Thursday, June 16, 2011

If Only This Weren't True

Way back when, I had an uncle named Arnold.  Great Uncle, actually.  My gram's older brother.  There were three siblings of a rich Chicago family (thank you stock market crash for ending that trend), Arnold, then Emmelina (gram) then Dora.  My gram, daughter of a dentist, niece of a doctor,  "married beneath her" and married a trolley conductor.  The other two siblings lived in the family home in Chicago together for the rest of their lives.  It was a gorgeous 3-flat.  The first floor was the dentist office.  ANyway, Dora and Arnold were weird weird weird.  Siblings living together forever.  They were weird miser-cheap.  Dora had several fur coats, one of which was a full-length mink which she liked to "wear" for the holidays.  I say "wear," because on Christmas, they'd arrive at my gram's house, and Dora would be in a cloth coat with the mink in a brown paper bag.  She'd carry it in, hang it in the closet, then put it back in the bag at the end of the night and carry it home.  I know. 

They wouldn't allow anyone in their house (which was also supposed to be willed to my grandmother, but ... long story).  There were 3 generations of stuff, junk, crap and treasures in that place.  Unrelated, but fascinating:  when they'd all died, my father and his brother inherited the CONTENTS of the house, not the house itself.  So they had to go through it and sort out everything.  A full 18-wheeler full of trash -- literally trash-- was taken away.  We found the remains (cremated, luckily) of no fewer than 4 dogs.  And a jar of gold.

Anyway, Uncle Arnold had a pronounced hump.  He couldn't stand straight up for years.  He had started out very tall -- probably 6 foot 4 or so, and rail-thin.  I never really noticed the hump, as it was part of him for as long as I could recall.  It was extremely severe, but he didn't seem to mind.  Just put on his slacks with suspenders and went about his business.  He was actually very nice when you got past the dead dogs in boxes. 

Well, he was the first of the siblings to die.  He was probably about 80ish.  Now, realize I come from parents with dry and sick senses of humor, but that's a side they rarely show to anyone.  They are usually very sincere and kind and sweet.  Usually.  But when it came to Dora and Arnold, they really had to restrain themselves, because the whole entire situation was so ludicrous.

When uncle Arnold had died, they got called to the hospital to say goodbye with Gram and Aunt Dora.  My Aunt J. and Uncle M also went.  They went, theoretically, to comfort Gram.  Really, they went to satisfy their gruesome curiosity.  You see, my aunt and uncle are well on their way to becoming the next generation of weirdos.  They are incredibly mercenary, and love to ask inappropriate questions (what do you pay in taxes?  How much is your house worth?  Wasn't your son in jail?  Aren't you gaining weight?).  You get the idea.  So mom and dad braced themselves for what would surely prove to be a challenging experience.  Little did they know.  \\

They arrived at Methodist hospital and went up to the morgue or where ever it was they kept the body.  Mom and Dad described it like this:

"So there they were, Ma (gram), Dora, J and M all gathered around the table where uncle Arnold was laid, dressed fully, ready for the funeral home.  We (mom and dad) stood at  the foot of the bed as Ma and Dora stood at his head.  J and M stood towards the middle.  Ma kept talking to Arnold, saying things like, "now you aren't sick anymore, Arnold.  You are safe with God.  You are with our parents.  You don't have to lean over anymore Arnold. "
Dora was there too, talking to him.  "Arnold, you can feel better now.  You can stand straight now, and not have to take medicine."
All of this is so touching.  So sweet, so sisterly.  HOWEVER, what I fail to mention here is that with each statement of "you can stand straight now" and "you don't have to lean over anymore," they were gently pressing on his forehead, so instead of protruding up over the pillow, his head was flat.  They'd gently but firmly push his head down, and with their backs turned on my mom and dad, they could not see that with each push, HIS FEET WERE RISING UP OFF THE  BED.  They'd release their hands, and his head would come back up, feet would go back down.  Push head down, feet come up, let go, feet go down.  Over and over.

To make matters even sicker, when they'd push down on his head, his jaw would gape open.  My incredibly inappropriate aunt (and to a lesser degree, her husband) would lean in and peer into his mouth.  "Hey!  Did you know he has gold teeth?  I wonder if the funeral home will take them out before he's buried.  Wonder how much they're worth."

Push head down, feet come up, Aunt leans in to check out the gold teeth.  Release, feet come down, Aunt stands back up.  Repeat.

My parents were helpless with laughter.  They had tears streaming down their faces.  They simply could not stand it another moment, so at my mom's gesture, they exited the room and stood in the hall, arms around each other, tears streaming down their faces, shoulders shaking from uncontrollable mirth.  Gasps and hiccups of merriment would occasionally escape from one, prompting the other into another round of tears. 

To make matters just a leetle more impossible, a social worker, assigned to the viewing room saw my parents and understandably misinterpreted their shaking shoulders, tears and desperate embrace for grief and began to pat them, murmur words of gentle understanding, tried to guide them to a couch, tried to offer coffee or water or tissues.  This only made things worse.  They actually had to drag their sorry asses out of there, out of the hospital, far from prying eyes where they could succumb to their hysteria.

I think they still feel guilty, but ...


Post Script:  OMG.  This blog entry was MENTIONED and LINKED on another blog!  I'm FAAAAAAMOUS!
Go -- love them up.


More Than Fluffy Bunnies said...

That was the best birthday present story I've ever been given. You are my new best friend. I think I love you. And I already love your parents. ;)

Deborah said...

Oh my, that was funny! You just gotta love and embrace the weirdness in our families, don't you? Makes life so much more interesting.

Aunt Snow said...

That is hilarious!! What a good story.

Mrs. G. said...

This makes me realize that my bunch isn't the only weird one walking on this planet. You've got some realy wise guys in your clan!

smalltownme said...

They remind me of some of my relatives! And about the gold teeth--did the funeral home remove them? I found some gold teeth amongst my mother's effects...I think they were her brother's. I have been too embarassed to take them to a gold dealer but maybe I should.

Gary's third pottery blog said...

noooooooo.......not the gold teeth...........

Anonymous said...

Too, too funny! So glad I popped over from the Manor tonight. :)

alison said...

I have just totally embarassed myself by reading this at work and having my loud laughing disturbing all the surrounding cubicle-dwellers. Hilarious!

Suburban Correspondent said...

Oh, I just love anyone who cracks up uncontrollably at totally the wrong moment. Chuckles the Clown, anyone?

Danita said...

Just discovered your blog from your SGW post at Rants from MommyLand. I saw this post on the sidebar and just HAD to comment. I thought my family was strange. You WIN!!