Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A funeral with no casseroles

It's a Midwest thing, I guess...people always bring food to families who have lost someone...or maybe it's just generational and no one does that anymore. I don't know because this is the first family death I've had in a long time. Anyway, there were no casseroles. But there was plenty of "bad" food...

It was pretty stressy getting ready to go out of town. For some reason my work is incredibly busy right now...I just jump from crisis to emergency...which, of course, means that things that aren't initially emergencies BECOME emergencies due to lack of's a vicious cycle. I should be working on something "useful" like paying medical bills now on my lunch hour, but instead I am taking some time for me to blog...

We went to pick up Princess, Smiley and Cry Baby on Friday morning then headed to Nearby Town. After quickly checking in to our motel, we went to DB's parents' house where everyone was congregating. By the time we got there, four of the six kids were there along with assorted grandkids and great-grandkids. The Evil One (soon to have new nickname when I can think of one as he continued the warming trend started at the wedding a few weeks ago...and I did too) had rented umbrellas and big tables to have out on the patio (the house is up on a mountain overlooking the ocean...lovely really) and that was kind of the family room for the weekend -- we ate there, played there, drank there. It made things very nice because DB's mom was able to be inside and away from all the commotion of kids (a total of 14 kids under the age of 12!) when she wanted to be.

The mood was somber, but it was undeniable that everyone was glad to get the excuse to get together. There were 40-plus family members around for the weekend (20-plus stayed in the house -- we decided on a motel because 20 people and 3 showers sounded just a little much for us with the grandkids!). The grandkids soon bonded with their cousins (one of DB's nephews has 4 kids about the same age as DB's grandkids so it was perfect). Someone was out buying a kiddie pool when we arrived on Friday and all the kids had a ball playing in that every day. The yard of the house is huge so there was plenty of room for all the kids to play safely and it was really fun to see these kids be so secure and happy with always a grown-up to help or pay attention. Fun!

This big family thing is totally new to me. In my immediate family there was just my mom and dad and my sister. Now my dad is gone and we have my niece and nephew and brother-in-law, but it's still a really small family next to this one -- FORTY people?? That's just from two parents. Wow. And there were a few that weren't even there (although most made it). It's a strange and wonderful thing...I'm not sure I can put the feeling into words. You have this large group of people who have this bond of family. They don't see each other often, but they have great memories of when they do/did. And there is love. And support. And drama. And politics. And FUN. And love. I think that's the best I'm going to be able to do in describing what I felt this weekend with these people.

Although DB and I are not (and don't plan to be) formally married and I think that is hard for some of DB's family (and mine) to understand, DB's family is generally fantastic about accepting me into the tribe. There are only small moments where I feel like I don't belong. Those are a little jarring to me since this is completely my family in my heart, but I guess they are understandable and I guess people who marry their partners have that feeling sometimes too. I had a chance this weekend to really get to know DB's oldest sister more and that was extra-nice for me. Even though she's a conservative from Texas, I definitely felt a kinship with her vibe as a person. Maybe it's because she's a Gemini...I always like sister is one too! ;-)

And all the children? How joyful it was to watch them!! How joyful to watch the whole family interact! On Saturday night after dark when pretty much everyone had arrived, I took a few minutes to wander away from the ruckus and just looked at the stars and thought about Daddy-O. I thought about how the choice he made in his life to have this large family created the moments we were living right then. That he (and his wife, of course) created this amazing family -- that THIS is the result of their life's' work. With all the drama, all the pain, all the hardship of LIFE and LOVE, there is this FAMILY. And, if I were them, I would be insanely proud to call this my life's work.

Because of so many people (many of them kids), the food choices available were ones that were easily purchased and prepared in bulk -- lots of burgers and dogs on the BBQ. I made a point to make a big salad one night just to get away from the sandwich and chip diet and that salad disappeared! ;-) I did a big shop that day and tried to bring in SOME good healthy food. But when you're feeding up to 40 people, it's hard!

On Saturday afternoon, I was tasked with going to the garden center to pick up some yellowjacket traps (they were attacking us every time we ate) and I took Princess with me for the ride. We snuck off on the way home to do a shopping spree at Old Navy and boy did we have fun! It reminded me of past sprees with my niece, Muffin -- we took huge bags of stuff into the dressing room to try on and had a ball doing it. DB gave us permission to even stay a bit longer when I told him we were rushing...and we went back and did the round of the store again!! I spent a lot, but got a lot too...lots for Princess, a few things for Smiley and Cry Baby and me (I needed was HOT) and even one thing for DB (funky plaid cool shorts that all his nieces and nephews thought were really groovy!). I also found DB's uniform for the funeral (which we purchased the next day) -- Daddy-O had worn khaki pants and a light blue shirt most of the time the past 30 years (since he retired) and, since his sons didn't have suits, it was decided that all the "boys" would wear that "uniform". It was impressive at the funeral to see all the pallbearers in that outfit...and a nice tribute too.

On the way back to the house, Princess asked me "where is heaven?". I gave her the best answer I could: "everywhere".

Sunday there was a rosary at the funeral home. I had never been to one of these before and since it was the first "formal" event of the funeral weekend, it was pretty hard to keep a dry eye. They had the casket open during the day and DB and The Cool One (his other brother) and I were not too wild about seeing that for the rosary. Two of DB's sisters came to me during the day to express their concern that this would bother DB and to say that he should tell them to shut the casket if he wanted them to. This was very sweet. While DB was bothered, he was less bothered than it was important for the others to be able to see the body. I appreciate how DB's sisters love him so much. And, ultimately, someone (not DB) had the casket closed for the rosary. :-)

Sunday, PD1 and her partner (Daddy) showed up in the afternoon and the grandkids were very happy to see them (me too -- and not just because three kids are tiring!). DB's family all came -- PD2 and her family came on Monday morning just in time for the funeral -- she's been having trouble getting her youngest (Baby) to sleep through the night and didn't want to cope with having to deal with that in the hotel. (After the agony of getting Smiley to sleep in her bed -- she's fine sleeping in your arms -- on Friday and Saturday nights, I sympathize, but more on that another day. I need to write all about her and our adventures with allergies at some point, but progress is being made.)

Monday was the funeral at 10 am. PD1, The Cool One, PD1's kids and DB and I went to breakfast at Sambo's (the original one is in Nearby Town), then to the church. It was a beautiful church, very near their home and the church that the kids grew up in (DB and at least some of his siblings went to grade school at the attached school). We milled around for a while while the people participating practiced and got instructions. The funeral itself was really nice -- much less stuffy and formal than I expected for a traditional Catholic church -- each of the kids had something to do (DB and three siblings did readings) and the grandkids and great-grandkids took offerings of things that meant something to Daddy-O up during the offertory. I cried, of course...I cried when I saw DB crying as he walked down the aisle with the other pallbearers, I cried when I saw the PDs crying, I cried when I realized how sorry I was that I never got to know this man who was remarkable and imperfect like all of us. Most of all, I cried when Princess started to cry while walking with me down the aisle after the ceremony -- all her confused emotions bubbled up and she cried. I held her and was glad her mom was there to take over -- what to say to this 8-year-old to make her understand? Oh there are days when I'm glad I'm not a mom...

And speaking of that, I said a very harsh thing to PD1 on Monday afternoon at one point. I meant it and I'm not sure that it was ultimately the wrong thing to say because maybe she needed to hear it or I needed to say it, but I am oh-so-sorry that I said it. I had to take a walk afterwards and cry because I felt so bad. DB came and found me and validated that it was ok that I said it and I apologized profusely to PD1 and PD1 said we are good and she loves me, but I must admit it still weighs on me. It is a fine line I walk with the PDs sometimes...I absolutely love them with all my heart, but I am not their parent (even though I'm their parent's partner) and I totally respect that. I am ultra-careful not to cross that line from friend to preachy parent-like person. They had a horrible stepmother for several years into their teens who told them just how wrong and horrible they were all the time. Because of this, while I consider them dear friends and family, I am very careful not to say anything in a negative way with them...they are still fragile (or at least I think so) from that horrible stepmother. Anyway...I may be way more upset about this than PD1...and even if it was an ok thing to say, it was a bad time to say it...the day of her granddad's funeral. I will always regret that. :-(

Whew...I'm out of lunch hour and there is so much I didn't manage to write...I may add more later or may just let this stand as the record of a remarkable weekend. There are things I learned and things I realized this weekend that will have repercussions in my life to come...I think that is all good.

So, goodbye, Daddy-O and are in our hearts here in heaven.


Vickie said...

your heart sounds so full it is overflowing.

loved the uniform for the pallbearers.

loved the big family stuff and the catholic stuff. mass is very interactive - up, down, around - the ritual of the words and the motions.

how is DB's mom doing?

Vickie said...


L.G. said...

What a weekend. It sounds very intense but in a good way, both the good, the upsetting things and the in -between. You sound like you handled things really well and took care of yourself and DB. I know he appreciated you being there as well as his daughters and grandchildren. It's really special in a strange way to be at a funeral of that size so that you can appreciate the family circle and learn more about DB and his family.

I'm glad you're back.