Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Strange Days Indeed

The funeral tour is over, thank God, knock wood. We went up to Saginaw Friday to be with Paul's family, which was brutal. His mother and father had been married for 56 years. Paul's dad has Alzheimer's, as well, and in some ways is like a little child. He was very dependent on Irene and deeply devoted to her, and is understandably devastated by her loss.

Since my family was in for my grandmother's funeral, we asked them to take Maggie so she could be with her beloved cousins, and we all reconvened at home that night. Then it was up early the next morning to go to my grandmother's funeral. It was at the church she was born near, bapitzed in, met her husband on the front steps of, married in, and the place she bapitzed all three of her sons. It's a beautiful place in a nierghborhood that's gone from Polish to Mexican over the years. Unlike many Detroit churches which refuse to relfect the change in their neighborhoods, they've included the newcomers in their ministry and the church bulletin is an almost comical mix of consonant-heavy Polish names and toungue-rolling Mexican ones. The pastor is Polish, the associate is Mexican.

It was sad -- it was the first time I cried for her, really -- but beautiful, a warm, loving reflection of the woman she was. We should all have such a funeral. I did one of the readings, from Romans, and did a fairly nice job given the fact it was shoved into my hands five minutes before the service began.

My father did a speech at the end of Mass, and it was lovely -- affectionate and funny, with many of the details we'll remember about her. She was a hard worker, driven, energetic (she used to complain to me, at age 90, that she had "no zip" and just didn't know what was wrong with her), funny, and quite a people person. My dad mentioned that she loved to sing despite having the worst singing voice in history, and that her boys could do no wrong. They would come for dinner and she would wait on them, and they could make her laugh like no one else.

After the Mass and the gravesite ceremony, there was a lunch (and open bar) at a banquet hall which was very well attended, something she would have loved. Then we all went back to my uncle and aunt's house, went through her jewelry (all costume, but she loved jewelry and so we all took things that would remind us of her), ate and drank more and told stories.

Finally, it was time to go home, and the next day we headed back to Saginaw for the visitation for Paul's mom. This was, well, a lot different. A lot of that is the differences between the families --Paul's family is stoic, phleghmatic, reserved, and mine is pretty emotional and verbal. And it was also because of the manner of Irene's death, so sudden and shocking.

It was hard for me -- she and I never really saw eye to eye, and we didn't have a good relationship. She was passive-aggressive, dour, and had that "real Americans live in small towns" attitude I find so annoying. Everyone else was crying at the funeral -- I stayed dry-eyed, which made me feel guilty. But I was surprised by how sad I felt. Much as we didn't care for each other, she raised a great son who is a wonderful husband and father, and she never willingly hurt another living soul.

And to end on a funny note: There was a lunch after the funeral, prepared by the ladies of the church in this little tiny town where Carl and Irene lived. I don't want to mock the food, because it's really a kindly and beautiful thing to do for a greiving family. It's the kind of food Paul grew up on and I never, ever cook. Including, poh yes, tater tot casserole. Which was exacly as one would expect such a thing would be.


Julia said...

I am sorry about both your losses. This is a lot, and all at once. Though your grandmother's funeral does sound like an end and a testament to a good life.
I have a morbid imagination, apparently, because I have thought, on occasion, about what I would feel if my MIL died. Her and I have a strained relationship, and, like yours, she is passive aggressive. But she also has intentionally hurt plenty of people plenty of times. Eh... I do think I would be sad for my husband, and, likely, for my daughter and my son. But that would likely be where it stops. And that, in itself, is kinda sad.

Oz said...

I'm so sorry about your losses.

Tatertot casserole is just so comforting, and I didn't even really grow up with it. Any hot dish seems like perfect grief food to me.

Eva said...

I am sorry.

My grandmother has Alzheimer's and as my little girl gets older, and she deteriorates, they are more and more alike.

caramama said...

I'm so sorry for your losses.

It must have been very tough to go to both funerals, one after another.

CJ said...

So sorry to hear about your losses, Amy, especially since they happened so close together. Hope you are all doing as well as you can.