We had to attend a memorial Saturday. Before you think "Oh that's sad", no, it really wasn't and for a handful of reasons. It was for an elderly aunt who was one of those women that became mean as they aged. Also, this family isn't big on sentimentality. The Priest - more on that in a minute - attributed it to them being Norwegian. This family is big on smartassery and alcohol. Finally, she passed from cancer in October so the loss isn't fresh and paired with the pandemic, most of us had already lost the connection.
Now, the location. The cousins have property "upriver", which is exactly how it sounds. It's in the foothills of the northern Cascade Range. We've been there a handful of times and we get lost every.single.time. It's like a Twin Peaks or Northern Exposure episode. It's not like LOST lost, just take an extra turn kind of lost. It's on a river so it's not like you can go far.
Kevin had to work but bailed early. We were asked to arrive a little early to hang out with the cousins before everyone arrived. We tried and succeeded, kind of.
While Kevin was in the shower, his mom phoned. I answered his phone - in case it was an emergency - and I could hear her but she couldn't hear me. I assumed it was because his phone was still connected either to his vehicle or his earpiece. I hung up and called her from my phone. FIVE TRIES later I gave up. Somehow she did end up leaving a voicemail that was just her and f-i-l talking about how she can't call us.
You guys, I wonder on the regular why I haven't started drinking again.
Finally she phones me. She is worried because they left without us. I gestured to Kevin like WUT and he said they had made no plan for traveling together. So I just said "Don't worry, we'll just catch up with you later."
We headed out about ten minutes later. About five minutes into our travel, Kevin's dad phones "Where are you?" Now we're immediately gone to the dark place. They've crashed, they've had a medical emergency...
No, they're waiting for us off the highway because I told the mother that we would catch up with them. She took that as we were going to chase them down and travel together. Deep Sigh. Kevin explained that they could just continue, we were fine.
After disconnecting, he says "It's a good thing you didn't say See You Later Alligator. She would be all I wonder why Surely's mad at me, she called me a reptile." Omg, his brain sometimes.
We continue on. We get nearly there, only about ten minutes left and the phone rings again. His dad again. "Where are you?" again. Kevin explains we're minutes away. His dad says "I know, you just passed us. We pulled over to wait for you." a) then why did you ask where we are and 2) why is this still a thing.
WE HAVE DIRECTIONS TO THE EVENT. PRINTED. PROVIDED WITH THE INVITATION. WE HAVE BEEN THERE BEFORE. GPS!!!
Kevin sighed heavily and pulled over, telling his dad to just drive by and we'll follow them.
I will never understand how the family makes the Simplest Thing a THING.
Oh, and his brother texted us while we were still driving "Are you there?" I just answered No and put the phone down. He wasn't there either so why are you texting Kevin when you know he's driving. He didn't need anything, he was just having (literal) separation anxiety.
We get to the place, which is a nearly three acre campground next to the river. Most of the family is already there. And it's a little bit drunk-thirty already because that's how this family rolls. (they are nice, they're just a little sitcom-esque)
The priest arrives after us and as he's walking toward the group, biffs it. Fell right to the ground. I had SO MUCH to say and couldn't say any of it. I was already worried about being smited into a pile of ash. I was happy for the six-foot social distancing, in this instance.
Finally everyone arrives and we gather together near the place they set up with chairs, etc. No one wants to sit. Everyone stands back. INCLUDING THE CHILDREN OF THE DECEASED. Finally the priest is telling people specifically where to sit and then the cousins start chiming in. "Surely and Kevin, come sit up front." We both balked, because, like, no. But we did as we were told.
About two minutes into the sermon, I noticed that I'm seated next to lilacs. I am super allergic to lilacs. The universe is HILARIOUS sometimes. I can't move seats, I can't get up. I can't move the flowers. So I just meditatively breathed as shallow as I could. Worse case I'm a runny, sneezy mess with a wheeze. It could look like I was mourning.
Now back to the priest. The priest was in jeans and told us that was a first for his career. Of course this family provided that opportunity. Then he "joked" that he had told them the next event was supposed to be a wedding, baptismal, or barbecue. This is where it gets weird because it IS a barbecue. That also happens to have a memorial at the beginning. Mostly it's a barbecue though. Way to make it weird(er).
I can't remember what point he was making when he said the following, I just remember him telling us. He described how he loved his teenaged son so much, yet could still imagine him with cement blocks on his feet, floating in Puget Sound. WUT times infinity. I looked at Kevin and he stage whispers "Well, that was rough." and we tried not to laugh.
Kevin's brother is seated behind us and he says ALOUD "I've felt that." Umm, sir, this is not a comedy show. SHUSH. And the brother continued his call and response throughout the program. What is that?
Next was the regular funeral reading of the loved ones birth and death dates, family - including a "Did I miss anyone?" AND HE DID, one of the sons. It was the son that beaked off in my social media comments during the insurrection so maybe it wasn't a mistake.
Sidebar: I hate how when people die, the cleryperson always makes them sound better than they were. Stop that. They did that for my dad and I wanted to stand and ask "How many of you thought my dad was an ass? Show of hands." AND, during my memorial if all y'all choose to have one: tell them I was snarky, smartassy, and a handful. Do not sugarcoat who I am. PROMISE.
Next up on the schedule of the program was listing her hobbies: gardening, cooking, sports, and watching F*x news. No exaggeration: there was a murmur of APPROVAL through the group. Sigh. That was sadder than the death, to me.
Then he mentions that the aunt knew Loretta Lynn as a child. I looked at Kevin with an eyebrow raise and he one-shoulder shrugged. In thirty years with this family, I've never heard that story. It's possible but how did that never come up before, especially when the brothers are Big Story Tellers. I am so going to ask Uncle when he is here next weekend.
Finally the memorial was complete. The eldest cousin had been running the music during the program and at the end, he slightly turns to the group and says "What do you want to listen to?" Made me laugh.
This group is very republican. They all commented about being vaccinated or not (most weren't), etc. They hate our governor, etc. I had already made a plan for this situation. My outs were going to be: taking photos, going to the bathroom, or "asthma". I only had to use it once so that was a small gift from the universe. My other was a simple comment of "That assh*le....wanting to keep us alive and stuff." in response to comments about the governor or the president. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't get to use it.
One of the cousins is like a daughter to my mother-in-law. I haven't been a big fan of hers but as we've aged we've found common ground. She was uncomfortable in this setting and stayed near me. (my gawd, I need to do a family tree for this post. It's SO COMPLICATED) She kept asking me who people were. I finally laughed and was "Denise, you've been part of this family longer than I have."
There was an older, very handsome gentleman whom no one seemed to know. Finally, we were told that it was the eldest cousin's bio dad. He had found him about a year ago and they are now more family than with his actual family. He had come to support his son and to honor the aunt. How nice is that?
Backstory: the aunt and gentleman had dated in high school, in a small super-churchy town. She got pregnant, the boy's (wealthy) family wouldn't allow them to marry because the girl was poor and pregnant, so she married someone else. This was not part of the memorial and man, that's the stuff people want to hear. The human experience, not that she liked to garden. (Again: you can tell ALL my stories. PROMISE ME.)
Now it's time for the barbecue/party. Everyone was eating and mingling. I watched the crowd ebb and flow between the elderly parents, the cousins - all now in their sixties & fifties - and the younger cousins. My dark little heart was "This is probably going to be one of the last gatherings" as I watched the patriarch of the family absentmindedly toddle around with no aim. My m-i-l was actually in her wheelchair and with her oxygen. There are three uncles, one of which is my f-i-l, and woo boy they are tough as nails. Even with that, I can see how they've aged in the last year or so. That's what I call happy/sad. Happy that everyone is together and sad for the reason we are.
Finally, it was time to go home. Kevin mentioned he was starting to make his way to the truck and OF COURSE, his brother jumps to make sure he's ready to leave also. Seeing this, my - slightly evil - husband slows his roll and hangs out a while. We watched them pull out of the campsite and stayed probably another fifteen minutes. Plenty of time for them to travel to the highway and let us alone.
We leave, we get to the main highway, and what do we see about one mile down the highway? His brother. He had PULLED OVER so we could catch up with him. OFFS. Kevin just muttered "Of course" and continued on. I'm not even sure he waved, now that I think of it.
Once we reached "town" the option is to continue on a country highway or go through "town" to the freeway. Kevin asked what my preference was and I chose country highway. The words hadn't dispersed from their word bubble in the air when I caught a flash in the side mirror. There sits his brother. And his blinker is on. Because why would we NOT want to have him follow us everywhere.
Here's another funny thing that Kevin will do in these instances: turn his blinker on. He's ZERO intention of turning, he's not going anywhere. He just quietly turns his blinker on for seconds then turns it off. Just the thought that his brother is probably freaking out with "Where is he going? This isn't the turn? What if something is wrong?" is enough for him
So, there's a glimpse of family life in Surely's World. I wish I could say it wasn't always like this but it is.
Also, Glenda - we speak your name.