Me: “I don’t know. I never actually watch porn. I only ever watch pornographic GIFs. You never see any faces and just have a repeat of the good part. I don’t need a story or anything. I usually have one in my head already. He’s a werewolf… she’s a woodnymph. It’s just best not to mess with it.”
Gail: “What is wrong with you?”
Gail: “I didn’t think they were legally allowed to sell vibrators in CVS.”
Me: “It’s not a vibrator. It’s a ‘personal massager’, you pervert.”
Gail: laughingly “I apologize. I didn’t mean to offend.”
Me: “Oh, hey! I was right. It does say ‘personal massager’… and it’s ‘perfectly contoured for the female form.’ Thirty dollars?!? Mine was only thirty-four and it’s a lot better ‘contoured for the female form’!”
Gail: “Ahhh, Belle. You will just say anything won’t you?”
Belle: “What? No one heard me.”
Sunday, it was just after these conversations, that I was lying on the couch reading the train wreck that is the This Man triliogy, marveling at how trapping a woman with an underhanded pregnancy isn’t considered abusive, but sexy, when my Dirty Girl Novel was interrupted with the following text from my Aunt Dee:
Do you think you could do a reading at grandpa’s funeral? I was thinking you and Mickey both. Both granddaughters and both good Catholics. Gramps was so proud of you.
I responded without the use of the word “irony”, proof that I can control myself and just choose not to do so, Gail. I told Aunt Dee to just let me know what passage so I could practice. Now… how much did I not want to speak at my grandpa’s funeral as a “good Catholic girl”?
I hate ceremonies. It’s a whopping generalization, but they’re all awful… and here’s why:
Weddings: usually an expression of financial irresponsibility. A couple goes into a marriage, either in debt, or just down a couple of tens of thousands of dollars over a party that no one really wanted to go to anyway. I was bored at my first wedding and I’m sure I’ll be bored at the next one, between the dry heaves and shouts of “maccarroni!” which Gail will have forgotten is our codeword for “I’m freaking out and why the fuck am I doing this again?!?!”
Graduation ceremonies: too fucking long and made up of overly generic speeches. At my graduation for my Master in Library and Information Studies, the speaker made repeated references to how it was “only a few short years ago that we were moving into our dorms.” Psh. It was only a few short years ago that I was drinking myself to sleep to take my mind off of my wretched marriage. I can guaran-damn-tee the forty-something woman next to me didn’t relate to the statement, either. The ceremony was also held inside a kiln and I sweated for two hours just for someone to call my name. There’s not even any actual requirement that you prove your right to graduate. They will, literally, let anyone walk.
What?!? It’s practically Ambien.
Funerals: Funerals just fucking suck. Everyone’s sad and the last place they want to be is standing outside in July, wearing tummy tucker panties and heels.
Ahhh, comfort clothes.
Also… I make everything awkward and a funeral is just not the place for that. In fact, the entire drive to the church, I kept thinking…
Is this dress too sexy? Do I look like I’m going clubbing after the funeral?
I was pretty certain I was wearing a Magic Dress: a dress that can look equally professional or sex kitten based on accessories. I wore my interview heels, but had I been in the knee-high black heeled leather boots, I’d have looked rave-bound and I knew it. I just wasn’t sure about the heels and dreaded the whispers of “Can you believe she wore that?” Fortunately, Bea made a similar comment about her own simple black dress and told me mine looked great the second she saw me.
This uncertainty, however, is precisely why I didn’t want to do the aforementioned reading. I got to the chapel about fifteen minutes early and a woman in a glowing green suit jacket took me to the front, showed me a binder and instructed me to put it on the table to the left when I was done. She pointed out the steps to the podium, which were danged near invisible. I already knew I was doing the second reading and had gone over it the night before to avoid the mispronunciation of anything.
Okay. Don’t trip. Don’t forget to move the binder. I can do that.
The Mass started and my cousin Mickey immediately went up for the first reading. I did not hear one word she said, however. It was at that point, after the procession and drama and melancholy had set in, that I realized… I had no idea when I was reading. I had no Mass sheet and found I couldn’t remember the typical order and wasn’t sure how funeral Masses differentiated. My Aunt Dee was seated in front of me, so I spent the first reading whispering to her about how I wasn’t sure when I was supposed to do mine. Bea sat to my side and tried not to giggle. Mickey was finally seated and I sat with bated breath, just about to rise… then the music started.
Well, I guess it’s not now.
A Catholic Mass is a formal affair. A Catholic funeral is a very formal affair. I discreetly glanced around in hopes of spotting a neon green suit jacket, but had no luck. The music stopped, I was poised to rise… and Father started speaking.
Well, I guess it’s not now.
Father: “Geff was not a complainer or a whiner.”
That’s not true. Grandpa Geff whined about everything and everyone knew it. Why can’t we just remember the man for who he was, flaws and all? How is it respectful to make shit up? ‘Belle will always be remembered as a seven foot tall space cowboy.’ Horseshit. I shouldn’t think ‘horseshit’ in a church.
Wow. I want to get married in this chapel. This place is gorgeous.
I started thinking about how it would be funny to put little decorative stones in the wall where the angels’ toes would be, so it looked like they were wearing nail polish. I felt bad, because you’re not supposed to think about that at a funeral. Then someone tapped my shoulder and I realized Father was no longer speaking and there was a woman wearing green Christmas lights sitting directly behind me, which explained why I couldn’t find her earlier.
“Are you going to read?”
“Oh! Yeah. I just didn’t know when.”
Bea assures me that the lull did not stretch out for days and everyone thought I was gathering myself, so there was minimal awkwardness in retrospective. She claims.
Then the sad part set in, because funerals suck.
Father: “Geff was a proud veteran.”
Grandpa Geff was a veteran? Why didn’t I know that? How terrible of a person am I for not knowing that?
Father: “As we all know, Geff knew dogs.”
Grandpa Geff was into dogs? Why didn’t I know that? How terrible of a person am I for not knowing that?
Father: “Having worked for the post office for many years…”
Oh. It was a joke. Grandpa Geff didn’t know dogs. Why didn’t I know that? How terrible of a person am I for not knowing that?
I should have visited him more. I lost five years with dad’s family, because of my mother. I hate her. I shouldn’t think that in a church, during a Catholic Mass. I’m doing this all wrong. I’m failing at a funeral and I hate my mother!
I want to suck my thumb and cry and I don’t want to be in tummy tucker panties. I can’t suck my thumb in public and emotions are gross. Why are we even doing this?!?!
Me: crying and whispering “I hated his Christmas party, every year. No one liked it and a lot of times we never even went. I feel so bad. We didn’t have Christmas with him last year. How awful that we didn’t want to spend any time with him at Christmas?”
Bea: “We had his birthday party, though. That was nice.”
Bea: “Oh, my gosh. I thought for an awful moment that maybe you weren’t there.”
Me: snorting and laughing “Nana nana nana.”
Oh, gosh. We shouldn’t laugh during a funeral. We look like we’re having the best time.
Gramma was the same age as Grandpa Geff.
That brought on more tears.
Oh, I’m crying because of the thought that Gramma might die one day, rather than the fact that Grandpa Geff is dead.That is so much worse than reading Lady Porn when I was asked to read a bible verse! I am the worst person!
Not only is a Catholic Mass a formal affair, it is one fraught with beautiful ritual, as is every Catholic Mass, and attended by many who do not know these rituals. Mass ended with Father raising his hands in prayer.
I looked over to see Bea and her brother Cade doing the same… alone. They only lowered their hands when they saw my cousin and me snickering.
Finally, the Mass ended and we made our way to the cemetery. My dad carried Grandpa Geff’s urn, a brass perfect square, in one hand like it was an empty casserole dish.
Cade: “Only Kent would carry an urn with one hand.”
Aunt Kendra: “Kent, I hope that’s sealed.”
Me: “My dad thinks it’s dumb that we have to bury it anyway, so if he drops it, it’s probably not an accident.”
Step-mom Lena: “Don’t joke about that. It’s taken very seriously in the Catholic faith and you might offend someone.”
Dad, Cade, Bea, Aunt Kendra, Me: simultaneous laughter
My step-family is not Catholic, if you haven’t guessed. My step-mom certainly meant well, but no one present would’ve been offended. In fact…
When we arrived at the burial plot, we found the unmarked hole, perfectly carved out for Grandpa Geff’s urn. We piled on his roses and the wreath that read “Grandpa” and gathered round as the sadness set in and everyone got quiet.
“Wait. We’re over there.”
That is right. We almost threw Grandpa Geff in the wrong hole. The hearty laugh we got out of it as a family is precisely why Lena needn’t worry that anyone would be offended by jokes about the redundancy of the Catholic decree that we bury ashes.
Other Shit You Probably Shouldn’t Say at a Funeral
Dad: “..and then father will bless us with the ashes.”
Me: “Okay. Wait! Bless you with the ashes!?!?!”
What he meant.
What he realized I was picturing.
– Debating cremation versus burial –
Bea: “I don’t want to be burned!”
Me: “You can’t feel it. You’re dead.”
Me: “Well, if that’s the case, then I’d rather be burned than wake up.”
Dad: “We’ll just have to make sure to leave a string tied to some bells outside of your grave, Bea. That way you can ring for help when you come to, like in the 1800’s.”
– Driving to the cemetery, my step-mom holding the urn on her lap, everyone waiting for us to bring Grandpa to his final resting place –
Cade: “Ugh. I’m starving. Can we stop for tacos or something? 7-Eleven is giving away free Icees today.”
Me: ::tearing up:: “Wait. He was alone when he died?!?! That’s horrible.”
Step-mom: “Belle, he was alone, but he wasn’t there. He hadn’t been there for days.”
Bea: “Wait, wait, wait! 7-Eleven is giving away free Icees?!?!“
My dad gets out of the truck and leaves the urn while he checks to see if we’re in the right place.
Cade: “Kent… I think you forgot something! You didn’t even crack a window.”
– sitting in the back of my dad’s truck with Cade and Bea , while my dad and Lena bury Grandpa Geff –
Bea: “Is my dress see-through? I feel like it’s see-through. Could you see anything in the sunlight?”
Me: “Yeah. You’re practically naked. You’ve got a little toilet paper in your ass crack, by the way”
Bea: “I hate you. It only seems see-through right here.” ::points to space between her legs::
Cade: “I don’t know what’s worse, the heat or this conversation.”
Me: “Yeah. Geez, Bea. ‘Hey, big brother. Can you see my vag?'”
Bea: “I cannot believe you just said that!”
Me: “You’re the one who said it.”
Bea: “I am not!”
Cade: ::groaning:: “Thank you for that, Belle.”
Me: “Ugh. It is a thousand degrees in here. They’re gonna have to bury three more piles of ash if they don’t hurry the hell up.”
Cade: “It would be awesome if the window was open and they could hear you.”
My Grandma Kay has been divorced from Grandpa Geff for near fifty years, but was at the funeral.
Me: “Hey, kid. Did you wish Grandma Kay a happy birthday?”
My cousin Mitch: “What? It’s Grandma’s birthday? Seriously?”
Me: “Yes, seriously. It’s on Facebook, if you don’t believe me. Go tell her happy birthday.”
Dad’s cousin Tina: “Aw. That’s a tough day. We should take her some flowers.”
Me: “Hey, there’s some over there in the chapel.”
Mitch: laughing “We’ll just take her all of the funeral arrangements. She’ll never know.”
Me: “Yeah. Let’s take her the wreath with ‘grandpa’ on it…”
Mitch: “… we’ll just write ‘ma’ over it.”
Tina: trying not to laugh “You guys are horrible!”
I came home and I slept. It was a tough day. I’d have been content to skip it and pretend Grandpa Geff was still alive and that I just never see him. The only consolation is that Grandpa Geff was a devout daily Mass goer. He’d have been thrilled by a traditional Catholic funeral filled with people he loved sharing the occasional laugh. There’s not a whole lot more for which anyone could ask, and if one sucky day fulfills that life goal after a painful battle with cancer… well, at least it’s all over.