Thursday, September 17, 2009

Funereal Post (that's a strange word, isn't it?)

My uncle's funeral was today. He was buried beside my Grandma and Grandpa in the village where I grew up (and which seems not to have changed in all these years). It was an interesting day.

About a dozen years ago, my dad's little brother did something that a couple of his siblings felt was unforgivable. When I heard about it, I think I felt closer to my father than I had in years, because his part of it so reminded me of me.

Jeez, it's weird to be writing something so personal in what is essentially a public forum. Maybe I shouldn't write this here, in case there's a Sony lawyer looking for a chance to make me lose another job. But hey, just because there are strangers (indifferent, or the snide, blood-sucking kind) who COULD read my blog doesn't mean that they are.

I'm just going to go ahead and type this anyway, because if it were a celebrity instead of an uncle, I would've written my thoughts and feelings (and also because I have never once gone back and read one of the entries in my private journal, so it may as well not exist).

I was a pallbearer, and I know I was out of place because I had no real connection to my uncle except for some small shared blood. So, it's kind of the opposite of when my best friend didn't choose me for Best Man at his wedding, isn't it?

Bottom line: the man had screwed up in many ways, and he was despised for it for a long long time. But none of that mattered on September 17th, 2009, when his funeral was held and he was buried. During the service, most of the attention was placed where it belonged, on his seven year old son, who stood by the casket with a combination of stoicism and bewilderment that would have emotionally bowled me over, were I not feeling so gosh-darned sour right now.

There was a picture on my grandma's kitchen wall all during my childhood of my uncle with a frog and a pollywog (what my family called tadpoles before I decided I'd start pretending I was something I wasn't), and that is, essentially, how I will always remember the man. That photo was there on the table with a bunch of other mementos, and I remarked it to my cousin, who I haven't said a word to in twenty years or more.

And during the tributes/speeches/eulogy/talks, everybody focused on the positive, the brightest memories, the happiest times. My dad talked about his little brother as though he was still a child, how much their mom and dad loved him and how great he was at high school sports. How much he loved the outdoors, how great a golfer he was, how much tougher he was than everyone else, how talented he was at killing deer and elk and fish and touchdown passes.

That's human nature, I guess, to sanctify the dead, overlooking their flaws, and shining light at their noblest moments, their most extraordinary traits. Maybe everybody does it, and that's why Michael Jackson sold more albums in 2009 than he did in the last dozen years.

But I'm going to choose to respect my old man a little more because of it, if that's alright.

And it made me wonder what will be said at my funeral, if anybody bothers to show up. Hopefully people will forget that I have been unhappy for pretty much as long as I can remember, and that I was never one to smile on the fortune of others. My dad will forget he used to refer to me as "you no-good brother," and my mom will casually forget that she gave birth to the laziest person for miles around (even at a recreational wheelchair expo).

I hope they remember that I was good for a laugh, from time to time, and that I loved my niece and nephew, and that I wrote a really good story once and spent the next twenty years writing it again. Perhaps my love for Eighties pop songs, comic books, Pepsi-Cola, frogs, scary stories, and the word "chalupa" will suddenly seem endearing, even if me crying during an episode of "Punky Brewster" shall never be. Oh, and somebody better mention my Sean Connery impersonation. I'm not kidding.

My uncle wasn't a great man, but people loved him, and in the end, that seemed to be--not all that mattered, but mostly--what mattered.

I've been around for a while. You woulda thought I'd have learned that by now.

Rish "Doogie" Outfield

No comments: