First Family, Family First

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I probably should have written last night.  I was a bit restless and the funeral was fresh on my mind, but I wanted to let it all settle, all the tears, the hugs, and the memories that come with a funeral day.  It was blue sky and sunshiny outside, and I drove with sunglasses and a/c on and drove right past the funeral home with its suited men awaiting visitors and parked on the next street.  Something about the men in their suits, who I didn't know, I just didn't want to have to talk to them.  My stepsister pulled in and turned her car over to the suited ones just as I rounded the corner by foot, looking for the entrance.  I was thankful.  I didn't have to enter by myself.  My husband wanted to attend but I hadn't worked out the details and he needed to take over kid duties (I was wishing I had planned better).  Of course I barely made it over the threshold when tears began to stream mercilessly down my cheeks, despite my sunglasses and will.

Mom took my hand and led me into to the viewing room.  "Come on.  Let's get the hard part over with"  and there he was, and wasn't, all at once.  "Too much makeup." I thought to myself.  You know how sometimes people say, "He looks so good, they did such a good job."  I didn't hear anyone say that, and it simply wouldn't be true if they had.  His eyelids lay over his once sparkling blue eyes.  Nearby Mom showed me the flowers she picked in her favorite coral pink and the note for "Dad" of mom and her brothers, "Grampa" of all us cousins, and "Super Grampy" to our little ones.

We did the right thing.  Hugged our way through the line.  I never called her Grandma, and her sons were never my uncles, her granddaughters I scarecly new.  "I'm sorry for your loss." said one of the girls, and I think I gave her a funny look, because here she was in the line of "kin" telling me she was sorry for my loss.  I wonder if she will ever realize the irony of that.  Or the irony, that my Grandfather's remaining sisters sat across the room, and his own children were about the room, with no place in the line.  It bothered Auntie, she said something to my mom, but Mom was prepared for this, knew it would be this way just as it has been since (not) Grandma entered our world.  Mom made lemonade out of lemons, "It's ok.  I just met everyone at the door instead.  Don't worry about it."

I was holding and folding a piece of paper all morning, trying to remember not to accidently set it down or absentmindedly throw it away.  I needed to read at the church.  Mom couldn't do it, she knew, and that was one of few branches offered to Grampa's first family.  At least it was a nice piece to read.  The whole ceremony was well tied together with the themes of building, a family, a home, a life, within a community and country that he loved and gave willingly to.  Even the (not) uncles said a few things that tied in.  There were only a few silent chuckles (not bad for a girl prone to giggling in church) from me at the over emphasis of the selflessness of the (not) Grandma.  The one so self centered as to not notice that her dear husband's blood relatives who had loved and known him twice as long as her and her clan of fools should probably have been afforded a space in line, or offered an opportunity to memorialize this man too.  Sometimes the minister opens a space for attendees to share memories of their own, but that was not the case this day.

My brother was a pall bearer and I couldn't help thinking that he looked like the little boy he used to be, on the verge of tears as they carried the casket into the church.  My reading was right in the beginning, it caught me by surprise to hear my name announced but I pulled it off, looking into the audience, pausing for affect and emphasis.  I gave the casket a touch on the way by and went to my seat.  Of course, there was singing, but I didn't even try, because singing would make my cry.  So instead I smothered a laugh at Edith Bunker's voice trailing from the seat behind me.  My step sister thought, "Who brought the muppet." but quickly conceded, Edith Bunker was behind us.  These are the distractions of a girl trying not to let the memory of "running" downtown, my hand in Grampy's as he strode long with steps long and purposeful, leave me in a puddle on the pew.

At the cemetery, it took me a minute to notice Grampa was to rest next to (real) Grammy and I smiled back the tear that was trying to escape.  A World War II Navy vet, he was buried with a flag ceremony and taps. As the music began, I smiled as one of the Aunties rummaged for another tissue, having thought she was done with the tears.  I was fascinated soon by the folding of the flag.  I had only seen it done by my boys and their friends as young scouts.  I could see they had a bit of practice to do.  My arms felt hot from the sun as the flag was handed over to the wife, then we milled about in the sun for a bit as folks taking shelter beneath the black tent dispersed stepping between gravestones as they went.  I bummed a ride back to my own car, with my Mom's cousin and his daughter before the reception, and scarfed a third of the raspberry chocolate bar in my purse as I wound back through traffic to the other end of town, where my real family saved me a seat.


Chris said...

I love the honesty in your slice. Thank you for sharing such a personal moment. May you wrap yourself in warm memories of your Grandpa.

KristiLynne said...

Thanks so much for sharing this. I know only too well about "not" family members.

Dana Murphy said...

All of your emotions come through loud and clear in this Slice. Your grief, your frustration, and even a few giggles shared with family to ease the pain. The details you included had me right there with you, holding your hand. I'm very sorry for the loss of your grandpa. May he rest in peace.

Fran said...

Your title was so intriguing; the entire slice was so captivating.

I often wonder (not as an excuse) how "blended families" survive the heartaches that ensue. At my stepson's funeral, I was told that my parents could NOT sit in the family section and he had been a part of my family for 14 years.

I still remember how that anger made it so easy for me to pick at all the "scabs" in terms of hurt feelings that seemed to have been a part of our daily lives.

Tolerance, acceptance and a "friendly" atmosphere are often the first signs that civility is gone. Thanks so much for sharing your joys, sorrows, and pains!