Thursday, July 6, 2017

They Tumble Blindly As They Make Their Way Across the Universe

I flew to my brother's funeral in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Needless to say this was not a fun trip.  You don't consider in the moment you hear that someone passes, you'll need to travel right quick in order to attend the ceremonies.  It hit me the next day and travel arrangements were made in a rushed daze. Time was playing out in puky chunks.  I was on the plane.  I was hugging my sister Mary after landing.  I found myself at the hotel alone and realized I hadn't eaten all day.  The great thing is that food is the last thing on your mind in times of loss.  After attending the visitation and around 10:30 that night I ordered a vegetable pizza and inhaled two slices whole while welcoming my sister Rach and her daughter.  They had grabbed some Power's hamburgers on the way in from the airport.  The next day I figured we'd surely eat together.  There was no time for breakfast before heading to the church the next morning.

David's sons on his bike in front of the church
A ritual now. Immediate family have a chance to say final goodbyes to brother.  The casket is sealed. The priest says we need to send him back to God.  Ave Maria was sung like an angel.  I held his daughter's hand.  There was comfort from friends and family.  The mass is over.  Off to the burial site.  Oh my God, my brother Ernie is leading the procession on David's Harley.  My heart drops to the soft grass.
After that there was only a sense of floating through that day.  We went to the reception hall at the church for a lunch. Betty, now a widow sits down next to me on a chair made available to her after some fumbling on my part.  A brief conversation.  What she was saying and what I was feeling for her collided in this other dreamy dimension.  How was she standing, I thought? She was so beautiful, always was, such a graceful feminine demeanor.  She had a sweet giggle that was loving. I wanted to remember her with my brother, there together, him saying something laugh worthy.  I wanted to hug her endlessly but I realized she was being held up by her ability to stay calm.  Let's talk about the food.  It was like when someone's been in an accident and doesn't realize their legs are severed.  I let her lead the conversation.  God knows I couldn't get through a sentence that whole trip.  What's going on? The food, it hadn't arrived yet, someone was late in bringing it.  Making it now. Was supposed to be there 2 hours ago. She apologized and I couldn't comprehend that sentiment.  I said no, please. No one cares about the food right now.  Sitting down after all of that was the most I was capable of.  I looked over at my sister and though she looked fine, deep in conversation I knew she desperately needed respite.  She was very close to brother, they had a very special bond.
 Rachel with cousin Patty.  
This was a banquet room of folks in various levels or mourning.  Someone laughing one moment could be sobbing at another glance.

Someone had brought out freshly made hot sauce and chips.  And bottled water.  My nephew Manny went out and brought a sack of ice cream bars back.  Right then I officially labeled him a very thoughtful, considerate person. Not just for that reason but everything combined in this trip.  Some attributes are highlighted by circumstance.

The food came eventually and we were the last in line.  It was good but I can barely recall what it was.  Meat, was it beef?  Rice and beans.  We're out of tortillas the lady shouted about 5 times at us as if it were the punchline to a joke.  At the table I realized why this was important.  The little plastic fork struggled to do the job.
 Back to the hotel but with a promised dinner later after a nap that never took hold.  My sisters together at a place called Laycoff's.  Casual, but a local favorite.  Still reality was hazy and coming through in short bursts.  Something about Sausage Rolls.  They had grinders I heard myself say.  There were appetizers, and conversation within seconds of sitting.  I had two mysterious rashes on my face during the whole trip and by this time the cracks of my mouth were bleeding and everything burned and ached.  My eyelids flaked with misery. For the record that food was excellent but after a few bites I just felt numb.
Sausage Roll, like a calzone but less sauce, more sausage and cheese. BBQ sauce is drizzled on top for ultimate enjoyment. 

And then even though it was the worst of timing, we needed to see our other brother Tony who was a burst of positive intensity. He was setting off fireworks with his kids. I had not seen him in 30 years.
The next morning before being driven to the airport, we stopped and had another get together for breakfast, this time my brother Ernie joined us with his wife and son and David's daughter and husband.  Laredo's, a family Mexican restaurant, an old favorite.  I ordered menudo and again, any other time I would have licked this bowl clean but after a few bites, the thrill was gone.

It probably sounds odd to write about the food, but a familiar formality like eating a meal takes on a distinctive significance at a time like this.

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