Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Curmudgeon goes to a funeral, comes away moody

My friend Steve and I went to a funeral yesterday. I wouldn't tell you whose it was -- that would compromise my anonymity -- and, frankly, if I described it, even, I'd give it away. So maybe I'll tell the story of why I felt I had to go some other time, when it won't be as easy to connect the dots.

The decedent had been politically involved. I can say that much. His eulogist said a lot more about that. A lot more.

And it was very entertaining. Very funny. Very impressive. But the man couldn't have been home much in the evenings.

He was divorced. I knew that. So many lawyers are, you know. I served a term in the state bar Assembly 25 years ago -- my father used to go to the conventions each year, up in Wisconsin, and my wife and I could have dinner and a couple of drinks with him and my mother.

The highlight of the convention, each year, was the installation of the new bar president. We've had a few women presidents since, but in those days, at least, they were all men. And at the big dinner on the last night of the annual meeting, the bar president would give a little speech and proudly introduce his family.

"Isn't that nice?" Long Suffering Spouse would say. "And each daughter is prettier than the next. But where's the wife?"

And my father would lean over and tell her. "See that one on the right? The youngest looking? That's the wife."

My father would lean over to tell my wife this so he could watch the horrified expression on her face as his message sunk in. He was very amused by it. "I think that's the second wife," he'd say, unless he said, "I believe that's wife no. 3." And then he'd add, "You have to spend a lot of time away from home if you want to be president of the bar association."

And that was just state bar politics. You can imagine how much time somebody involved in politics-politics must have been away from home. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but it takes its toll on the family, too.

The decedent, we were told, was very proud of his family. He had a son and a daughter. His daughter he saw every day. I got the distinct impression he didn't see much of his son or his son's family. They live out East somewhere, and that surely explains some of it. Maybe most of it. But the eulogist, a nephew of the decedent -- making him a first cousin to the decedent's son and daughter -- made it a point to address the son's kids directly from the pulpit. "You don't know me," he began....

You don't know me? Well, my first cousins have roughly 30 kids among them and I don't know them all either. But the eulogist was with their grandpa every day for several decades, he said, as driver, as confidant, as traveling companion, as factorum -- surely if those kids knew their grandfather, they must have known the eulogist as well, right? Well, apparently not....

I have two grandchildren (a third is pending) and both were over at the house over the weekend. I don't suppose the house can be overrun with grandchildren when there are only two, but my wife and I weren't planning on quite so much family togetherness this weekend -- we have a ton of work to do if we hope to get to Youngest Son's Spring Training next week in Florida -- and we were able to accomplish very little. Although going home at nights put an effective kibosh on my political ambitions, at least my grandchildren may get to know me -- if I live long enough. These were heretical thoughts to have, I suppose, during a long eulogy suffused with prominent political names, but there you have it.

Steve and I were walking back to the car after the car after the Mass.

"Charlotte got one of those new iPhones," he told me. Charlotte is Steve's wife.


"Yes," he said, "and she feels compelled, now, to show me anything that she finds interesting. Your new Facebook picture, for example."

Oh, that. As long as the grandkids were over, I made sure that their mothers got some pictures of the kids sitting on my lap. I put one up on Facebook as a new profile picture (in case you're wondering, Long Suffering Spouse doesn't want her picture on Facebook because she's a teacher). "Yeah, I saw she 'liked' it," I said. "I don't know," I went on, "maybe I'm being morbid. But I keep thinking I need new pictures for the tables at the funeral parlor. Just in case."

Steve laughed.

"You know," he said, "we used to go to weddings and take away ideas. I don't like this -- or I'd like to do that -- and we'd try and remember them for our own. Remember?"

"Yes," I said, as we pulled out into traffic, heading back home. "You're doing it at funerals now?" He grunted an affirmative. "Me, too," I said.

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