Tending the garden…

April come she will.  And with it?  Memories of Dad.  He died in April, 2002. 

In the final month, when it became increasingly apparent that Dad’s body was rigging the white flag, Mom and i would gently sideswipe the subject of funeral arrangements.  One particularly difficult issue was “pall bearers”.  Traditionally, this is a gruesome task assigned to sons-in-law, close friends, strapping grandsons.  And as we did the math?  Not likely to be easy given our family demographics.

We had EJ and JK, my husband and my sister, S’s husband.  There was my niece, DQ’s first husband, LC, as well – Dad often said he considered him as a son.  So that cleaned out the “son-in-law” repository.  Digging deep, we tapped a guy from DQ’s extended family – who always spent time bullshitting with Dad at large family gatherings.  Four.  A start.

Granted, this wasn’t the most pressing issue at hand, but more of a subject that was chugging about in our brains in the background, only to pop up when primary processing power was momentarily freed up from the bigger issues.  It was through one of these random moments that someone had the clever idea of asking a neighbor – who had been a friend of Dad’s – when the time came.  Although he’d broken his back in a fall several years before, he seemed healthy enough for the job.  Five.

Making this process a little harder was the matter of physics.  Now, we are not a family of “wasting away” people.  Even after three and a half years of chemotherapy?  Dad still weighed 260 pounds.  Big Sicilian bones…  We needed some muscle, which ruled out dragging my son or his cousin – then about 13 years old – off the bench.  Want to traumatize a kid for life?  Put him in a position of dropping his grandfather’s casket… 

At the time, my sister, T, had been seeing her partner, MLG, for about 3 years.  MLG was a smokin’ hot hardbodied blonde from Paris, working on her PhD in English Literature.  In one of our late night, alcohol-fueled family conferences, T mentioned MLG…

And so it went.  Dad was planted in the earth by two sons-in-law, a grandson-in-law, two friends, and a five foot tall French lesbian.  Without a doubt, i’m thinking he would have been pretty cool with that…

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22 thoughts on “Tending the garden…

  1. Glad to hear that worked out well. French lesbian – Things that make you go Hmmm. As for me, I’m gonna make it easy on everyone because in lieu of being in a pine box 6-feet under, I’m opting for a Viking funeral at sea … otta be a nice slow-glow as it fades into the distance … Wow, too deep, think I’ll go enjoy an eskimo pie and watch reruns of Three’s Company.
    Get better & good cheers ….. I LOVE reading your stuff. XO

  2. My charming young engineer just had to be his grandfather’s pallbearer (leave it to me to send him off on the plane with lifting instructions before I got around to sympathies) and I remember thinking that a few more buff women need to be doing this job…

  3. The good thing about cremains is that they won’t break most people’s back, and it only takes only one person to carry it. My father had plenty of strapping sons, grandsons, and son-in-laws for pallbearers, but they weren’t needed.

    Love the idea of the French lesbian being a pallbearer, and the idea that your dad would have loved it.

  4. many, as did i at my uncle’s funeral, feel it a true honor to be a pall bearer. having a hand at carrying him to his final peace and all (though, in my mind, he’s already gone). yeah, it would’ve been better with a french lesbian in front of me, but…

    hope writing this brings you some peace as well.

  5. So i presume you will be raising a glass on two separate occasions this April? One for the memory of your dad and one for Mr Vonnegut. Laugh, cry and be happy that they were part of your life.

  6. WTG – viking funeral, complete with flaming arrows, would be a nice way to launch! thanks much for the kind words! (do you have a blog?)

    sledpress – despite the restrictions of tradition, i was fully prepared to do the duty myself if need be. i really don’t know why this has become a male responsibility either…

    alex – he was an incredibly open minded man, especially for a guy born in the 1920’s. i think it would have made him very happy!

    silverstar – tend to agree that the act of ‘planting’ dead humans in a large box seems wasteful. i hope to be cooked and scattered, at a place that means something to my sprogs. which could be in an ashtray of a local brothel if i let The Boy choose…

    nursemyra – it’s always tough on momma, as she starts the “replay”, and wants to talk about what was going on then… i listen. hum happy songs to myself. i like to stick with the happier memories…

    gnukid – it is honorable. which is one of the reasons i was annoyed that i couldn’t go to the funeral of my ex-mother-in-law. my son was wearing his best frank sinatra suit, complete with fedora, as he served as pall bearer… and it’s not the kind of event that lends itself to photographs. no posing with the casket or anything. even we’re not that redneck….

    daisymae – oooh! a chance to let my lead fillings poison future generations! sweet!

    kono – yep. two of my most important muses…

    unclekeith – what? i can see you going out with show girls, in golden g-strings, towing the box with a tricked out Escalade…

  7. I was all set to say something profound and then you cracked me up with “no posing with the casket, even we’re not that redneck” Oh sugar do I identify—someday I’ll get it together to post about my what I call the ‘DIY redneck funeral’ the fam did for my sister.

  8. I got roped into helping with my grandfather’s final send-off. I was 14. We dropped him – on my uncle’s foot. Never got asked again, for some reason.

  9. I love how you always manage to find the humour in the tough parts … we’ve never been forgiven for the antique copper hot water bottle but that’s nothing compared to a french lesbian! 😉

  10. turnbaby – oh, i didn’t say i hadn’t seen it done before! extended family has ‘posed’ with an open casket. smiling faces and a dead person. freaks me out! looking forward to your tale of the DIY event…

    kyknoord – proving my point that there’s no better way to fuck up a kid than setting him up to drop a dead relative! you can blame all of your issues on that single moment, and get a pass for the rest of your life!

    tNb – find humor? oh, hell… in my world, it’s “kill or be killed” in that department… a survival mechanism that continues to serve me well. antique copper hot water bottle? there’s got to be a story there…

    jimmy – you’ve been a five foot tall french lesbian? oh, wait…

    dolce – alas, that was 3 partners ago… i might be able to work a deal with a strong lady golfer, however! i think this one’s a keeper!

  11. manuel – yes, thanks. this is one of the happier memories…

    unclekeith – no shallow grave for you, bay-bee! Courvasier shots for all…

    raptureponies – it’s a perfectly good word…

  12. Tending the garden….interesting to read this as I just started – tactfully – broaching this subject wi’ me ma this weekend. O’ course, it’s a long ways off yet, but I find she has not even considered a will, much less a personal directive and power of attorney.

    Oh, and there’s that other matter of figuring out how her savings and pension will stretch out over those years without her having to eat dog food.

    Hugs to ye on the upcoming remembrance of yer da’s passin’ daisyfae.

  13. rob – it’s delicate. i waited until they wanted to talk about it, then asked a lot of questions. in dad’s case, it was simple. he said “do whatever makes your mom happy”. with mom? i’ve asked her to write things down… many, many complicated instructions are forthcoming. many of which i shall likely ignore…

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