unless stated, none of these photos were taken by me
8:01 pm - 02.21.04
I am having a good ass day. It feels tight, like I can feel it riding high, and making me look gooood!
My fingers are drunk, so there will be stupid spelling errors, extra letters, that kind of shite.
I went to bed around 4am this morning, after washing dishes, cleaning both cat boxes, and packing everythiong I had scattered allover Dawn and Peter's house. I went to bed at 4am, knowing full well I had to be up by 7am. I got up around 7:10am. Took a shower, finished packing, fed cats, said long fuzzy goodbyes to cats. Deleted porn off of their computer...
Mom came by around 8:30, we went to McDonald for breakfast. I could see how sad she was. But not just about Anut Ellen's death. She was sad about us. Sad we stare at our styrofoam containers, silently gobbiling our food, not talking, not connecting. Is she as dead inside as I am?
We get up to go, nice man holds the door open for us. She drives, I fight sleep, and decide to read my book, Glapagos, by Kurt Vonnegut. I finally get past the suffocating turtle metaphore, and the last of the Kanka-Bonos get fed olives and cherries. I finish 3 chapters, before my eyelids win over. I drift inbetween worlds, and the farther North we travel, the less coherrant the radio seems to be.
Yet I can make out a bit of irony, they're playing the Funeral March.
She misses the first exit into Waupaun, and panics. She told me she forgot to take her meds, so she's a lil ditzy. We find a gas station, two cute farm boys walk in, I notice my reaction, the hormones racing, a smile curling on my lips, is Spring really this close?
Back on the road, only a few blocks to go. Before we get there, she confesses a secret. Ellen adopted 2 brothers, she loved them like they were her own. But her family didn't approve of the adoption, so they treated the boys awful. During Easter, all the kids got baskets full of goodies, the 2 brothers would get a napkin with a few jelly beans in it. When the children played games, the boys, and my Mom always had to play the Sheriffs. Not because Sheriffs are cool, but because they were the good guys, and good guys sucked, theyt were weak. My Mom was a meek child, she didn't mistreat the brothers, but she didn't exactly defend them either. She wanted me to know this, she was afraid the brothers may still hold a grudge. I thought that was silly, they both had children of their own, and 12 grandkids between them. So they've had fulfilling lives since their unfortunate childhood. I tried to encourage her to talk with them, maybe let the past go.
We enter the church, it's a simple small town church. A lot of people are there, I don't recognise anyone. Mom is as confused as I am. She finally recognises John, the younger brother. He has a warm smile, and Mom and him talk for a few seconds about where all the family is.
"Larry's in South Carolina for a friend's wedding, and Jean moved down to Arizona about 10 years ago."
They're my Mom's siblings, the monsters her tormented the brothers. Ellen's casket is open, I only glance over for a moment, to see a manican, with too much rosy cheeks. She looks fake. She looks dead.
Mom stands over by her for a while, everyone looks in my direction, wondering who I am. In a crowd of strangers you begin to doubt your own identity.
There's a chipper man with a mustache, telling everyone what to do, "sit down, no this is for the immediate family, yes, there will be a reception afterwards, no, this is where the pallbearers sit, please be seated, and have a dandy day!"
We sit, on a hard Catholic style pew, with the drop-down bench for prayer, and this is supposed to be a Lutheran church. Looking over the Hymnals, they seemed catholic as well. The pastor is a short, "dykey" woman with big black hair, and thick glasses. She's young, maybe 35. She has good energy, but she seems too undecided. About everything.
For a while the oranist plays rich tunes, for a long time nothing happens. We wait.
Finally the pastor speaks from the back, we rise, the pallbearers bring in Eleen, casket closed, draped with a ceremonial sheet. The pastor speaks, the congregation repeats stuff found in the pamphlet. I mumble when they mumble, to keep up the act.
I imagine myself talking to Ellen:
It was long, I liked saying the Lord's Prayer, it's a beautiful piece of poetry. But they say Tresspasses, that always sounded funny to me. Like we're all tresspassing on eachother's property, then forgiving eachother a second later. I grew up saying Sins.
The pastor read Ellen's obituary, told some funny stories, told how she was with Ellen in the hospital when she died. She was saying the Lord's Prayer, and Ellen let go. Like peace.
After that, there was more mumbling, a beautiful chorale piece, then we shuffled out to the parking lot.
The happy giddy man handed out orange "FUNERAL" flags to put on our cars, and told us to turn our blinkers on, and follow the herse.
It's a long way to the Oakfield Cemetary. We all park, get out, pastor says more beautiful religious things, the congregation mumbles back, we get back into our cars. Jack, the older brother, stumbles into the snow, trying to get back into the van. My Mom watches, says "Oh no!" Worry in her eyes and voice. But others help him up, and off we go.
Originally there is a procession of about 12-15 vehicles. But when we pull out, only the church van, and another car is in front of us. My Mom has no idea how to get back to the church, none of the other cars are following us. She begins to panic. I don't. I don't mind getting lost, it's a way to test God and Destiny.
After driving down many unfamiliar roads, we get to the highway, and on our way back to Waupaun.
Mom has a renewed mission, to mend bridges between her past tresspasses, and the 2 brothers, Jack and John.
Back inside the church, no one knows where the reception area is. So we all start going through long hallways of classrooms, utility rooms, finally opening up to a large gymnasium.
There's a long table set up with plates, cups, and assorted hot dishes. Two old ladies, ready to serve the hungry masses, stand poised, ready to lift lids, and ladel out heapings of the delicious cafeteria food they've been preparing all morning.
Instead, everyone sits down at tables, and talks amonst themselves. The 2 old ladies are not defeated by this, they stand ready, looking over the precise setup of cups, soup bowls, utensils, napkins, all the things needed to feed starving mourners.
Still, no one goes up to the table to get served, by the ever vigilant cafeteria ladies.
On each dining table, are placemats depicting the church, with an overturned coffee cup. A piping hot picture of coffee stood waiting on each table, and a tray of brownies and cakes held a place on each table. A tempting appetizer to the awaiting buffet.
I was sorta hungry, so I urged Mom to go up and get some food with me, but she said the family should go first.
Near the door were some old photographs of Ellen, when she was a young woman. And pictures of some very attractive young men, who I assumed were the brothers. Mom said she looked like Ellen, when she was younger.
We sat down at a table, and just sat there, as others talked to others, and didn't eat, and didn't acknowledge us, except for one man who remarked that the metal folding chairs we were sitting on were very cold.
Jack was over in the corner, talking to others. I nudged Mom, told her she should go talk to someone.
We sat there silent, trying not to look around.
Finally Mom gets up, and walks over to Jack.
The conversation is brief. She turns around, wide eyed expression on her face, and she walks briskly out of the room.
I ask what happened, she says "We're not welcome here. They're holding a grudge."
She won't tell me what he said, so we leave, and drive away. I can tell she just wants to get out of there. She drives for a while, then asks, "Do you want to go see Grandma?"
I missed seeing her over the Holidays, cause I was working at Mimosa. She's still holding on to her mind quite well, pushing 90. Ellen was 92, and she still owned her own home, drove a car, even knew how to fix the car if need be.
Ellen was a homemaker, and a part time secretary at a local elementary school. She had travelled quite a bit in America, and seen a lil of Europe as well. She lived a full life, and loved 2 boys who were not her own. And kept loving them, even if no one else did.
Before we went to see Grandma, we stopped off at Walker's Family Resturante. It's a great place to eat, it's been there forever, and we've gone there for the holidays almost every year. Their pie is delicious too, but you can say the same at most any small town diner.
I asked her again, what had Jack said to her?
He said, "I have nothing to say to you. I don't want you here."
We talked a bit more, the food came, we ate, not as fast this time.
Grandma was surprised to see us. She looked good, for an 80something woman slowly wasting away. Her smile and eyes were still bright, she was still a lil spitfire, motoring around her room in her wheelchair.
Her roommate was lying comatose in her bed, staring up at the ceiling, mumbling to herself. On eitherside of her bed, were these long gym mats. I worried that they were there to catch her if she fell out of bed.
Grandma talked about family, and about Ellen, how it was good to see her during Christmas.
Then she told us about this woman, who rolls down the halls, and tells the nurses that she wants to go downstairs. And that she gets as far as the stairwell door, then the alarm goes off, so they pull her back.
Grandma says, "It's like she doesn't care if she falls, or maybe she does."
Her roomate begings to repeat something, "What is mushroom? Is it a fish? Mushroom fish?.....fish come from the ground, what is mushroom?"
It was odd, funny, sad, pathetic.
Grandma told us how one night, she fell out of her bed, and her body was on the ground, but her head was resting on the chair, and her throat was closed, she couldn't breathe. She said if the nurse hadn't come by, she wouldv'e died.
We left sometime after that, after we had talked about our lives three times over, because she forgets what we said sometimes.
On the way home, the raido was still fuzzy. So I popped in a nice tape made by a friend of ours. She sings njice, floating songs about God, without sounding preachy.
I dozed off, and awoke back in Madison. The great capital dome off in the distance, the beacon only a true Madisonian will understand.
It's like a reminder of where you are, and all of the things outside of Madison, outside of the moment, don't really matter at all.