I’m lucky in that I haven’t been to too many funerals in my life. I think I may have gone to one when I was very littleæmy friend’s mom died of, I believe, breast cancer. Then at around age 8, my great-grandmother, Mae Cronig, died, and that’s one of the few, if not the only, time I’ve been to Martha’s Vineyard in the winter. I’ve been to my grandmother on my dad’s side’s funeral, and my other grandmother’s third husband.
My great-aunt’s death makes me think about the other older relatives I have who I am very close with, in addition to the end of her life. I went to visit her recently in her rehab and it was almost like she was already half gone, at least at that moment. She hardly seemed to recognize us, and while the other residents were vigorously playing bingo (and if you think you can’t vigorously play bingo, you are so wrong), she was lying in her bed or moving around aimlessly. I had no idea how to behave, what to do, and the truth is, I just wanted to leave. It was so hard to see someone in that state and not know how to help. I’m glad that she is no longer suffering. I didn’t know her all that well, other than the way you know relatives you see a few times a year, not on a real personal level, but she was an integral part of our family, made up at its core largely by three very strong-willed, close sisters who all have/had fascinating stories to tell, I’m sure.
I’m grateful that I do have my grandparents, who, as each of theirs first grandchild, I have very special relationships with. My dad’s dad and my mom’s mom are not only still alive, but extremely active. My grandmother is constantly on the go--at the mall, at peace protests, visiting friends. She is hard to get a hold of, though lately she has had to slow down. Whereas I’m afraid of cars, she thinks nothing of zipping along the highway.
My grandfather, as I told you, has a memoir coming out…in November! I will let you know the minute it’s available on Amazon. He too is quite busy; he travels around the country and the world visiting relatives as well as attending ex-POW-related events. He certainly does not look anywhere near his age. I’m lucky, again, in that as I’ve gotten older I’ve developed stronger relationships with both them, and my two other great-aunts. I’ve come to realize that my relationships with them don’t have to be governed by the ones I have with my parents, and in many ways, I think I can talk to all of them in ways I can’t with my parents, and perhaps they don’t with their kids, and I really appreciate that so much. I’ve grown so curious about what their lives were like, the relatives I missed out on knowing, and just enjoy spending time, whether in person or by phone or email, with them. My aunt Carole (aka Cabbie) and I totally bond over her grandson, Adam, and are pretty much both big dorks about him, and I don’t mind her saying, “Did you hear what Adam said yesterday?” It’s cute and fun and I guess what surprises me sometimes is how non-judgmental they are.
Maybe they can be less so than one’s parents, because they’re not as attached in the same way. I love my parents and am close with them each but they also drive me crazy in ways other people don’t. I have so many traits of my mom and my dad, and since they are largely complete opposites, I can see those traits so clearly, some for the better, some for the worse.
Anyway, not much else to say, this is probably pointless, and lately I feel like a lot of what I do is pointless, or at the very least, needs to be rethought, because making the same mistakes over and over only means you are choosing to live with things you don’t want in your life, right? And for me when confronted with death, it reminds me that I need to both appreciate the people I love and make my life as much about what I want as I can. The last funeral I went to brought home a lot of lessons, and I’m not going to speak ill of the dead, at least, not here, but it made a huge impact on me, both what was said at that funeral and the relationship drama that went down that evening, coinciding in an almost fictional perfect way and reminding me that people can have not just one or two but many faces. They may act one way towards some people and the opposite toward another, or keep themselves closed off from emotions for whatever reasons, and that’s fine for them, but stay the hell away from me with that, you know? I don’t understand that way of being and I don’t want to.
I just remember thinking that I don’t want people to be confused at my funeral; I don’t want there to be a disconnect between the niceties people say at funerals and how I’ve actually lived my life. Some people might not mind that—they’re dead by then, after all—but I really value what others think of me. Perhaps to a fault, but I do, but I also know when I am not living up to my potential, when I am letting life happen to me, a subpar life, at that, rather than trying to change it. Most days I don’t think I have it in me to make changes, and I know how much easier stagnation is, infinitely so.
I don’t quite know how to make those changes or even how to envision them most of the time, but I also know I don’t have forever on this earth, even though it may seem that way. I have no idea what the future holds but I want to be an active part of it, not some stupid bystander.
p.s. Thanks to everyone who's sent condolences. I really, really appreciate it. I'm okay, just restless.