My family… and funerals.

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Today was strange.  Truthfully, I don’t have a lot of experience with funerals.  My daughter insisted on going, and although I had my misgivings, in the end, I was happy she’d come along.  I love that she and I are buddies.  I keep waiting for the terrible teen to show up, but so far (knock on wood!) it really hasn’t hit all that much.  She’s a good kid.  And it was her and I who stood with and for our side of the family today.  We were there to support Dad and my step mom and brother and sister.  But a funny thing happened…

In the end… big picture… we stood as one family together.  It’s the first time that has happened on my dad’s side of the family since I was a teenager.  I hadn’t seen my uncles or aunts or cousins since.  That side of the family has always had it’s issues.  They could never figure out how to just come together.  I was surprised so many of my younger cousins remembered me.  I really didn’t think they would.  Us “kids”, today, we all said enough was enough.  We’re going to get together and screw the old folks, if that’s what it takes.  The idea of it makes me very happy.

I am still processing all of what happened today.  So I apologize if this post comes out in spurts. When I write – I just let my thoughts just come out and then I hit post before I chicken out.  Very rarely will I edit my thoughts, so sometimes, my punctuation and flow might be a little bit raw.

I had a range of emotions when I saw my aunt and her daughters today, and truthfully, I’d done my best to prepare for it.  My aunt is/was addicted to plastic surgery.  And at least one of her daughters seems to be following suit.  I had to remind my daughter not to stare impolitely.  My aunt used to be so very beautiful.  Super model-like.  I cannot quite fathom how bad a person’s self image must be to get to where she is.  So frail and oddly proportioned in places that weren’t quite natural.  She’s not old by any means, I’d wager, she’s in her her early 50’s.  But she looked aged in a different way.  It made me feel incredibly sad for her.  I know nothing of her life, so I cannot judge or begin to understand.  But it still made me feel very sad.

She didn’t know it, but her and I have a common bond.  Grandpa wasn’t happy with either of us.  Her, for her problems with her addiction, and me, because of Ben and a few misunderstandings.

I always felt a bit strange around that side of the family.  I can remember as a kid, feeling both a part of them… and yet.. an outsider looking in.  There was a song by Mariah Carey called Looking In.  As a younger teen, I related to it in how I feel about that family.  I can remember never quite feeling like I mattered with them.  It hurt as a kid, and as an adult, for the most part, I’ve worked my way through it.  Until today, when they listed Grandpa’s grandchildren and forgot me.  Dad had to jump in and say something.  And while I’m grateful and happy that he did… it still stung an old wound I’d forgotten that I’d had.

I learned some things about Grandpa today that I never knew.  He helped build the space needle.  He and Grandma did some interesting entrepreneurial things together (owned a snack bar, a restaurant and something else but I’m not remembering it).  He was 83.  And he had MANY girlfriends.  It was quite funny.  The first girlfriend he ever had was there, along with a few others.  Many had become family to all of us.  🙂

At one point, they invited people to speak.  I don’t know what came over me, but I spoke.  I said how Grandpa was always the one who prized courage.  You might not feel it, but just take a step.  Then take another.  That doing that.. the courage would come.  You might start off in the wrong direction, but you have to start… then you can course correct.  I also said how Grandpa was always there for us.  It didn’t matter if a year had gone by, we could always just call him or come to him.  He’d listen.

Then later, everyone was reminiscing about the last things they told him.  Here, I stayed quiet.  I didn’t need to share my last words.  I felt shame.  I cried.  And it’s ok.

My daughter and I ended up wandering the cemetery a little bit.  We found my great grandmother and great grandfather on my dad’s side.  We put a rock on each one and cleared some of the moss that was growing.  I didn’t know they were there.  We promised each other that at some point, we’ll come back and leave everyone a flower.

It was strange to see my Dad cry.  I don’t think I’ve seen it before.  Maybe during Ben – but truthfully, I don’t recall.  It hurt to see him hurt.  He and I hugged often today.  I tried to give him whatever courage and strength that I could.  He commented on how today was the worst day ever… that he’s sad that he won’t be able to talk to his Dad anymore.  I reminded him that he can still talk to his Dad anytime he wants to.  As I do with Ben.

Grandpa was jewish, as were his adopted parents.  The ceremony was really quite interesting.  Of course, because I don’t speak hebrew, understanding all of it was a bit of a challenge.  We all helped to shovel dirt on top of his casket.  The sound of the first couple shovels was oddly an uncomfortable sound.

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