Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Not Taxes but the Other Thing

I am having trouble with the first sentence of this piece and wonder if you can give me some assistance. Let me know which of these opening lines you prefer:

" I went to a good funeral the other day."

" I had an enjoyable time at a funeral recently."

Yes, I understand that it may be in bad taste to combine a reference to death and pleasure in the same thought, but there you have it.

For us no longer baby baby boomers, we have said goodbye to almost all of those who came in the generation before us. If one of our parents still survives then the connection of death to that person is as close as milk is to cookies.If an elderly person goes easily and quickly then we are likely to think how lucky they were to have lasted so long and so well. If the struggles, physical or mental, have made the rear end of life just that, then death comes with quiet relief, whether we choose to admit it or not.

And so it was that when my friend's dad died closing in on his 90th birthday and intact almost to his last breath, there was little in the way of deep, penetrating grief. Sadness for certain but not the type of gut wrenching reserved for other far worse endings.

What struck me most about the funeral itself, and what I have found as a recurring theme at these moments, is the almost spectacular ability of family members to communicate with wit and wisdom. Here the grandchildren spoke, eloquently and with a level of love that almost burst forth. And that led me to thoughts of my own mother.

She is very much still with us, deep into her 96th year and holding on for what, truth be told, is no longer such a dear life. She has lost almost all the battles one can lose to father (or mother) time and remains here trapped inside a being that bears almost no resemblance to the vibrant person that graced my life for well over a half century. When death does come, it will be something that she has earned inch by inch.

After attending the funeral and listening to the beautiful words of compassion and joy, I thought about how I might speak of my mother's existence and its meaning to me and others, if and when the grim one reaps. I thought I might start out like this: "My mother ruined me for life". Too much of an attention grabber ? I know you must be thinking "What in the name of everything holy did he just say?"

The truth is that in some ways, she and my father conspired to do me in. Their marriage was far too perfect, my father without blemish. No arguments, no good guy and bad guy (only good). I was far too wonderful in her eyes (and this vision then moved into my brain), the world far too good (think Father Knows Best but on steroids, no not actual steroids) and her universe of friends far too extensive (I never could determine who was her closest friend for the multitudes all seemed to hold that title). She was way too protective of me and my feelings (just ask anyone who has seen me around my children) and demanded far too little of me (just ask my wife). It was a perfect universe that she created and, as I have learned, one that is not possible to duplicate in the real world.

So, what do you think of my opening line? Is it crass and horrid of me to even mention my thoughts on this subject? Am I the only one who has these ideas ruminating around my head?

There are as we know only two things certain, and we talk about taxes all the time (maybe too much). I am not comfortable with death any more than you. I love my mother and will be horribly sad the day she passes on. But there is no harm in getting my thoughts gathered in advance of that time. Is there?


diane said...

How about "My mother ruined me for life" ?
Love, D

Robert said...

thanks for the excellent edit. The change will now be made.

You now get official co-authorship rights to this piece.