When I came to the house, my father squeezed me in a loving sort of headlock, patted my head, and said, "You big, dumb, brave kid..." That was the HIGHEST complement I had ever gotten from him, so I knew that he knew it was no lie, and I was safe for now. Then we sat in the living room and chatted about what to do next. Oh, and he still thought my glasses were fake, and forced me to take them off. So I had to wander around in a blur through all of this.
The next day, we went to the funeral parlour. My father's crass disconnection was shocking the funeral director. He kept looking to me, and I kept shrugging and giving apologetic glances. It didn't seem real, but my father's anger was the only constant that never changed. My father wanted the cheapest, non-secular funeral possible. Not a hint of religion was allowed! Furthermore, he kept arguing price. He wanted my mother cremated as soon as possible. He didn't want to pay for a casket "that would just end up burnt up." Then he balked at the price of urns. One phrase that got the funeral director's ire was when my father asked, "Well, what do you do if the people have no money? I know you don't let homeless people just rot where they are found." My father did get a casket "reserved for the homeless" (to the director's disgust) and the cheapest $120 urn, which was a bland plastic white box "also used for pet cremation remains," according to the director (who was hinting strongly, as you can see). All this time he spoke to me about the funeral director in the third person, right in front of him, like, "These goddamn people have a monopoly, and they rely on people's grief to get the best deal for them. They make a killing off of other's miseries." He then said he wanted this over and done with as soon as possible. By the time it was over, I am sure the director thought my mother had been murdered.
Later, we were eating at a Chesapeake Bay seafood house, where he ranted about funeral monopolies, hypocrisy, how people never care about you and you're on your own, and you have to look out for yourself. I recall he said this phrase, "Like for instance, I am the only one who cares about you, and I don't even like you." Great. Then he said that he was going to try and get the rating from "suicide" to "stroke," because, one tends to get a stroke when one takes sixty tranqs, right? He also told me not to tell ANYONE, or I'd be in big, big trouble. I didn't think he could do it, but by gum, he did. I have the death certificate to prove it, although I hope no one goes into the police records for that year. Oh, and the neighbors. Now that I am older, I am almost SURE he did this for insurance reasons. And you know what? For two years, I let him. I felt guilt about her suicide, and told no one until I woke up one day and thought, no. No, what do I care if people know the truth? Goddammit, I have spent the last few years doing what he asked me, and the guy doesn't ever give me the time of day! I don't owe him anything! And I felt bad, living a lie. Secrets have a way of eating you up, and I wasn't going to let this simmer. The only thing my father ever mentioned about the suicide is when he said, "when I got rid of the old bed, I found the bottle that killed her."
Oh, and he said, "People will be sending money. You are not supposed to accept it, so I am taking all the money and donating it to..." he looked at the place mat. "The Chesapeake Bay Preservation Fund," he said, reading it. "She always loved the water and the yachts. I am going to scatter her ashes across the Chesapeake, where the little crabs can eat her remains." God, I shudder when I think of those "little crabs." Jesus, he was callous.
The funeral was on a Thursday. I stayed at my old house overnight (without telling the police, who I am sure would have objected), and listed to my father memorize a three-page speech he prepared for it. He said it over and over again. For hours, he practicing like he was going to go before Congress. It was so FORMAL, like not funeral formal, but corporate Annual Stock Report formal. I had an index cards with five lines of stories I wanted to tell about her.
Relatives came in. My cousin Claude brought my maternal grandmother from Michigan, and Uncle Charles, Aunt Angela, and their son David flew in. My father was so awake and happy, it was creeping everyone out. I have pictures of my father laughing and smiling at the dinner after the funeral, and asking the relatives to do the same. Here's one, where you can see us all smiling thought our teeth like, "What the hell is this crap?"
TONS of people showed up. They liked my speech. They didn't care for my father's, even though his was shorter, and when he said how much my mother loved the yacht and to give to the Chesapeake Bay preservation Fund, I later heard everyone immediately gave their money to the American Heart Association (because she had a stroke, right? Everybody nod their head yes...). My father got angry when my grandmother's church sent flowers because I think it had some religious theme to it, and so he wouldn't allow it, which got my grandmother upset. We didn't have body for viewing, just the small white box that was smaller than a cement brick. It looked like a shoe box, dwarfed by the huge amount of flowers. Then it was over.
By Friday, my mother was erased.
Time sped back up. Shortly thereafter, I was sent to a mental hospital because my school thought I'd be suicidal (they had had three suicides in the last four years, and were not taking any more chances), but I was released a month and a half later when it was determined that my mother's death was a "normal reason for depression" and I was "not a threat to myself." Asshats. Because I had to "play sane," (a great feat of acting on my part, I doubt I could pull that off now), I never really got to mourn her death, and so I know it's all bottled up, deep inside. I never told anyone about my heart condition for years, just thinking I'd up and die and no one would care, and that's life. Truthfully, I didn't want to face it, although I had to tell Christine when we got engaged that her husband may be a short-term thing. I think I hoped it would just go away. Then my heart severely improved when I was on my own, and when I later had it checked out, I do have a bad heart (I will probably need a pacemaker one day), was told the previous diagnosis was VERY overstated (but an easy mistake to make), and it's not anything anyone can really operate on without making it more of a risk that just living with it. Part of me wants to believe it was just the stress, but then I feel bad if my mother's "pushing decision" was based on doctor error. My son had the same heart condition (it's genetic), but they removed the bump right after he was born (I think it was called something like "Tetralogy of Fallot via ventricular hypertrophy").
That's a story I have had brewing in me for a long time to actually write and organize, and I am glad to let it out. My mother's death was tragic and unfortunate, although because she died, a series of events occurred that pushed me in the right direction. If she had lived, I think I would have gone to college (and dropped out), never gone to Balticon, and never met my wife, or had a son. Also, her deterioration condition would have been very stressful on me, not to mention my father's negative influence on me. Her death made him let me go, and so while I have no parents now, I won't have to take care of them when they get older. My heart got better, so no operation was done that might have killed me. Maybe I am bitter that I never left the nest so much as I was dumped out of it as it fell apart from neglect, but I learned to fly, with the help of friends, and I am a much better person now than I was then.
Thanks for your time.
This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000279.html