Thanks everybody, for the calls, comments and text messages. I’m sorry if I didn’t reply. The weekend was long and tiring but much of it was actually enjoyable, insofar as a funeral can be enjoyable. We buried Grampa Bob in a warmup suit, because that’s all he ever wore these last 30 years. The service was non-traditional, featuring the songs “Opus One” by the Mills Brothers, “I’ll Be Seeing You” by Jimmy Durante and “Goodbye” by Julie London. We also had a bagpipe player before and after the service.
The weekend also represented probably the longest span of time I’ve spent with my relatives. Usually we’re in and out in a day during the holidays, but this kept all of us together for a good 2-3 days. Grampa Bob had six kids, and they are all fairly spectacular. None of them have, as far as I am aware, ever been involved in organized crime, chemical dependency, domestic abuse, pornography or politics. We have our dysfunctions, to be sure, but nothing that would sustain more than a couple of Lifetime Television movies or ABC Afterschool Specials.
Dad, uncle Barry, cousin David and I all dug through the sizeable record collection at various points; I made off with a few dozen – mostly Django Reinhardt, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, etc. I also took a picture of my parents one year after their marriage and some century-old books: a well-worn collection of Robert Burns poems and a copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
I had a lot of time to stare at the house; it’s the only house in my family to have seen my entire lifespan. It has also never had any kind of interior remodeling, so it remains frozen in all its avocado-colored, mid-60′s glory. The phone in the kitchen is a rotary with a long curly cord. The TVs live inside large wooden frames. The next time I make it up to Harrison, the house will probably be empty or sold.
For this funeral I was allowed some emotional distance, as I’ve never been very close to Grampa Bob. He was a prickly but lovable curmudgeon, but my grandmother Virginia (mom’s mom) is someone to whom I am much closer. She’s been fighting cancer for about a year now, and I imagine I will be repeating this whole process again at some point in the coming months. Maybe it will help me prepare.
1.) My father did run for office once in the late 70′s for his position as circuit judge but hey, back then everybody was experimenting. It was the 70′s.