Monday, June 16, 2008

The Funeral, Part 1

I still have that overwhelmed feeling for some reason, but I feel inspired to blog again. This has something to do with the fact that I have a paper due for school. It's about why all of a sudden there are so many memoirs being published about people adopting different types of movements in eating like Slow Food and Locavore and all that. When I have papers like that due I suddenly feel an irresistible urge to blog. I have no idea why that could possibly be, ahem.

Speaking of memoir...I normally really follow the biggest rule of memoir writing on here, and that is to never write about shit you're going through right in the middle of the going through it. This is because you run the risk of sounding like a crazy person for one and secondly because to tell a truly good story and to make your life into a story and not just a ranting diary entry, you need some time to reflect and get a sense of distance from the events. You have to think about what happened after the whole thing is over and then you'll gain insight and depth about the situation. This is something that I really "get" about writing. That has a lot to do with why I didn't want to write about Pop's funeral and my grief and all that, but I've decided that I will try to write about it and that I will try to break the rule and see what happens. I mean, my God, what are rules for if not to be broken sometimes? Pop would totally disagree of course because he was all about some rules. Pop loved rules so much that my aunt even mentioned in his eulogy how much of a stickler he was about the rules of card games. He also hated surprises and planned everything out endlessly to the last second. That must be where I get that nonsense from.

I am now 100% convinced that Aaron Spelling is up in Heaven writing out the remaining script of my life. There is just no other explanation. Eudora Welty is helping him because my time up in Millpond last week was like a prime time soap opera set in the South of 60 years ago. To make matters worse it was exactly 9,081 degrees for the entire time I was there and I nearly roasted alive on several occasions and I began to curse the tradition of wearing black at funerals. I was like a live solar panel standing in the cemetary.

Bella picked me up at the airport and we commenced a five day marathon of trying not to cry. I don't remember ever in my life trying not to cry for such an extended period of time. I had a constant headache from the pressure and I couldn't talk right because every time I tried to say something this awful, high pitched Minnie Mouse voice would come out. Every time I would look at her we would get that feeling like we were going to fly into hysterics and for some reason we just wouldn't allow ourselves to cry. See, this is one of those things that if I had the distance I would probably be able to reflect philosophically about, but since this was only last week I am still in the middle of trying not to cry, though it has gotten better. I think maybe we were afraid we wouldn't be able to stop. Maybe if we let ourselves cry we would cry for years and fill up drained swimming pools with tears and our faces would be splotchy and red forever.

And so we began to compartmentalize, something I do disturbingly well. Bella and I had nothing to do the first day I was there. Her parents were taking care of everything and they told us to just show up early to the funeral the next day. That left us with a day to fill. We decided to go to JC Penney's. I haven't been to a JC Penney's since I was about three. I don't even think we have one anywhere near where I live. It was like going back to 1977 again. Bella decided she wanted a Tank-kini or some such and most of a trailer park was in the store the day we were there buying prom dresses - big taffeta and tulle, yellow prom dresses guaranteed to make anyone wearing them look like a baby chick that has been recently blow dried or electrocuted.

Surprisingly I found some really pretty dresses and I was all excited thinking I was going to buy some crap I didn't need to make myself feel better for about two minutes. This was not to be. The dress I wanted in JC Penney's cost $80.00!!! I thought JC Penney's was an inexpensive store. I was outraged. Who knew there was a dress for sale in Millpond that cost $80.00? I tried to find it on the Penney's website so you all could see it but it isn't on there. Another thing I discovered is that all the dresses at Ross come from JC Penney. Same brands. So I guess maybe I can get the dress at Ross next summer for about $5.99.

That night Bella and I got the brilliant idea to eat dinner at Red Lobster, for the seafood lover in us, because it was Pop's favorite restaurant. Pop loved him some Admiral's Feast. Please don't get the idea that there is a Red Lobster in Millpond. There is not. One must drive some distance to get to the Red Lobster and this must only be done on very special occasions. At the risk of sounding icky, can I just say that Red Lobster is the ghetto-est place I think I have ever been? Wow. Red Lobster is a hot ghetto mess, but you know, that just made it all the more fun and entertaining. There was a girl in front of us who had one some Daisy Dukes that were so short and so small that we could see 3/4 of her behind and most of her cooch hanging out. And she had on fake eyelashes, glittery aqua eye shadow and a merlot colored hairweave. I wish I were kidding about this, but on the way out I stepped on a piece of the hairweave that had fallen out. She and her friends were all drinking Hypnotiq and having a really good time, which made me happy to see. But hot ghetto mess aside, I confess that my Red Lobster dinner did not disappoint. Where else can you get a steamed lobster and a baked potato for under $25 and how can you screw up a lobster and a potato anyway?

Afterwards we went back to Bella's apartment and played with her kitten. The highlight of my trip had to be this kitten, which is so tiny that he could fit into a clutch purse with extra room. His name is Pepper. He looks kind of like Canela and he gets into everything. He's at that stage kittens go through where they try to climb up your bare skin and where their teeny weeny claws and teeth feel like needles. I'll post some pictures of him because you will die from cuteness. I'm not kidding. The cuteness will turn you to stone if you look at it too long.

Bella and I had to drive some distance to get to the funeral and we had to drive very early in the morning and it was a very foggy morning. Naturally I got diarrhea. I am beginning to think that I have somehow acquired amoebic dysentary. I swear to God I have an intestinal parasite. I'm trying a gluten-free diet and everything but nothing is working. Maybe I just had terrible nerves. Maybe I have celiac disease, amoebas AND nerves, which would be just my luck, right? I'm beginning to pop the Immodium chewables like they're buttermints here lately.

We're driving in Bella's Mini-Cooper and I'm in a cold sweat, cursing this desolate stretch of state we're driving through that has nothing but fetid swamp land. I broke out into a cold sweat. I considered going to the bathroom on the side of the road.

"STOP SOMEWHERE!!!" I yelled at Bella.

"I don't know where you think you are, but there is NOWHERE to stop!!"

Finally we found a diner off an exit. The diner overlooked some more swampland. It was still very foggy. As we pulled off the highway (if you can even call it that, really) a guy with no helmet passed us on a motorcycle.

"He needs to be wearing a helmet," Bella said.

"Jeez I know, what's wrong with these people?" I replied.

I ran in to use the diner's bathroom. I heard a terrible noise, which I took to be the clanging of the short order cook's skillets. When I came out Bella was freaked out and everyone had rushed out of the diner, coffee cups in their hands to stand on the corner of the road in the fog looking at something. The guy on the motorcycle had been hit and the ambulance hadn't even arrived, but it was pretty obvious the ambulance wouldn't be doing much more than taking this guy to the morgue. It was a mess and they closed the road so we were stuck for about a half hour while they cleaned it up.

"We JUST saw him," we kept repeating to one another. It was the strangest thing, seeing someone, seconds before their death. And he was young. Unlike Pop he was healthy. He was going somewhere. He was perfectly fine. Then he was dead. Just like that. Dead. In situations like this I always wish I could have warned the person. I wish I knew and I could have rolled down the window and been like:

"Hey man, you're gonna die in less than two minutes. Don't make that turn."

Once I went to a dinner party. A man there had to leave early to pick up some work associates at the airport. Then he was to drive them a few hours north of here for a conference. On the way, after picking the men up, the man I had dinner with fell asleep at the wheel, ran off a bridge and died along with his three other coworkers. I shared this man's last meal with him and for years, still even, I am haunted by this. I wish I could have said:

"Maybe you should rest a little before you leave. Don't have the decaf. You'll need the regular."


"You're going to die tonight. Be careful driving because you're going to kill yourself and three other people tonight. This is your last meal. You better have dessert."

I wish I knew the dates of everyone's deaths so I could tell them in advance so that they could make the most of what they've got left. Pop, you're going to die in June, 2008. Take the trip to Vegas. Just do it. I wish I could have told my stepmother she would only live to be barely 50. I think this might have made her a better person. I also think I am wrong about that.

It is a cliche of the worst kind. We're all dying. But we're all alive.


Anonymous said...

Well it sounds like you have gained some perspective even if not much time has passed. Happy to see you're blogging again.

Anonymous said...

This post coincides eerily with the death of NBC's Tim Russert. Nobody saw that one coming. He was only 58, not sick or anything.

I wish I knew the date of my death so that I could make the most efficient use of the time I have left. When you don't know, it's difficult to pace yourself.

Wide Lawns said...

Tim Russert's death made me really sad too. Husband and I were/ are big Meet the Press fans and we liked his book about Big Russ too.

I would like to state here though so I have a written, dated record of this that I think Andrea Mitchell would be the best replacement for him on the show and that it's time we had a woman journalist in a prominent position like that. I think she'd be really good. I hope they pick her because then I can be all like "Look I predicted it back in my comments section."

staticwarp said...

dude, somtimes you just have to do it. but you cant dress it up like "i went to the bathroom on the side of the road" you have to be completely honest and just say you "shat down the embankment". i've totally done that. you struggle to find some dunkin donuts napkins in the glove box or on the floor and then you run for cover, find that there is none and just let fly, trying not to get it on your shoes or pants.

i am going through some severe intestinal difficulties also. it seems like no matter what i eat, i wind up with some sort of abhorrent constipation/diarrhea. i even tried that yogurt that is supposed to "aid digestion" and it just made it worse, to the point where i think i somehow shat more than i ate. is there any relief possible for the intestinally challenged? let us know if you find something that works.

Wide Lawns said...

Static please know that I love you. You made me laugh so loud Husband came to see what it was that made me laugh so much. He wants to know if you're British originally. I don't know why. Do you for real work at Arby's? Wow. I am in awe. They have the most varied fast food menu I have ever seen. I once, when I was 18, had a boyfriend who used to bring me Arby's roast beef sandwiches and leave them in my car, which looking back was probably a bad idea, but it never hurt me. Not short term anyway.

I will let you know if anything cures my abhorrent stomach issues. I tried the freakin yogurt too. I tried the probiotics. Made. It. Worse.

So now I'm all gluten free and we'll see how that works. So far, not at all but I've heard it can take a few weeks. And gluten is in god damned everything. Rootbeer for God's sakes. Why is wheat in rootbeer? I love rootbeer.

Green said...

Thank you for the lesson in memoir writing - I had not known. (<--- not being snarky)

That is quite possibly the worst funeral day ever. When my grandma died I never cried. Got a case of the giggles at the funeral, but I never cried.

There are a few Red Lobsters in S. FL - not to mention Olive Garden and Outback. (When I grow up I hope to become white trash.)

Anonymous said...

ok - the ending got me. It may be cliche but it's oohhh so true. My 36year old husband was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gherig's disease) about 10 months ago and it definitely puts life into perspective.

Pepper is adorable! I think he'll be pointy faced too - he has super stealthy eyes as well.

Regarding the gluten, my husband had intestional problems and was warned by his GI Dr. that if he stopped eating gluten he wouldn't be able to go back to eating it.....have you spoken with your Dr? I know how much you loooovvveee Dr's.

Anonymous said...

Something very similar happened to my husband and I last week while we were on vacation. We were driving back from Kennedy Space Center to St. Pete when we were passed by a little yellow sports car. We joked about the "drunk girl taxi" and went on our merry way. Not ten minutes later, traffic slowed to a crawl and we saw bits of the yellow car all over the road. It had hit the barrier in the breakdown lane and spun across the entire highway into the grass divider between the East and West lanes. We couldn't see the driver and have no idea what happened to him. The accident was so new there weren't even rescue vehicles there yet. We spent the next few miles talking about how we had just seen the car go by us.

Anonymous said...

I have the same exact stomach issues...white clammy sweaty..PAIN then greasy crap for 2 seconds and then you feel better..How does that work. 30 years ago the doctor said I'd out grow it. Now they say it's "diet"...I'm with you it does have to do with stress levels.

In other news..the man you had dinner with..the motorcyclist..That is tough. It's kind of like the "why am I alive thing".. If you didn't have to shit and didn't get off the road would you have been involved..?? Hmmm

RP said...

Dear unhappy stomach people, it's probably IBS. I have it, my mom has it, her mom has it, and so on. I highly recommend a visit to, since Heather's diet made my life so much less miserable.

The short form is that dairy and red meat are bad, soluble fiber and peppermint tea are good, and stress is really bad (but the hypnotherapy CDs help a lot with that). Having had a little stress-related nonsense yesterday, I'm having peppermint tea with sugar and a slice of bread right now. And if this sort of diet makes you feel better, you probably don't have to worry about the gluten-free thing (a lot rarer than run-of-the-mill IBS).

Anonymous said...

For the intestinally challenged I'll share my remedy (long time IBS sufferer). Please know every body is different and what worked for me might or might not work for you.

Purchase WHOLE flax seed at any health store. Get NORMAL yogurt. I like Dannon light & fit b/c it has no sugar or fat. Every morning put two table spoons of flax seed into your coffee grinder and mix it with your yogurt. For a remedy, the flax seed gives a nice nutty flavor to the yogurt so it is yummy.

Besides being great for your tummy, flax seed has a ton of other great benefits
Hope it helps

Anonymous said...

I hope that teaches you not to eat at Red Lobster anymore. If anyone can screw up a lobster it would be them.

JoeinVegas said...

Not sure if I should mention this, but we all are going to die some day. Please, take that trip to Vegas. And call me when you come so I can show you what a good lobster is like (yes, RL can screw it up, I mean, can you say rubber shrimp?)

Anonymous said...

I was 33 yrs old with a new baby when my husband was killed in a car wreck. 6 days after his death I started writing. It became my therapy - a place to leave the stuff that got too heavy to carry. Saved my life and my sanity - probably more so than I even realize.

It makes me sad that someone has advised you (and others) that a first rule of memoir writing is "don't write about what you're going through while you're going through it". The emotional journey - happiness, grief, anger - is as important as the resulting wisdom and understanding. It connects your readers, makes you and your life real and palpable.

Wide Lawns said...

Cat, I'm so sorry for what happened to you and I'm glad writing helped you. Writing definitely helps me all the time. I write all sorts of things that no one ever sees and writing is one of the greatest therapeutic tools that there is. However, there are a lot of different kinds of writing and I think the distinction I didn't make here was between professional, public writing or writing that one intends to publish and writing for one's private self, such as in a diary. I guess a blog is a diary, but mine isn't exactly to me because it is public and one of the many things I use it for is to generate material that can eventually evolve into more serious work. Not that a diary can't be serious work too.

So they teach us when creating writing that is intended as art and for public reading to make sure we have some distance on the events so that we have some perspective and so that we can see more of the whole story. No one ever told me not to write when I'm going through something, just not to write oh dammit. It's hard to explain. I feel like I'm talking in circles and I don't want to offend your writing at all, so before I accidentally say something idiotic I'll just stop.

And you know what? Someone could just as easily argue that Joan Didion wrote her latest memoir right smack in the middle of her grief and no one was telling her she didn't have the distance.

I think the rules are just general words of advice most of the time.

Anonymous said...

Hello Widelawns! I am so sorry for your loss, I know you are going through a hard time. I am thinking about you here in atlanta and my bella says to tell you "hello", or in other words, "woof, woof"- m

Vicki Woodyard said...

You are freakin' funny. Thanks for both the laughs AND the wisdom, for true humor is wise.

Anonymous said...

My mom passed away suddenly in 1991 (died in her sleep) at age 57. She wasn't sick. What was really strange was how I felt toward people who were still alive. I couldn't shake the feeling that it was so UNFAIR that they were alive and my mommy was gone. Specially old ladies with cigs dangling from their mouths. My mom didn't smoke or drink or really do anything unhealthy.

So sorry for your loss and glad to be reading your blog again!

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