Saturday, March 25, 2006
1. Though I asserted that people in my family don't go to rehab, they go to jail, I should have clarified and said that we don't go to rehab unless we've found someone we can con into paying for it--tax payers or church goers. My cousin, G., was in court-appointed rehab for his decades-long coke problem, when my grandma died. He was there ostensibly to get clean, but really, he was there because he owed his drug dealer a couple of thousand dollars and he was hiding from him. Unfortunately for G., my grandma was a prominent citizen in her famous small Midwestern city, and when she died, it was in the paper, where G.'s drug dealer saw it. He and his associates hung out in the parking lot of the wake in order to discuss my cousin with my uncle and they, like many of us who had little idea one could leave court-appointed rehab to go to the funeral of your grandma, were surprised to see G. strolling into the funeral home. They cornered him in the vestibule, had a little meeting with him, came to some kind of understanding, and the next thing I know, he's going around to all my younger cousins, begging them for money, saying he's going to be killed--knowing that they would both not have the guts to say "Well, then, tough shit for you" or "Someone's trying to kill you? Let's call the police." The attempted change-based appeasement of the drug dealer did not go over that well, but G. escaped back to rehab before they could exact their revenge. 2. It just so happened that the same week my grandma died one of the people my dad and uncles and aunts had gone to school with died. Now, here's what you must know to understand the funny. My Aunt C. is crazy, has been for as long as I've known her. Crazy to the point where you wonder just what the fuck my parents were thinking when they let me spend the night there when I was little. She steals things and never pays her bills and the second my uncle died, she took up with some ancient guy down the street whose kids are still begging my other uncle B. to help them ensure she doesn't con their dad out of his money. Anyway, after my grandma's wake, my Aunt C. waited for almost everyone to leave and went around and took all the little cards out of the flower arrangements, replaced them with cards appropriate to the dead friend, and packed up all the flowers--none of which she'd actually paid for, mind you; these are all flowers poor unknowing souls thought they were buying in commemoration of my grandma's life--and took them to the dead friend's wake, thus giving the dead friend's family the false impression that my aunt was generously supplying them with heaps of flowers. 3. So, it's no wonder that C.'s daughter and her husband were acting strange throughout the funeral festivities. The weirdest? They were carrying around a cooler with them, every place, even into the church. Finally, at my uncle B.'s house, the husband went to the bathroom and the wife went to get in on the divvying up of grandma's shit, and my cousin A. and I, who had been sitting in the kitchen talking smack about everyone, saw our opportunity. A. ran over and opened the cooler and there, inside, was an almost empty liter of Wild Turkey*. We both laughed so hard we nearly peed ourselves. I mean, as a people go, we spend a lot of time strutting around like sanctimonious jackasses who have the whole world figured out. It was nice to see that some of us have as much trouble as others of us facing the family stone cold sober. But Christ, to get through that much whiskey undetected by anyone but the two catty cousins in the kitchen in two days? I bow to that. 4. My sister-in-law is an evil liar and a crack whore. Well, technically, because she's an evil liar, I don't know that she was actually a crack whore, because I wouldn't believe her if she said that dirt was earth, but she told me that she met the recalcitrant brother when she was living at her old boyfriend's house and sleeping with his friends for drugs. Who knows if that's true, but that's what she told me. Anyway, my sister-in-law had met my grandma a whole total of twice, but when my aunt J. brought out all the little crap that hadn't been designated for anyone and began to divvy it up among the grandchildren, my sister-in-law got right in on it, justifying it to my aunt by saying that she was just getting stuff for my nephew to have to remember his grandma by. But you know, my sister-in-law is the kind of woman that, when she and her husband get thrown out of an apartment, my brother's stuff is nicely boxed and left on the curb and her stuff is left burning in a big pile on the driveway, while the landlord stands by with a hose to make sure the flames don't spread to the yard (actually happened), so really, all that stuff was as good as gone the second it touched her hands. Luckily, my uncle B.'s wife is assertive in a way that no other adults in my family are and she, after two rounds of "crack whore takes shit that means nothing to her" grabbed the stuff out of her hands and said, "Really, this is for Grandma's relatives, not you." My sister-in-law was pissed, but I thought it was pretty funny. 5. You've got to understand that the kind of shit my aunt was passing out was just the crappiest crap that my grandma would have been mortified to find that my aunt was giving away instead of throwing away--sun catchers, tacky jewelry my grandma never wore, broken Christmas ornaments, etc. And my aunt J. wanted us to all sit there and decide who should get what, as if anyone really wanted a half-done needlepoint bookmark no one ever remembered Grandma using. So, y'all, imagine my shock when I went into the living room after almost everyone had gone home and there was my aunt J. tossing old photos into the garbage--photos of my grandma and her brothers in front of their old one room schoolhouse, a photo of my grandma in an audacious stripped dress the year she taught at that same school house, old photos of her parents right before they got married and of each of her parents' fathers, photos of my grandpa as a young man. She said, "Why would anyone want these old things?" I waited for her to leave and scooped up all the ones full of faces I recognized. Edited to add: I asked the Butcher what he thought the weirdest thing to happen at my grandma's funeral was and he said that it was when my cousin took him to a strip club in Kalamazoo to help him overcome his grief, and where he met a stripper who claimed to be a school teacher in Grand Rapids** and wanted to take the whole lap dance to tell him about her students. *I should point out that, though people in my family drink, we all, for some reason, pretend we don't, hence the reason that, if my cousin wanted to drink, she had to hid it. **Where, tangentially, both the recalcitrant brother and I were born.