Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Re: Jesus loves you! Send this message to 10 people in the next 10 minutes!
Death, part four.
Welcome to a special, three-day-late, Sunday edition of Psychology Onions. I missed my self-inflicted every-other-Thursday deadline because of a funeral.
Now, my astutely-observant readers might be asking themselves, “Didn’t the Psychology Onions guy just go to a funeral?” And you would be correct. This was actually my fourth funeral in the past few… oof. Not very long amount of time. I love being part of a large family, but nobody tells you that being part of a large family also means you end up going to a lot more funerals.
I was going to wear jeans to the funeral. I hate dress pants. I hate all pants. Pants annoy me. Anything dressy frustrates me. But my mom said I couldn’t wear jeans. I said I’m an adult, I can wear whatever I want. My dad said no you can’t. My wife said listen to your parents, you need dress pants.
The day of the funeral I put on my new dress pants and climb into the backseat of my dad’s Volvo. My wife slides in on my left, my brother-in-law on my right. The bastard’s wearing a tie. We pull up to the church parking lot and I see my aunt and my uncle and my other aunt. We talk briefly about trucks and the different sizes of parking spaces. I hug a few of my cousins. I see my cousin who goes to college in Boston. I thought you already went back to Boston, I say. He says no, not yet. My sister says my dad is looking for me. I say hello to some of my parents’ neighbors.
When I was probably nine or ten, my Uncle Marty showed me how to use a voltmeter. I remember running around the house, sticking the red and black test leads into any electrical outlets I could find.
Before the funeral service, a handful of us settle in the pews and we pray the Rosary. My brother-in-law and his tie are on my left. My wife is sitting on my right. A flock of men from the Knights of Columbus are kneeling behind us, reciting the Hail Mary in unnervingly-perfect unison. I hand the Rosary beads back to my sister, who hands them to my mom, who puts them back in her Rosary pouch. We file outside, I talk to my aunt about my uncle’s podcast. I talk to my uncle about my sister’s podcast. I hug my cousin, who also has a podcast. We watch a flag-folding ceremony in the parking lot. The Knights of Columbus have swords.
When I first got an email account, probably about 15 years ago, my Uncle Marty used to forward me those religious chain emails: “Jesus loves you! Forward to 10 people to spread the Word of God!!” I didn’t really have anyone else to email back in those days, so my inbox was mostly chain email forwards from my Uncle Marty and the only mailing list my mom would let me subscribe to: The Good Clean Funnies List (which is… apparently still pumping out that good, clean, funny content?)
Back in the church, I see one of my other uncles. Hey stranger! he says, loudly. We’re all strange. He laughs. We’re all strange. He’s old. My mom tells him to be quiet. He accidentally knocks me into what I think is called the ambry. I walk down the center aisle of the church with my aunt on one arm and my wife on the other. My sister does the first reading—it’s from The Book of Revelations. She cries. Two of my cousins give the eulogy. I watch one of the Knights of Columbus struggle to get his sword back into its sheath. Somehow I end up having to carry the urn out of the church. It’s heavier than I expect.
I’m 14 and on a school retreat. We’re going around the room saying a man in our life who we look up to. I say my Uncle Marty. He’s kindhearted. Thoughtful. Approachable.
There are multiple types of pasta at the reception. My wife and I take out the cream puffs my aunt bought from an Italian bakery and we put them on a tray. My cousin says a Maya Angelou quote. My wife tears up when she sees TOP DRAWER printed on the side of my uncle’s walker. It’s a thing my grandpa always used to say. I make fun of my wife for getting emotional. She tells me to f—k off.
My Uncle Marty just got out of the hospital and my dad and I are helping him get into bed. Broken ribs, a broken hip, and a new pacemaker can’t stop him from being cheerful. He asks how my wife is doing. He talks about his fig tree. He invites us to dinner. He tries to walk with us to the door.
After the reception, everyone goes to my parents’ house. My cousin and I play frisbee outside with one of my other cousin’s friend’s kid. I talk to my brother-in-law and some of my cousins about investing in real estate. My dad barbecues some steak. One of my other cousins says he wants to move to Hawaii in ten years. I make one of my uncles a half a pot of coffee. He says there’s not enough for everyone. I tell him it’s 10pm, I don’t think anyone else wants coffee. My wife and sister and mom take an edible. My cousin is eating leftover cream puffs someone threw in the garbage. My other cousin says he wants an apple fritter. I ask him what a fritter is. He says he doesn’t know. My other, other cousin says he should probably get going. We instead go outside and take shots of whiskey. He says I don’t mean to get political and then he gets political. My dad is dancing with one of my aunts. One of my cousins jokingly tells my other cousin that his son looked like a douche when he was a baby. We all drunkenly start chanting douche baby! Douche baby! Douche baby! One of my cousins is trying to get my drunk aunt in the car to go home. His wife is excitedly trying to convince us to work as deckhands on a superyacht, a career she learned about earlier that afternoon. One of my cousins just retired from the sheriff’s department and he’s talking about the two times he was injured while on duty. One time he got stabbed trying to subdue a criminal. The other time he bit into a hotdog that had a rock in it. I tell my family that when I was 18, I spent all my money on skydiving lessons. I watch my dad pour himself another glass of wine, chug it, then go to bed. I think—that literally would have killed me. I talk to my brother-in-law about sleeping pills. I stagger to my room, collapse on the bed, and play John Prine’s In Spite of Ourselves on repeat. My wife records me saying drunk nonsense. I end up pulling an all-nighter, because that’s what always happens when I get really drunk.
I’ll miss you, Uncle Marty. I hope you liked my pants.
Some resources and links that have helped me
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