Monday, June 2, 2008

Irritation or violation?

Warning: more obscenities than usual. This time it's all my bad. But I feel better now for having put them out there.

My sisters and I headed back down to Maryland at the end of last week, to help my dad plan my mother's memorial service. She absolutely did not want a wake or a funeral, and instead requested (in her death wishes, which she spoke of often, and which I found also on her computer) a party a few months down the line to celebrate her life. Frankly, I find the whole thing hard, plain and simple. We are supposed to feel bad when someone dies, and we are supposed to gather with loved ones, as we say goodbye to the departed, right after they die. I think my experience with the loss of our daughter, Catherine, has taught me a bit about grieving, and while I know there's no right or wrong way, I do think it's best to face our pain, head on, directly, and now. To plan a party instead is difficult. But we will honor my mother by fulfilling her wishes; maybe she wanted one last hurrah. Maybe she thought with far-flung family and friends, picking a date a few months down the line was just more sensible than expecting everyone to drop everything and come the week of her death. Sigh. I don't know. I am inclined to believe that the turn-out for the summer party will not be as good as the turn-out for a proper wake and funeral would have been, and frankly, if people don't come, I'll be pissed.

Mom's brother, Jim, and his wife, Vicki, flew in from Kansas this past week, to see us over the weekend, down in Maryland, and so we went to work, planning the party, and talked about what has been going on since my mother's unexpected death.

So here's what went on with me, just before I headed out to Maryland:
Glen loaded up the car the night before with everything except the food and my camera gear, so on Thursday, before heading out, I went to the garage to bring the car around. In the process, I was nailed by D, our most insane neighbor. There is no way to politely excuse oneself from D's clutches, once snagged. I wasn't running late, but was anxious to get going. As I closed the garage door, she came over and said, "How is Lacey?"

I am normally level-headed. It takes a lot to irritate me. I don't want to downplay the death of my dog, because she was a special dog, a friend for 15 years, and there are times I still turn, expecting to see her; times when I return home from an errand, and I put the key in the door, and yearn for her happy whining and wagging tail on the other side. Fifteen years of habit are hard to forget. What pissed me off is that Glen wasted 40 minutes with D last weekend, more or less because of the same "How's Lacey" question, and I happen to know that he told her: Lacey died in October. He also happened to mention that my mother had died a few days previously, and at that time, at least, she sent her condolences.

So, there I was, faced with one of the most irritating people in my neighborhood, one, apparently, with an inappropriately failing memory, on top of all of her other awful flaws; and I was tired, and I needed to drive close to three and a half hours, and I just didn't want to deal with the "How's Lacey" question at that particular moment. I said, "Lacey's dead. She died in October, and Glen mentioned that he told you this on Sunday." I was perhaps a bit edgy, but I'm sure D didn't notice or care.

"Yes, he told me. He mentioned your mother died too."

In an attempt to gain control of the conversation, I said, "Yes, she did, about a week ago, with no warning, and I'm headed out right now to Maryland to see my dad."

"How old was she?"

"63," I said, trying to get back into the car, to pull it closer to my door; in that time, R, the other insane neighbor (the one I'd hose down accidentally/on purpose just to watch him melt down, in a more perfect world) pulled up, alongside my door, taking the last parking spot near my house, which would require me to walk further with bags of groceries and 60 pounds of camera gear. Ass.

"My mother was 62 when she died," D said, "and so was my dad. But there was a five year age difference between them, so at least we had some space between their deaths." What happened next was an onslaught of idiocy, and I resent the fact that D's life details are now taking up precious room in my brain, when that space could be better used for ANYTHING else. I hope by writing about this, I can purge it from my brain, but I'm not going to count on it, so thank you in advance, if you make it this far. Her people came from very South Jersey and settled in Monmouth County -- somehow she managed to retain a nugget of information about my life: I grew up in Monmouth County, too, though my people (specifically my mother and father) came from North Jersey. D went to work in Hightstown and unfortunately, couldn't stay in Spring Lake. She too, would like to move to Maryland, where the property is cheaper, especially by New Jersey standards, but couldn't do it to her kids, who are all here, in New Jersey. "After all, look at you, making the long drive to Maryland to see a parent who worked so hard for retirement and shouldn't be in Maryland in the first place, and is now stuck there," she said. Me, who needed to load a bunch of stuff into the car, and had further to lug it all, thanks to R; me, who had to talk to an idiot about death, too fresh, and too frequent in my life, it would seem. She then proceeded to go on about Gizmo and Junior and Bling Bling and a bunch of other stupidly-named animals she has packed into her filthy home (and breeds illegally, and occasionally steps on and kills while they're nursing) who are all still alive (except for the squashed ones), unlike Lacey, well past 15.

"I gotta go, now," I said, and got in the car, and pulled it all of 14 feet away, and across the street from my door, thanks to R, the other village idiot. As I went back into the side entrance of my house, I saw the mailman leave the front porch. Inside, near my mail slot, there was a goodly-sized stack of sympathy cards, which pleased me; knowing that people care is helpful right now, plus, I think it means a lot to my dad to know how many people my mom has touched -- directly or indirectly.

Included in the pile of cards was a mysterious letter from Tonnette Kosloff of Asbury Park, personally addressed to both me and Glen. I didn't know who she was, and suspected Glen didn't either, since he is Canadian, and to my knowledge, knows fewer people in Asbury than I do (and I know no one). I opened Tonnette's message first, and regretted it, instantly. I've never received anything like this before, but knew instantly what it was: pardon my language, but it was a load of shit from a stupid, meddling fuckwit Jehovah Witness, who must have seen my mother's obituary in the Asbury Park Press; in my mother's obit in the Asbury Park Press, it mentioned that Maggie was predeceased by her granddaughter, Catherine. My daughter. Of Trenton, NJ. Tonnette, ever ambitious, must have backtracked and found Catherine's obit, which ran in the same paper, last year -- my family ran both Mom's and Catherine's obit in that paper since much of my family is still in Monmouth County, and it's where we spent much of my time. Tonnette was concerned because Catherine did not technically take a breath outside the "wound" (yep, she used the term "wound," instead of womb), and was saddened -- I think -- to inform us that since Catherine never lived as a distinct individual, separate from me, will not be resurrected. And her soul will not be reinserted into another developing fetus, either.

What a mix of emotions. I was borderline enraged anyway, since one idiot neighbor brought up my poor dead dog, and my poor dead mother just moments before, and now, another complete fool brought up the death of my daughter. I'm not religious, but won't try to make a firm statement about what happens after we die, because I don't know. But now, more than ever, I hate the idea of nothingness. I hope there's something, and I hope my mother and my daughter -- and even my dog, whom my mother loved, and surely my daughter would have, too -- are all together, peaceful, looking out for those of us left. But I can't say that I firmly believe that, only that I hope for it. Whether we use the term soul, or what-have-you, I know that Catherine's was unique. No, she didn't have the chance to breathe outside my body, but she was distinct. She was complete. She was perfect, and she died as a result of an accident. I cannot presume to know the mind of God, if there is a God, and since I think I'm mostly just a regular person, I cannot understand how another person on this earth would ever DARE to speak for God. But at the same time, I suppose there can be some small comfort in knowing that Catherine's spirit will be rejected by the Jehovahs.

So. I picked up Jenny, and we headed south, and a few hours later, arrived in Hebron, Maryland; aka Chicken Shit, Maryland in this blog, and believe me, the chicken shit is ripe right about now. My father showed us the pile of sympathy cards and emails he's received in the week or so we haven't seen him. Impressive, and healing, and sad, all at the same time. Within it was a letter from one of Tonnette's cohorts, based on the return address (Wall, NJ). And the letter was similar, except the writer was concerned with the soul of my mother. Like my letter, my father was also invited to join the cult of Jehovah, and received some crap about the Watchtower, and a pamphlet about "what hope for dead loved ones?" In all of the printed matter, there were pictures of smiling, empty-headed automatons. A better argument to stay away from the Jehovahs does not exist.

With death, there is some anger. Some of it is unfocused, and some of it might be directed at something, compared to the whole, reasonably small. And anger is a necessary emotion to process a death. The family, including the extended members in attendance over the weekend, were enraged over the Jehovah's correspondence to me and my father, and intellectually, we were befuddled: why the fuck would we join a cult, especially one where members went out of their way to let us know my baby was screwed in their convoluted version of the afterlife? Why Tonnette? Why prey on the grieving? How will your efforts help your stupid, stupid, cause? How will your efforts help those you are supposedly trying to comfort?

I am human, gloriously human, and because of that, I'm imperfect, and while I think I'm pretty good most of the time, and tolerant of different mindsets, I know, too, I will fuck up from time to time. I might even say some rotten things. Now is not one of those times: I might have to send something — maybe Steve poop? — to Tonnette. Regardless, I hope for the day that the Jehovahs will decide that it's time to move on to the next dimension, and they all drink some Kool-Aid, or will buy some purple Nikes and wait for a close-traveling comet to spirit them off to their precious afterlife.


Irving Bertrand Clean said...

Yikes... Y'know, if you search all of the Inter Nets, you might find solid medical evidence that it's OK for a pregnant woman to get shit-faced once in a while.

Brendage said...

Religo's! The number one reason I keep a suck full of dung handy! WHUH!

Bill Hawley said...

I always thought the Jehovah's Witnesses were less intrusive than that. I remember seeing them hanging out in the Trenton train station holding their Watchtowers like they wanted you to ask what amazing information they had to share but had no intention of ever bugging you to convert. (I also see three women who are carrying Watchtowers that are usually rolled up almost every day on my walk to the subway. Maybe they consider themselves to be off duty while walking to, I assume, their jobs in Park Slope.)

When I read about the horrible cruelty and ignorance they foisted on you and your father in those letters, I was reminded once again how religiousness should never be equated with moral correctness. More often than not, religion (as its practiced in America in the oughts) programs us to believe all kinds of horrible things about how to treat our fellow humans.