What an odd Saturday I’ve had. I attended my step-father’s wake in Brockvegas, populated with people whose average age was 70+, mostly rich white folks living in 750K codos overlooking the St Lawrence Seaway (Step-dad was a busy realtor in Brockvegas). Pepper in the odd via-marriage cousin, “son of so and so”, “brother of his uncle” and you had a room full of Italian/Irish/Brits all being nice and simmering emotionally over a free bar.
As I am generally a nervous wreck these kinds of social situations (and I don’t drink), I put my foot into my mouth so many times that Dr Scholls is considering teaming up with Crest to market directly to me. I had one particular gaffe that was done with such elan and flair I am certain I deserve a prize of some sort: We were clearing the party room after the service and I had just brought in the guest book and various framed photos into Mum’s condo. I look around and wonder where “the urn” is. Earlier, there was some debate as to whether Ian’s ashes were to be divided or placed into the St Lawrence. I turn to Mum and ask deadpan: “Where is Ian?”
Of course I mean Ian’s remains. Or Ian’s ashes. I didnt want to reduce him to that… level… so I stopped short of adding those two words to the end of my sentence. Plus I firmly believe that we never actually “leave” and that through memory and voodoo hocus pocus, we remain with our loved ones forever.
Anyhoo, back to the moment.
Mum’s face looks like I had just slapped her. My oldest brother, standing behind her, eyes the size of Grandma Perini’s largest stock pot lids, has a face that looks like I just uttered the most heinous swear word. Mum bursts into tears. She had been holding up well all day and only had a few blubbery moments during her comments at the service. Now, she’s full on crying. I hug her and try to explain myself. Over Mum’s head, I can see daggers shooting towards me from my brother’s eyes. After a time, she pulls back composed, cups my face in the way I love so much and says “Thank you.” It was the release she needed for the day and as if no error in my choice of words had happened, she explains to me that he’s in the same box, given to her from the funeral home, not an urn, over there on the piano.
I am of course, mortified.
The debate over what is to be done with the ashes still continues. I don’t want to ask and will wait ’til someone tells me.