Tuesday, July 23, 2019

A funny funeral story, on this, the anniversary of my father's death

so I'm going to tell you a funny/horrific story about it, while I'm stuck here in memory lane:

My father hooked up with this creature (you'll see why I call her that, I hope), about three years before he died.  She was only the second of his girlfriends that I had ever met - he made a big deal about taking my brother and I out to dinner with them, once.  They both drank all during dinner, and I didn't drive, so I spent a good 30 minutes trying to get Big/Only Brother to take their keys away and drive us home, but instead wound up getting yelled at for being a baby, and driven home by an angry drunk, his semi-sloppy girlfriend, and my silent brother: such fun!

Their relationship was more like an episode of Cops than anything else: They both drank excessively, they both lost work because of it, they both had severe anger management issues, (and children under 10 -) It was obviously a match made in heaven!  They were on-again off-again to the extreme, having lived together at least twice over the course of their relationship.  To the best of my knowledge (mostly secondhand through my sister, who was 6-10 years old at the time, but also through Daddy himself, then and later on), there were physical fights, a lot of screaming matches and thrown telephones, holes punched in walls, and eventually, my daddy, during one of their mutual tantrums threatened her dad that if he didn't put her back on the phone he would kill him, and so there ultimately were restraining orders and jail time involved.  Which didn't stop them from getting together again when he got out of jail, or breaking up again after losing a baby the spring before he passed away.  (To this day, I don't really know if "losing the baby" was code for "she didn't want the baby, so she got rid of it" as my father professed, or not.  I actually didn't want to know anything about any of it, but my father was not the type to cry into his beer: he was the type to drink his beer, and everybody else's beer, and then try to cry on the closest available shoulder.)

So, when he died, they'd been broken up, after yet another mega fight, in which he screamed that she was a "murdering whore," and she collapsed in tears, drove away and called Child Protective Services on him.

Obviously, star-crossed lovers. 

So a month or two later, when he died, nobody thought to contact her, but his death was in the papers, of course, and they knew some of the same people, and her kid went to SisterK's school, so she found out.  And when we showed up at the funeral home for the viewing that night, early, like family does, my grandmother was over inspecting the flower arrangements (because, please, God, don't let her have to see her son in that box any more), and she noticed that the Ex-Girlfriend had sent a flower arrangement.  Which she promptly told the undertaker to dispose of.

They were removed from the room with very little fanfare - I figure most people didn't even know it had happened - and we continued with our torturous vigil (I Hate Wakes!  They Are Hideous! Please Don't Have A Viewing For Me ~ Just have the Post-Party Food Section, and then everybody can go home). 

About three hours in, I am sitting in the chair nearest the casket - nobody else could sit there, so it's where I sat - and one of my uncles (Daddy was one of 9 children) and my brother coming zipping across the room towards me, and my uncle asks me if I'm ok to walk.  (The funeral home was not accessible, but I was more walkable back then.) I just sat there trying to understand what the hell was happening, and he repeated himself: "Can you walk?" 

It was said so urgently that I thought something horrible had happened and we were leaving - somebody passed out (common both in my family and at our wakes); there was a fire; I didn't even know.  But as I stood up, I noticed that we were walking (as quickly as I could) with a crowd of people, but we were all headed toward the smoking room, the back of the building, instead of the exit.  I went along, still having no idea what the hell was happening, and then my uncle starts telling me that the Ex had shown up, and that Grandmother had said that she refused to be in the room with her (when she called CPS, she had made entirely false claims against my grandmother, as well), so that's why the mass evacuation.

There must have been 75 of us who scrambled from the two larger outer rooms and squished into that one tiny room for a good five minutes, before one of my uncles asked my grandmother if she wanted the Ex to leave.  When she said that she did, an embassy of uncles, brothers, and cousins stepped out into the main room, and told her that she was not welcome here, and that she would have to go.  I remember so clearly that the undertaker didn't seem ruffled by this at all - I assume family feuds are part of his routine - but later I had a cousin from my step-dad's family tell me that it was the 'craziest, most intimidating thing he had ever seen at a funeral', so it must have been shocking to some of the other people too.

She left when she was asked to leave, and stood outside crying for a while.  Which is where the funny comes in.  SisterJ (then 16) and a few of the younger cousins had been outside the whole time, and so they didn't know anything about the drama that had occurred inside.  When SisterJ saw the Ex, who she didn't know or recognize, crying, she went over and hugged her, offering comfort.  Two of our male cousins came outside as this was happening, and, after the Ex had left, told SisterJ about how she'd been comforting the enemy - the same person who'd upset Grandmother and had been asked to leave.  She was mortified, but it seemed to cheer everybody else up when they heard it, even Grandmother, who just put it down to SisterJ's sweet nature.  

And that's a little glimpse into the 'normal' of my family.  We evacuated a wake, forced someone else to leave, somebody hugged that person as they were ordered out, and then we all had a good chuckle about it.  If you don't know what to do with that information, I can't really blame you.  It's been ten years since my dad's funeral, and neither do I      

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