December 16, 2013
I was at work when I got the call from Shannon. My aunt had a massive stroke and was in the hospital. It did not look good. We found my cousin completely incensed because the doctors were talking to him about donating her organs. “Jesus Christ, can we at least try some treatment first? She’s not dead yet.” But a few hours later she was. Mom always joked that people just drop dead on her side of the family – not like the months-long lingering deaths Dad’s family was known for.
The funeral was a few days later. Mary and I sat together at the wake, amusing ourselves over the fact that various mourners in attendance looked like famous people. We saw Kenny Rogers, James Cameron, Ben Kingsley… the old man from Home Alone… Congressman Peter King… Whoa, wait a minute. It actually was Peter King. What was he doing here? Dad was there too, so I sidled up to him and jokingly asked if he was going to drool in front of the congressman again.
Ten years earlier Dad and I were on our way to a street festival in Long Beach when we saw Rep. King and his wife walking down the sidewalk. Dad was so excited to see him that he nearly ran him over in his haste to pull alongside. The poor congressman probably thought he was about to be assassinated in a drive-by. Instead Dad leaned over me to yell out a greeting, and as he did a huge glob of spit escaped his lips and landed on the armrest. Rep. King reared back with a disgusted look as we drove off again. And Dad didn’t even realize it until I pointed it out afterwards.
Anyway, no sooner did I crack my joke did Rep. King walk by. “My son says I shouldn’t ask you about what happened the last time I saw you…” Dad piped up. I rolled my eyes with a groan and smacked him to keep quiet. Dad just chuckled and said that’s what he was good for – embarrassing people. He certainly made his share of moronic comments that night. Mom introduced him to someone as her husband, and Dad made a snide remark: “Not that she wants me to be…” And when someone else mentioned recognizing him from a photo he retorted, “Oh, were there dart holes in it?”
Instead of comforting Mom over the death of her sister, Dad was stalking with a bug up his ass. And then he turned into a goofball at the funeral mass. When we were walking out of the church behind the casket he ran up behind me and started tickling my sides, and while the priest was saying the prayer at the graveside Dad stuck flowers and shit in my ears. Instead of turning around and punching him in the nose, I made mental notes for the next time he wanted to lecture me on proper behavior and showing respect.
Cousin Bill was there too, even though it wasn’t his side of the family. But he knew my aunt from the couple of times he spent at her house for New Year’s. He biked to the church and Dad actually gave him a lift to the cemetery. Bill later told me they got along very well and had a nice conversation during their car ride. He thought everything was all hunky-dory with Dad, but I could tell he was still hacked off about something.
My mother was astonished when her co-workers said Dad was in the store looking for her the day after the funeral. “My sister just died and he thinks I’m going to be at work the next day?” She had taken several days off for bereavement, especially since she was still in a bit of shock. Thursday she got a phone call that her sister was in the hospital and four days later she was in the ground. The last thing she needed to see was Dad’s foolish face while she was trying to process everything.
Meanwhile Dad was staking out the house again. First he was followed my mother to work one morning until ditching out partway there. Then he parked down the corner and tried to follow Mary to work as well. He slid down in his seat as she drove by and gave him the once-over. Then she pulled over because he was following behind her on the highway. She rolled down the window asked what he was doing as he rolled up next to her.
“Oh, I just wanted to see where you worked,” he said. Mary told him where just to get rid of him, but he persisted in lurking about the neighborhood. The next time he saw my mother at work he told her “you should look out your window more often so you can see me driving by. And you should take more walks.” That rattled her because she’s very observant but never saw him on any of her walks. Perhaps he was getting better at spying.
Finally he revealed what was bothering for the past several weeks. During his latest trip to see Mom at work he asked, “Are you gonna miss me?” Apparently he was going on another mission trip, this time to Haiti. Then he plowed right into what he really wanted to talk about: “You need to have a chat with your shit-for-brains sons Johnny and Patrick, and your shit-for-brains daughter Shannon. Maybe you can ask her why she didn’t present her grandmother with her first great-grandchild…”
Sigh. This again, for the hundredth time. Mom told him to ask them, not her. “Oh, I did,” Dad replied shortly. “I went over to Shannon’s house and was told I wasn’t welcome. I guess she doesn’t want to speak to me for some reason.” Mom just stared at him. Really…? And when Dad found out that she wasn’t going to talk to the kids for him, he spun on his heel and walked out of the store like George Jefferson. The way he exited was so funny that Mom actually laughed for a good minute. But it was clear that things were still not over.