The Pilgrimage Of Biblical Proportion

In case you didn’t notice, I  can’t draw.

Thus the cut and paste and the rudimentary line drawings rather than real family photos.  Besides, I don’t take family photos. I leave that up to my siblings who are a really good at it.  My talents are better suited to ransom notes.

Since I haven’t kidnapped anyone lately, I’ll stick to The Pilgrimage.  I toyed with calling it The Hajj but I always try my best not to shark terms from other cultures to use as my own. It’s an annoying American habit that I think is born of being a young country without a lot of history and what little we have is based on creepy religious dogma and puritanical repression.

But I digress…as I often do.

This year, all I wanted for The Holidays was my family.

I got them.

Damn near all of them. My brother’s family managed to dodge the bullet.

They came from all over the place…in waves. Like a prolonged human tsunami.

They came. They partied. They ate. They plowed through 3 whole turkeys, 2 hams, 6 pounds of breakfast sausage, 3 dozen eggs, 5 gallons of milk, a big-ass crock pot of turkey chili, more bottles of wine than I can count, dozens of cookies, boxes of chocolates, dips and chips and crepes and Quiche and lions and tigers and bears, oh my!  It was glorious!  Romanesque! Feasts worthy of Cesar’s blessing!

Pure heaven!

I like nothing better than feeding people. It’s in my genes. I get it from my grandmother. I also got her overactive sweat glands which is another story for another time but the feeding thing…yeah, that’s definitely what I got and damn proud of it.  What I didn’t get was patience. Or the ability to move at any other speed except full tilt.

This can be problematic during family get-togethers. I’m like a mutant jack-rabbit born into a family of lovely brown bears. They eat, they hibernate, they lumber along at their own pace never bothered by much of anything.  I, on the other hand, flit around like my ass is one fire all the live long day until I collapse into bed without much recollection of what I did for the last 18 hours.  I don’t know how my family puts up with me. But they do.

I worry that it’s out of fear. I see them whispering and pointing as I roast a turkey with one had and buy movie tickets on-line with the other.  They stay a safe distance away when speaking to me. Perhaps to keep their limbs out of harm’s way. What I want to say to them is….

I am not a cyborg! I am a human being!

Of course, I’m kidding.  They love me!  And I am deeply in love with each and every one of them. They are awesome. We don’t fight. We respect each other. We all have a sense of humor and no one takes offense when I say things like “Get your asses in gear! We are leaving. Right. This. Minute! And rinse out that glass and put it in the dishwasher while you’re at it.”

I really can’t help myself. I’m an extreme, dyed-in-the-wool neatnik in a family of not-so-neatniks. A radical. A rogue member of my own tribe.  My niece described it perfectly when she said I was a person who “didn’t like things on surfaces”. I don’t. I believe everything has its place.  I just want everything to be good and right and….organized. I don’t want to find a harmonica in the kitchen.  And why the hell do you insist on this urban sprawl of belongings that stretches from room to room? And if you ask me one more time if I have enough toilet paper in the house, my head is going to explode.  Did. You. Just. Meet. Me? I’m a professional hostess for fuck sake! And YES, I do!

Sorry…..

Then I remind myself to breathe. I stop and remember that not everyone is a rigid as I am about certain things like obsessive neatness, having enough paper products to last through a nuclear winter and putting all the pointy silverware downward in the dishwasher to avoid gnarly jabs when emptying.  Who the hell cares, anyway? It’s what they make Band-aids for, right?

Yes, that’s right, goddamn it! Go ahead, family. Put those steak knives points up from now on!  Patience and understanding are virtues I am determined to master and it’s time for this anal retentive to get her boot camp on!

So, I didn’t explode when someone, yet again, said that they’d lost something. I calmly went outside and hacked at a sapling while they searched. They just hollered for me once they felt safe enough to let me back inside. Easy peasy!

I even managed to remain calm when my niece told me “the spell must be broken now” in the rented Suburban crammed with luggage, car seats and two kids on sugar highs.

“What is this spell you speak of, young niece?” I asked….patiently.

“My kids have puked in EVERY rental car they’ve ever been in. But so far, so good,” she says with a nervous giggle.

Traveler’s Tip:  never speak of anything you don’t want to happen while traveling, lest you cause it to happen by speaking of it. Trust me on this

Our time together was chaotic madness. It was epic in its revelry. It was us. Together. We laughed until we cried, teased each other mercilessly, ate until we doubled over and drank until our teeth were stained purple.  Damn the calories and pass the cream cheese. We had a blast!

Ah, yes. We had a blast!

And we missed our mother…

…but didn’t speak of it.  Perhaps there was just too much chaos. Perhaps we thought it might be too emotional. What I like to believe is that not talking about it was natural.  Natural in a way that she would have liked. She was practical. She wouldn’t have wanted a fuss.  Loving each other was what she taught us and that was what we were doing.  We paid tribute with our actions. And that would have been enough for her.

It was more than enough for us.

I could go on and on ad infinitum about the good times had by all…but everything comes to an end eventually.

Regardless of the stress of hosting an army, I am sad when everyone goes.  Truly sad.  I call upon my California soul to soothe my corn-fed heart which breaks a little each time I have to say goodbye.  No matter how long it’s been since I left home, my roots are firmly Midwestern.

I’m okay with that because it’s who I am.

And just in time to save me from reminiscing to the point of longing…..my sister sends a text from home:

I think I left my suitcases there, hahaha!

I reply….

You people would lose your heads if they weren’t attached. Wait….I just ran across one beautiful, brown eyeball and possibly someone’s kidney…or it could be a spleen. Hard to say. Looks like it’s been here a while. 

And we both send back LOLs.

It is how we do in this fam damily!  And I love it!

“You Can’t Escape Genetics”

That’s what my sister told me the other day when we were discussing addiction.  We’re from a long line of sugar addicts who believe every meal should be followed by dessert.

Seriously, sugar is like crack. No, it’s like crack with a cocaine chaser and a crystal meth cherry on top and it’s been my life-long love/hate nightmare.  So significant are the memories of my “scores”, I can conjure them at a moment’s notice.  For example, when I was about 9, my best friend and I staged a neighborhood “fair”. We charged 10 cents for the privilege of a spin on a swing set we covered with blankets and called “the tunnel of doom” or some such nonsense. We charged extra for palm readings and told kids  their futures were rosy and their parents would never get divorced…stuff like that.  We made a buck or two and in those days it was nothing to sneeze at.  It was enough to head to the local drug store and invade the candy aisle.  Real, honest-to-goodness store-bought chocolate outside of Halloween was nothing short of an out-of-body experience for addicts like us. The holy grail of head rushes. The Mount Fuji of euphoria. Cavities and Dr. Bob the Nazi dentist, be damned! We had money for sugar and it was burning a hole in our pockets. We spent and consumed with reckless abandon, the aftermath of which saw us supine on the floor of a backyard playhouse surrounded by discarded wrappers.

I have learned a modicum of restraint since then but it took a little more than that to convince me to make a concerted effort to kick my habit.

I recently had some extensive blood work. I say that as if It’s somehow profound or significant, like “I recently gave birth to a 35 lb baby”. For me? It is. Blood tests cause me to faint dead away. This  tends to frighten medical professionals as they have to pick me up off the cold, hard linoleum, force orange juice down my throat and pack my forehead with icy towels despite my strong warnings.  And when I say “extensive blood work” it means they had to extract something like half the blood I carry in my body. It had been a while since I had blood work and they wanted to take full advantage while I was down.

My doctor was wonderful. I was allowed to pop a pharmaceutical so I wouldn’t give a shit about participating in this medieval blood-letting, don some noise canceling headphones and say “when” at the precise moment of the anti-anxiety med’s apex.

I came through with flying colors and no orange juice or ice packs were necessary.

The test results?  I was pretty clean except for…excessive candida in my body.

One of the major causes for this:  Sugar consumption.

I did some research on candida after which I wondered what in God’s name Tony Orlando was thinking when he named a hit song after common yeast that thrives in the intestines and, left unchecked, ravages the “good” bacteria we all need in our bodies. Maybe he just didn’t know? Or maybe, it was something, more…compelling.  More on that later.

Regardless, I had to give up sugar. It was hard. Really, really hard. I was angry for about a month. My cravings were overwhelming. But I survived. And after about 6 months of being on the wagon,  I’ve learned to concoct “treats” that, yes, have a little bit of sugar but satisfy me enough to keep me from loosing my shit and holding up a bakery at gun-point.

My secret?  Fresh ground almond butter and a tablespoon of marshmallow fluff  on top of a Carr’s whole wheat cracker… once a day.

My Own Private Methadone.

As for Tony Orlando? Well… a snippet from the lyrics tells me it was a cry for help.

Hmmm hmmm Candida….Just take my hand and I”ll lead ya
I promise life will be sweeter….and it says so in my dreams.

 

A Pirate’s Life For Me!

Not long ago, I was corrected by my four-year-old great-nephew for incorrectly imitating pirate-speak.

I insisted that a pirate’s go-to expression for everything from rage, joy, happiness, surprise and outrage was “Arrggggh!” followed by the obligatory “shiver me timbers…” or “where the hell’s my parrot?”… “polish my hook, ship wench” or “pass me an orange, I’m gettin’ the scurvy”.  You know, silly things pirates say?

I was wrong, he informed me.

Pirates say “Arrrrrrrr.”  Not, “Arrrghhh”.

Rather than argue with him, I let it go.  Truth be told, I secretly harbored resentment because I knew deep down in my aging heart that I was right and he was wrong.  I mean, I’m the adult.  By all rights, I should be smarter.

Then I read Fifty Shades of Gray [which, I admit,  automatically dumbed me down] and, to my horror, discovered that the author used the word “arrrghhh” when describing the pain of virginal sex.

So, chalk one up for the four-year-old.

But that’s not what this is about.

This is about the joy of being surprised.

As in finding pirate-worthy booty in my mailbox.

Generally, the only things I find in my standard issue please-not-another-Spanx-catalog- metal-box-on-a-pole are highway-robbery utility bills, stalker letters from AARP and a cozy little nest of spiders that I don’t have the heart to evict.

Until yesterday when it all changed.

What’s when my otherwise mundane mail receptacle contained a beautiful surprise!  A tiny packaged wrapped neatly in a bubble-protected envelope.

Even the spiders watched in deference as I gazed upon this unexpected curiosity.

I plucked it ever so gently from the box, scurried inside and drew the blinds. I carefully sliced one end of the envelope and let the contents slip out. Ahhhhh!  A stunning, gossamer bag with a satin ribbon.

And inside?

Golden earrings befitting a plundered galleon!

“I have laid eyes on the likes of these magnificent baubles before”, I whisper to myself. “On the delicate lobes of a beloved.”

Thank you, my friend, for reminding me that no matter how old I get, the child in me is still alive and well!

 

 

The Sound Of My Voice

When I was in the second grade, I got a rude awakening.  It was parent’s night.  Probably 1969 or some year where the technology had words like reel-to-reel or mimeo in the description.

I was a shy kid who never spoke up in class or misbehaved for fear of being sent to the principal [gasp!!].  It can still run chills up my spine just thinking about what might have happened had I acted up.  The principals of my era are all extinct now.  Relegated to peeling, photographic archives that hang on the walls of pre-60s elementary schools.  I don’t remember them being on the endangered species list but I read a while back that fossils of human-like remains clutching large, wooden paddles were found buried near an asphalt playground.

My school was one of those probably built with lots of asbestos and lead paint and all those great construction materials we didn’t know would eventually kill us.  Fortunately, I’m still alive to tell the tale of my very first “recording”.

Parent’s night always gave me the jitters but this one was downright nerve-wracking .  Our teacher, her name escapes me so I’ll just call her Teacher, had us all read in class one day so she could record it on her big metal tape-recorder (probably shared by the entire school) and play it back for the parents on parent’s night.  I wondered if  this would tack on unnecessary time to “the big night” and make us all fidgety and irritated.  T.V. was a big deal back then and most of us just wanted to get home and watch the latest episode of Bonanza in stunning black and white.  I know I did, because I was in love with Little Joe.

There was only one last thing to do after Teacher gave my parents the glowing review of Julie never utters a peep in class and can spell her own name and keeps her hands to herself  and doesn’t eat paste….you know, all the really important stuff.

The recording.

Teacher flipped a button on the hulking device.  The plastic spools spun and whirred to life….and  spewed forth the most horrifying voice I had ever heard.   Turned up to the right decibel level, they could have used that voice in a North Vietnamese prison to extract information from an unbreakable John McCain.

My head felt like it would explode.  I think I actually stumbled backward like the words were made of buckshot. I just wanted it to stop.  Doesn’t anyone see my ears bleeding?  I’m only eight for cryin’ out loud!

Peace finally came and I wiped the blood from my neck.

“Who the hell was that?  “That gul can’t say hu awws!”  I asked which was the most I’d ever uttered in a classroom to date.   The public smack upside the head for using the word hell went a long way in conquering my shyness so that’s the silver lining in all this.  I mean, once you get publically smacked by your parents most inhibitions fall away… until the time you give birth which puts the icing on the cake of who-the-hell-cares-what-anybody-sees.

I still hate the sound of my own voice….but I can say my Rs now.

Defending Barney

Sometimes I retain some really useless information.  Stuff that only comes in handy if I’m gettin’ my nerd on with a rousing episode of Jeopardy.  Other times, what I’ve retained is useful.  Like personal responsibility and when I learned it as a kid.

Maybe I was about seven-ish or so?

We had these neighbors I’ll call the Stevensons.  That’s their real name.  No need to protect the innocent since they’ll probably never read this.  But if they do? I’m cool with that because I really don’t care.  I knew what was up and I’m proud to admit it.  That doesn’t mean I was smarter, mind you.  Anyone with a reasonable number brain cells and a nose knew what was up at Casa Stevenson.

They had a dog named Barney.

They also had a daughter called Jan who was big for her age, scary and really, really good at softball.  Jan may have actually been a boy who was just pissed that they gave him a confusingly feminine name but I can’t be sure.   [Don’t quote me on the Jan-could-have-been-a-boy thing. My memory has been compromised by things I choose not to mention here]

Anyway, Barney was a basset hound.  And that is something that I do remember very clearly because basset hounds are very memorable dogs and I only knew one family in my entire half century who ever had one.   Barney was a sweet dog but even as a kid I wondered what kind of Island-of-Dr.-Moreau breeding went into putting this poor animal together.  A dog who is eighteen inches high should not have 30-pound ears for fuck sake.

Sorry….odd anatomy gets me sidetracked….

Barney Stevenson’s  house smelled like farts pretty much all the time.

Fred, the dad, blamed Barney for the poor air quality in the house but he always delivered it in a Don Rickles kind of way. “You smell that?  Goddamn dog ate too much saurkraut for lunch”…gnut, gnut, gnut.

I knew, of course, that dogs did not eat saurkraurt for lunch.  My dad would smile politely at Fred’s “joke” even as we kids stampeeded toward the door.

Later when we got home?  I would hear my dad discreetly tell my mom that “Barney” was at it again. She understood the importance of speaking in code, after all she lived through wartime. No one spoke of such things louder than a whisper behind closed doors  in our house.  We did not fart.  E.V.E.R..  It was an unspeakable offense probably punishable by death but since no one ever did, all us kids remained alive.  We carried the fear with us, though, passing it [no pun] to our children around the eerie light of a campfire…second only in scariness to the man with a hook for a hand who terrorized campsites.

Yeah, poor Barney took the fall for his flatulent master but I learned a lot about blame and personal responsiblility because of it.

Thanks for the lesson, Fred Stevenson.  Wherever you are.

 

 

 

A Passing Glance

Sometimes I glance at something without thinking much about it.

A quick, cursory scan that registers nothing at all.

Today was different. It was a thumbnail photo on my desktop. A new one. Very small, half-inch if that. Of me.

I rarely have pictures of myself on my desktop.  It’s probably just seeing an image that wasn’t there before.  It’s nothing.

No. It’s something.

An otherwise perfectly mundane glance… ignited a memory.

It hit me hard in the gut. Way down deep in that place I try to forget I have.

I couldn’t put my finger on it right away.

Was it the shape of my head?  The way I looked at the camera? How I was sitting?

No…I must be wrong because my memory sees dark hair.

It took maybe a minute or two for the memory to surface.

It came shooting up with unstoppable force…..as if a balloon was being held under water… and then let go.

It was my mother I was remembering.  In one of my favorite pictures of her.

She was about three.

Leave Me Be!….Please

I consider myself a responsible citizen.

I support many good causes.

I brush my teeth three times a day and avoid sugary foods to prevent unnecessary trips to the dentist.  I mean, some poor hockey player may need to replace those molar implants and that definitely trumps a lame-ass cavity totally preventable by cutting back on Fruity Pebbles.  I even chew my food 27 times before swallowing to avoid a choking disaster that might require calling on my local emergency medical response team lest it take away from a more serious sitch like some else’s heart attack.

I don’t ask for much…really, I don’t.  I just want all these fucking unsolicited phone calls to stop! Did my susbscription to the No Call List expire?  Is it one of those things you constantly have to keep with like an insurance plan?  If so, is it too late to get back on? Did I miss the drop-dead-you-have-to-sign-up-by-this-date-or-else deadline?  Maybe I have a pre-existing condition that renders me ineligible to be left alone like “Well, ma’am, you DID actually pick up the phone once back in ‘o8.  You knew by doing so you knocked your own sorry ass right off that No Call List, right?”

Guess I missed the fine print.

Anyway, my anger reached fever pitch yesterday when I did actually pick up the phone so I could tell this solicitor to take my name off their call list (which they are obligated to do if asked).  And I asked real nice like.  I mean, I don’t want to offend people who are just doing their jobs.  It went like this:

CALLER:

Good evening, ma’am.  I’m calling on behalf of  Rustoleum Inhaler’s Anonymous and we’re conducting our annual fundraiser over at the Ace Hardware.  Is Mr. Howe available?

ME:

No, he isn’t.  Would you please remove our name and number from your call list?

CALLER:

Look, we spoke to your husband last year and he helped us out.

ME:

Oooohhh…..liar, liar, pants on fire!

My politeness evaporates and I slam the phone down.  My husband wouldn’t pick up a call from an unknown caller if he had a gun to his head.  This is not an exaggeration.  It would go something like this:

INT. LIVING ROOM – DAY

CLINTON HOWE, a wiry man who looks like he could spontaneously combust at any moment, sits rigid on a beautiful couch probably chosen by his lovely wife to compliment the other tasteful furnishings.  He stares hard at a FIDGETY GUNMAN who holds a gun to Clinton’s head.

A PHONE RINGS….

AND RINGS….

Close on a giant plasma screen T.V.:  Caller i.d…UNKNOWN

The ringing does not stop.  It’s long and intense…. bbrrriiiiinnggg. It unnerves the gunman.  A bead of sweat forms on his pock-marked forehead.

FIDGETY GUNMAN

Answer the goddamn phone.

Clinton’s stare intensifies.

FIDGETY GUNMAN

I’m warning you, man.  Answer. The. Fucking. Phone.

Not one movement from Clinton save for a subtle smirk that sends the man into a twitching frenzy. He dances around like the floor is on fire, the gun shakes in his hand, each ring a searing hot poker to his senses

FIDGETY GUNMAN

I’m gonna count to three…and then I’m gonna….

BRRRRIIIINNNG

FIDGETY GUNMAN

Jesus H. Christ!  Don’t you have an answering machine??

Clinton stares harder.

CLINTON

It’s the second line.  No answering machine.  It’ll ring until someone picks it up. Could go on for hours.

WTF?? The gunman’s whole body shakes. He stares around the room, frantic, looking for something to make it stop.  A hand flies to one ear to block the sound. No use. His gun shakes uncontrollably. He pushes the barrel harder into Clinton’s head.

MAN

(screaming)

One…

CLINTON

(calmly)

Two….

The man stares wide-eyed.  Who the hell is this freak?

BRRRRIIIINNNG

CLINTON

Pull the trigger, chicken shit, cuz I’m not answering that motherfucking phone.

The gun drops from the man’s hand. He backs away…terrified. He stumbles over a beautifully upholstered chair with a matching ottoman. It’s lovely.

BBRRRRIIINNNG

The man scrambles to his feet and flees through the front door.

Clinton calmly rises from the comfort of aforementioned beautiful couch, picks up the phone receiver, places it back in one quick movement.

Silence.

Self Check-Out

My husband is an impatient man.

A typical type-A personality.

Angiogram starts with the letter A.  I wonder if there’s a connection because pretty much every type A personality of a certain age that I know has had one.  The only exception to this is my dad who is about as laid back as an aging hippie sans the B.O. and the Ginsberg.

Anyway….chest pains = angiogram which = a hospital stay which= one unhappy camper once the procedure is over and said type A camper is forced to eat a bland diet of bone dry turkey sandwiches in a space the size of a British hotel room with shitty T.V. reception and a bed that would NOT stop adjusting itself.  I won’t even go into the monitors and tubes and bells and whistles that ring and chirp and chime all night long ensuring the crappiest night sleep you can image short of a slumber party with the Marquis de Sade.

Although it was mildly amusing when my husband’s nurse told him she’d kick his ass if he didn’t stop trying to raise the bed past a 30 degree angle then threatened to strap his forehead down with surgical strength duct tape if he engaged his abdominal muscle one…more…time, he knew they meant business but tested the limits anyway.   You don’t fuck with the O.R. nurses.  He tried.  He lost. And I’ve been picking sticky stuff off his forehead for the last two days.

When it came time to be released (Oh, happy day!  No more peeing in a bottle!), there was a hitch.

The  doctor didn’t show.

10 o’clock.

11 o’clock

I begin to sweat.  My face feels clammy. My breath become shallow and quick.  I may need a doctor myself.

The NASCAR race is starting and the T.V. reception really sucks and all my unhappy camper can think of is 60 inches of crystal clear plasma expanse versus 20 inches of static. 

“Can you hear me God?  It’s me, Julie.  Need a little help here.”

These people made a big mistake not giving this man of mine a specific check-out time because they said Saturday.  When you tell a type A personality they can go home on Saturday…..well….that means Saturday morning.  As in first thing.  No…I take that back.  More like first light.

Higher Power offers nothing most probably because of my past irreverent posts on organized religion. 

Some people just can’t take a joke.

So we  implement Plan B.

Just in case you didn’t know, you can check yourself out of the hospital. 

Just remember to have your loved one unhooked from that rolling metal tower.  They don’t fit in the car.  Trust me on this.

Resistance Is Futile

Noah Angel and DevilI want this t-shirt.

I also want these eyes but not even surgery can give them to me.  Trust me, I’ve looked into it.

This is my gorgeous great-nephew.  He is both gorgeous AND great and completely irresistible.

He likes clothing with a message.

He now has a baby sister.

Anna is her name.

I am compelled to come up with a nickname for her since I am known for creating nicknames that (unfortunately at times) stick.

I must choose wisely for Anna.

My first inclination, of course, is Anna Banana.  It is not creative but has a nice cadence and I’m all about rhythmic flow.

There are really only two viable words choices if I want a rhyming nickname for Anna and that is aforementioned fruit or maybe bandana.  Anna Bandana.  Has possibilities.  I will think on it.

But… I may have to just go with Kitten.  That is what her little mews sounded like when my niece held the phone up her mouth the day after she was born.  They are far, far away.

Yes.  Kitten it is.

Gorgeous angel above I call Buckwheat.

Could be the boots.

Yup.  It’s definitely the boots.Noah in Boots

009_220-311

Life

She had a magnificent sense of humor.

I’ll always remember that about her; like the way I remember my grandmother’s cooking.

 She had a wicked sense of humor, too.

 I love that in a human and I thank the god of rubber chickens that I got some of that in the gene pool lottery.  It can go either way, you know.

Being the family girl that I am – despite my cynical nature toward  anything middle-American with WASP-y populations of 10,000 or less – I packed my carry on and donned my best funeral game-face.  I would be a necessary link in the chain of family support and, in exchange for said support,  be fed copious amounts of fruit infused gelatin and church-lady dishes that materialize like magic from beyond the cavernous kitchen of the First Baptist Church. 

 Man, I love those church ladies.

 I love my super cool family more especially when they put with my left-coast, downward dog, granola-eating, liberal bullshit noise that I’m certain they make fun of behind my back.  It’s okay.  I know you love me, super cool family!

But damn!  Illinois is one hot son of a bitch in June.  The only living organism that thrives on it is corn.  It was tall-man high and green and healthy as a vegetable has a right to be (thanks to our “ag-friendly” buddies at Monsanto and their insect repelling, genetically modified seeds).   I forgot how much corn there was.  Even with the Gvillo farm long gone and replaced by a useless regional airport runway there is corn as far as the eye can see.  Funny what one forgets……and then remembers at exactly the right time when it can be pulled out and shamelessly exploited as a blog post.  Oh, how I love that!

I used to make fun of the place.  Okay, “used to” is the wrong term:  see above.  But I think there’s a difference now.  There’s a nagging guilt attached to the ridicule.  Maybe it’s age.  Maybe it’s death forcing me to look at life rather than skim across it like those river mayflies I had also forgotten until now.  I almost find myself yearning for the place.  Thankfully, the yearning passes after a few days of 115 degrees and 24-hour Wal-Marts where people have actually been known to get married.  

But I’m getting waaay too serious and this post is about funny.  Death, of course, is not funny.  But funny things can happen when people pass.  In my warped brain, this memory of death made me laugh in a genuine, honest way that honors the essence of a life that I will strive to remember. Unlike the oceans of corn that fell victim to my Swiss-cheese of a memory. 

This little nugget of humor is courtesy of a child.   I don’t know her well but she knew her great-gram very well.  Better than me since I’ve been absent from my roots and my “kin folk” for longer than I realize.   So I gladly accept being upstaged by a 6 year old.

The scene was typical small-town wake:  a mortuary run by the same family for decades, a modest room full of folding chairs, subdued lighting, the smell of carnations and rosewood, a podium to sign your name so the family knew you took the time to come. Mostly older folks speak in low tones but a few kids snake their way through the walkers and polyester and disturb the relative peace. 

A COMICAL LITTLE GIRL of about 6, takes the hand of her YOUNGER COUSIN and leads him to the polished wood coffin.  A gorgeous arrangement of roses and sunflower sits atop the closed end.   The rosewood coffin – in keeping with folksy tradition – is open to reveal the body of someone you barely recognize but are obliged to say “didn’t they do a nice job on her?”

 COMICAL LITTLE GIRL

Go head. Touch great-gram.

 YOUNGER COUSIN

No.

COMICAL LITTLE GIRL

It’s okay.  You won’t get in trouble

YOUNGER COUSIN

I know.

COMICAL LITTLE GIRL

You don’t have to be afraid.

YOUNGER COUSIN

I’m not afraid.

What a liar. The boy clasps his hands behind his back just in case the brave one forces the issue.  The comical little girl reaches up and touches her great-gram on the arm with a pointed index finger.

 COMICAL LITTLE GIRL

You really should touch her.  She’s as hard as a rock.

 I guess it wouldn’t have been appropriate to tell that story at the church service?  My aunt would have loved that! She would have laughed until she peed her pull-ups then wheeled around to every one of her care center homies retelling the story again and again making them laugh too. 

Yeah. That story is number one with a bullet on Auntie’s Great Hits.  But then again, the photo of her giving death the finger is moving up quick.

Love you.