I’m sorry I’ve been offline for a while. Brian’s dad died on Thursday night, he called and told me about it Friday morning. So when I said “what else interesting will happen this summer?” I got my answer the next day.
Carlos and Elliot came down from Milwaukee and Chicago for the visitation and funeral. It was like some sort of flashback to college days. Except everyone looked really tired. Carlos, Elliot, Alex, Mary, Maloki, Mike, and Brian (off and on between visitors on Sunday evening) sat in a little circle and spent the time together that hasn’t happened in many years due to moves, schedules, my kids.
I don’t know if this is universal, but something about wakes and funerals makes little things fall away. Mary said it was kind of magical—she would ask a question and the recipient wouldn’t hedge or dodge. We found out about Elliot’s girlfriend situation, which he is usually cagey about, for instance. I blabbed to Alex the story about Carlos and Mike and which would wind up dating me—that I’d broken up with the high school boyfriend, and there was this Window of Opportunity when either Mike or Carlos could have asked me out. Mike had proximity in his favor, and no girlfriend, while Carlos had graduated and was dating someone, so Mike won that small contest (obviously everything proceeding from that moment was not predestined—if I’d dated Carlos first, that doesn’t mean I was ready to marry him, or Mike, for that matter—but there was this coming out party, in my mind only, and they were the most eligible from my point of view).
The visitation was probably the best one I’d ever attended, mostly because this is the first time I’ve been to one in my position—I’m not a direct relative, and I’m not in the dreaded position of in-law. I really love my in-laws. And I understand the importance of my being there, for Mike. But it is so incredibly uncomfortable that it has led me to driving around southern Illinois looking for open liquor stores afterwards. I was also not in the position of coworker-of-bereaved, or distant-relative-of-deceased (or the most terrible: first-grade-teacher-of-deceased). Brian is one of my oldest friends, and I knew his dad. There was no question that I would be there, and stay a long time, but on the other hand, I wasn’t grieving for me.
I think I mentioned earlier this summer, when my Aunt Maria died, that death itself doesn’t make me very sad. Perhaps this is another symptom of my pervasive personality disorder, or maybe it is simply that I haven’t lost anyone close to me yet (actually, it’s probably the latter—when we thought Bleys, my cat, was dying, it was devastating). Perchance it has something to do with faith. But what makes me so sad is seeing other people grieve. Perhaps it is contagious. Or maybe I have more empathy than I assume sometimes. Whatever it is, I survived the visitation ok, and the funeral mass didn’t bug me at all (although it made me start going through a funeral checklist for myself. No On Eagles Wings for me, unless enough nuns are in attendance to carry the tune).
We went out to Jefferson Barracks for the graveside service mostly because I think Alex wanted us to. We hadn’t communicated with Brian that day yet—he’d come with the cortege, while we had driven to St. Andrews straight from home. Alex is in the unenviable position of new girlfriend during great stress and sadness. It is so hard to know what to do in that position. So we went.
The gun salute, I know they’re blanks, but it was pointed straight at me. Carlos took a step back. I swear. It made me jump, not from the noise, but because I could see down the barrel of the gun. The priest had a few things to say, and then the 2 sailors, who pulled cemetery duty as opposed to being in the Persian Gulf, folded up the flag and handed it not to Judy, Brian’s mom, but to Brian’s cousin, who was in his Army dress uniform. The sailors retreated, and then this cousin had to present it to Judy. That was the hardest thing I’d witnessed all summer, and that is saying something. And I don’t know why. Larry wasn’t killed in action—he retired decades ago. But something about watching that cousin try to keep his cool while repeating those words: “on behalf of the President of the United States…” was just too much. Too much. Middle aged men in attendance broke down. It was hard.
We went back to St. Andrews and ate funeral food—including Funeral Corn, which is this fabulous cornbread dressing that I have only ever had at funerals, mostly in Texas. It’s not really called that. I call it that. All told, we got home after 3 in the afternoon. I took a 3 hour nap. Can I say again that I’m ready for summer to be over?