him but he just glared at me (I wasn’t even wearing a pentacle or anything, there’s NO WAY he could have known I was pagan, he was just a curmudgeon). Evidently they had hired a sign-language interpreter for the service, but that person never showed up (traffic jam due to the ongoing storm) so the mass started about half an hour late. It was a terrible mass. The priest didn’t know Aunt Bert at all. He gave no eulogy. I would have thought W would have jumped all over that and written some sappy overly-sentimental thing but she did not. He read the modern version of the “valley of death” psalm (the only one I like and the only part of the Bible I would allow to be read at my own funeral) and it didn’t even say “valley of the shadow of death” it said “death’s valley” or something that just didn’t convey the sense properly, so even that part which I could have enjoyed, I did not.

It just didn’t seem like anyone was there because they cared about Aunt Bert. It was more like a social hour. Of course, I had already done my disconnection from her (see Entry 12) but I doubt anyone else there had. I’d guess most of them didn’t even know her. It was all too sad.

My grandmother refused to go, saying she wanted to keep her good memories of Aunt Bert unsullied.

We ended up going to the restaurant with the “family” (how that kills me). I would not have been surprised if we had been asked to leave, but it was okay. It was an Italian restaurant and the food was pretty good: garlic rolls, ziti, meatballs and chicken Parmesan. But it wasn’t about Aunt Bert. Usually you go back to the house and talk about the person and have catered food. This was just an excuse to eat. I’m not sure anyone mentioned Aunt Bert at all. My mother liked the idea a lot and she said when Grandma dies (something I don’t want to think about) she is going to do the same thing. It IS a lot less work than having something at the house. Her saying that made me think about who would come to Grandma’s funeral. I rarely think of all my cousins on that side, who I never see (except at funerals)–they are all second cousins once removed like Aunt Bert’s grandchildren. (That comes from being the only child of two only children-I have no first cousins.) My mother’s cousins would all come (one of them is my godmother–she got me Nutter, my white cat), of course, but probably not their children (who are my second cousins once removed). And my mom has a lot of cousins, her mother had three brothers and her father had...hell, I don’t even know. Aunt Elsie, Aunt Lena, Aunt Franny, Uncle Joe–I guess he had four siblings but they are all dead now (except maybe Aunt Lena? I don’t even know, isn’t that terrible?), and I never really knew any of those cousins. I don’t know why, I think they’re all older than me, and their kids much younger. And Aunt Franny had no kids, just lots and lots of cats (the first cat I ever had, Nippy, who was a year older than me, came from Aunt Franny).

My mom told me after the wake that my father laid out his suit as soon as I called on Tuesday to tell him his aunt had died. I wonder if he didn’t want to forget or what was in his mind. My parents also dressed up and were appalled at the outfits some people came in.

This morning I had to bring the Fatherbiter to the vet to get his teeth cleaned. My father doesn’t like to put the cat in his carrier (more likely that he doesn’t like to see the cat sad) and my mother would have to have left work to get the cat there between 7:30 and 9:00 a.m. So I left home around 8:00, after ringing once to let my dad know I was coming. And wasn’t the Fatherbiter in his carrier when I got there? So there’s no reason my father couldn’t have taken the cat himself. But I’m not complaining. Then the vet’s office made me fill out all these forms which I don’t remember having to do when my cats had their teeth done last year. I authorized the blood screen because otherwise they aren’t responsible if the cat dies while he’s under. I don’t like the cat much but my father adores him. They wanted me to sign another thing for the cat’s teeth to get waxed so he won’t get tartar build-up. It would require that my parents re-wax the cat’s teeth every week or so. It sounded like a money-making scam to me and I said no. I called my mom to be sure and she agreed. I told her that I was going to stop by the cemetery and look to see if Aunt Bert had been buried yet. My mom said as of yesterday she had not, but there was “digging” near her husband’s grave.

Well, I failed to find her husband’s grave, although I found two other ones with that last name on it. Maybe I was looking in the wrong section, who knows. I tried to find Neena’s grave (Will’s grandmother) but I realized I don’t even know her real name and I doubt her grave says “Neena.” I thought it was in the same section as Uncle Dick’s but I didn’t see any familiar names. Reynolds, that’s it. Grandpa Joe (Neena’s husband) had the last name of Reynolds. But I still don’t remember Neena’s first name. (Added later: Mary Davis was her name, but Will doesn’t remember which name she was buried under.)

I could hear digging so I decided to hike up the hill and ask the grave-diggers and while I was there look for Will’s father’s grave and see if the headstone needed digging out (it’s one of those annoying flat ones). I was, once again, looking in the wrong section for him too.

The grave diggers were very nice (in fact I think one of them was my friend’s brother-in-law) but did not remember Aunt Bert’s name as a recent or future dig. They told me to call the church to find her husband’s plot or the funeral home to find out if she had been cremated. I made up some dumb lie about how I couldn’t reach my cousins because I didn’t want to admit they hadn’t told us.

I saw the area where the flat stones are and headed over there to find Will’s dad. On the way I saw a last name that was familiar, that of a boy in my HS graduating class who killed himself. I took a detour and yup, it was him. I believe he was the first one to die from our class–we had no deaths before graduation, and he died a year or so later. It was kind of freaky to look at the grave of someone I know, who was born the same year as me, who died fifteen years ago.

I’m not sure I ever really spoke to him. I’ve been trying to remember if he was in my home room or the one next door (where some of my friend were, so I was often in there too) as his last name was one letter away in the alphabet from mine. He was not in the honors classes I took. He was very quiet. Stolid is a good word to describe him. I can remember him smiling so he must have once in a while. I can even remember his voice, but nothing he said. Funny what lingers, huh?

So, behind his quiet facade and slow smile, something unspeakable must have been building for a long time. Because one day, he went downstairs to his basement and drew some diagrams in chalk, trying to figure something out. When he had it to his satisfaction, he did it. He put his head in the vise and somehow managed to cut it off with a chainsaw.

Every one in a while, for some odd reason, he pops into my head, this boy I probably never talked to, and I wonder why he did it. I can understand why someone would commit suicide, that’s not it. It’s the WAY he did it. I paused for a moment by his grave and told him that I think of him. I did manage to locate Will’s father (I have the location memorized now–it’s lined up with the donation box and the row of two headstones) and I sat with (on) him for a few minutes and just thought about nothing.

Last year I met a woman in a workshop who said I had lots of entities around me, ghosts basically. She said they possess me all the time. (I believe there’s entities, but not the possession part. She was a little too wacky for me.) She was able to talk to one of them and it was Will’s father. Why his father would have attached himself to ME, I can’t explain. She said it was because he knew that my interests would eventually lead me to someone who could tell me he was there. That to me makes no sense, since his daughter is also into new age stuff and is just as likely to find a random medium as I am. And Susie has said she’s felt him around her and even thought she saw him once in the rearview mirror, sitting in the backseat (he never knew her, or about her–Will’s mom didn’t find out she was pregnant until after his funeral). I never really felt his presence, but just in case he’s still here, I thought I’d pay his body a visit.

To return to the subject of MY father (who this blog is supposed to be about, but I’m fond of digressions), he came over on Sunday to help clean out the greenery along the side of the house. Turns out there’s probably a hundred iris (irises?) growing in there along with a bunch of weeds and vines from hell. My mother wanted to transplant them for me. My grandmother originally planted them when I first moved in, and I never did anything to them. They just spread.

I had some jade plants which I was going to pot. My friend from Florida brought them up a few weeks ago. I found some cactus potting soil so I decided to re-pot all my cactuses (cacti). I did this while my mother cleared a new bed for the iris and my dad pulled them up. Will came out and dug up the ground near the garage for a little patio. I made a cactus garden with my sacred cactus, two clippings from it, one of Beth’s cacti, and a jade plant from Therese, all in a big white pot. I potted another jade plant for my mom (she forgot it, it’s still on the table outside). My dad insisted on pulling up every loose bulb (my mom threw them away when he wasn’t looking) on top of all the plants themselves. Then he’d take the plants and lay them in the middle of the cleared space, or on my nice edge rocks, and I’d move them to the sidewalk so we could tell what was what. Mom said that he hadn’t planned on coming over at all, but once he got there he didn’t want to leave–he kept pulling up plants which we had no where to re-plant. We filled the area I always called “my garden” (where the wild violets were), expanded that area, and planted more in the front yard. Grandma is going to take some also. We will eventually woodchip that area also.

It was a pretty good day for Dad. He seemed fairly with it. But then my mother said that he claims people look at him funny because of his Alzheimer’s bracelet. Well, if he doesn’t show it to them, they have no idea what it is or what it means, so I think it’s his imagination. That ol’ Alzheimer’s paranoia, you know?

I am hoping that I can get some of Aunt Bert’s rocks, maybe even some that I was with her when she picked them up in Old Saybrook. I’ll put them in my garden. I know she’ll like that. (3244)

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