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Friday, April 22, 2005

The Funeral Diaries, Part 1

So in case you were wondering where I've been for the past eight days, and why I haven't written anything in this allegedly-daily-updated textual trainwreck, here's the answer.

I was in Ohio for the death of my Grandmother.

I was planning on writing a little more about it than that, but if you've been through it you know, and if you haven't I'm not a good enough writer to really talk about it. But I do have a few things I want to get off my chest about it.

1) My grandmother was talking on Tuesday about buying a treadmill. This was literally three days before she died of respiratory failure.

2) Mom and I visited her in the hospital. She was unconscious and immobilized with synthetic curare. That's how bad it was, that they were filling her with a poison to keep her alive. She looked like people in comics do when they've had their life-force sucked out of them by the Black Racer or Morbius. It's weird seeing that kind of image off the page. So weird that you don't even realize what a bastard you are for thinking the comparison to the Living Vampire until hours later.

3) The ICU she was in had that smell that you get in hospitals: Antiseptic trying hard to cover up the smell of death. But strangely, there was also a faint smell like strawberry candy. When I went to visit my grandfather in the nursing home he had to stay in because the woman who had been taking care of him for my entire lifetime wasn't able to breath without a plastic tube inserted into her lungs, I noticed that that place had an odor like a bowling alley. I don't know what that means, but both smells were so jarring in their contexts that I wrote them down on the notebook I took on the trip with me.

Now, that said, there are two things you can do in a situation like that. You can cry, or you can laugh. I opt for the latter. Gallows humor is how I deal with things like this, and before you (and I'm talking to Shaka here) start to hate me for writing jokes about the funeral of someone so close to me, I remind you that my own sainted mother told a joke on the steps leading up to my father's funeral. It's not my fault I'm this way.

When Ruby died, with my mother holding her hand through her last breath, I was sitting in the waiting room with my sister. I've mentioned her before on the ISB, and I'm sure I will again, but all you need to know right now is that we don't get along. It literally takes a family tragedy for us to stop bickering at each other. So I find it strange that after I did my best to comfort my mother--who had just watched hers die with her own eyes, something I won't even let myself think about doing--Sarah and I went out to get something to eat together.

We ended up going to Gold Star, and I thought it would be appropriate if we told stories about how we rememberd our grandmother. Unfortunately, all we had were the ones we laugh about, like the time we were at the beach and I went to get off an elevator, and she grabbed my collar and yanked me backwards, hissing "Ladies first! like a demonic Miss Manners.

Or the time--also at the beach--when Sarah and I were swimming in a light drizzle, and Ruby came walking out, goose-stepping like a Nazi officer with her hands in her pockets and a shower-cap on her head.

We laughed for a while about it, and then as I took a bite of my cheese coney, Sarah said, "Wow. You can really tell our grandmother just died."

It was a pretty sobering thought, and we sat in silence for a second. A silence that lasted right up until MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This" came on the radio in the restaurant. As if that wasn't surreal enough, it is impossible to grieve while listening to that song.

"Stop! Hammer time!" is enough on its own to send any sane person into paroxysms of laughter, and when combined with the image of a grown man wearing those pants (you know... those pants) it makes the entire evening seem like a fever dream that was just all over the place.

Which is pretty much how the whole trip went.

Next: The funeral, and the aftermath.

4 Comments:

Blogger autryman said...

Man I was glad to see you back yesterday, and was even happier to see your blog up and running when I woke up this afternoon. Sorry for your loss.

4/23/2005 12:26 PM

 
Blogger Mark Hale said...

I don't know what to say. "Sorry" enver seems right to me. But yeah, you gotta laugh. All you can do is laugh and think about how much you love her, and be there for your mom and grandfather.

There are few people as important to me as my grandmother and I dread losing her more than just about anything.

Don't feel bad about the Morbius thing. That's just how geeks like us filter the universe. It's practically unavoidable.

4/23/2005 2:09 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

welcome back, chris. you were missed, bro. glad to know you can still smile and crack wise.

rob

4/23/2005 2:45 PM

 
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