The Funeral

I try to go about my day, and do mundane things.  

I clean the bathroom. I wash dishes.

I work out.

But inside, I’m waiting for the next wave. The emotion to hit me. It always creates the best narrative.

I know what I want to write, where I need to go – but without the wave…  It sounds wooden and unimaginative.

Of course when it hits – I seem to get every emotion…all at once – anger, sadness, frustration, love, desire….  The trick is filtering through and choosing the right one to write with.

To tell the story with.

Sometimes I’m a bit “off”.

 Writing a passionate scene while grieving…it comes off weird.  The word choices:  “… and then they collapse together in a pool of sweat as she watches his heart leap from his chest, and fall to the floor – rolling against the dresser legs, still beating…”

Yeah. Weird.

It’s funny when the discourse of the media du jour turns a tide – jealousy, anger, miscommunication…  I see it all and can look at it objectively, to some extent – and know it’ll be okay.

And it’s okay.

And it is okay.

The funeral for my father was …  unreal.  I don’t know. It felt, surreal, I guess.

I don’t know how else to describe it. I hadn’t seen him in 10 years. I received one call from him while in Portland – saying that he was going away for a while.

And in my state of numbness and pregnancy – I simply stated, “okay.”  My questions must not have been memorable. But today, I can’t imagine me not saying “for how long?” or “where are you going?”

I think I was still freaked out about him showing up at my wedding to Ben, drunk.  

I saw him again shortly after moving back to Michigan.

He was sitting at a bus stop bench. No, inside a bus stop shelter.  Just sitting there. Waiting.

I looked and walked by. And then I turned round, and walked back.

“Dad?”

I think he almost fell over.  Or maybe that was me.

He was a mess.

He was not exactly in tatters –maybe in a chef’s uniform.  He was smoking. He told me he was catching a bus back to his place in Anoka.  A transition home.

And then he asked to borrow money.

I was working for the television station – and still made some kind of guarantee, so I gave him $100.  I think I was worried about it – I always worried about money.

So he paid me back right away.

I think we saw each other a few times after that. He had moved into a place with some roommates.

And then I don’t know what happened.

Except for me going crazy after Tom’s betrayal with the blue pill, packing up all my stuff and leaving for California, that is.

More turmoil, all because a guy ‘happened’ to me.

So heartbreaking, and immature, he would have thought, had he known.

I still remember his declaration upon hearing Ben and I announce our engagement: “And what, exactly, are your intentions with my daughter?”

And then I came back from Cali and moved right back into my step-father’s house.

And never got back in touch.

 

The funeral was several weeks after Jack had passed.  In late August, 2009. I picked up my children, and met my sisters at the grave site, where they said a few words with other extended family.  I remember driving with JoAnne to pick up Susie and Jim, my Aunt and Uncle, at the airport. Jack’s only other siblings.

We took them to my sister, Brenda’s, house for a larger gathering.

More people.

More new family.

Carletons, and Olsons, and Johnsons.

My uncle, Jim, took me aside before we walked in.

“Just a heads up,” he spoke quietly, “you and me are probably going to be the only liberals in that place.”

I wasn’t sure what he meant, until much later.

I put on a good face. An appropriate face. I kept up my end of conversations. But all I really wanted to do was go into someone’s room and hide in their closet.

I could feel the narcolepsy setting in.

Anxiety equals overwhelming need to nap.

Thank God for my son.

He was their first contact, after all.  He kept the conversation going. Kept feeding me clues about who people were, about things I should say, or ask about.

One second cousin handed me a card.

“I started a family tree website – very interesting, you should join.”

My Aunt handed me a packet of photos and his death certificate.

They showed me a large packet of his personal effects:   cigarettes, kerchief, birthday cards – fresh, unsigned…matchbooks. One from a local gay hotel, prominent pink triangle logo.

I say nothing.

My sister hands me Jack’s reading glasses, “He didn’t have much, but here’s a little something to remember him by.”

We say our goodbye’s and leave.

My son drives home.

I fall asleep.

 

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