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Thursday, May 14, 2009

See You in Heaven

Because I live less than half a mile away from my parents house, I have the good fortune to be over there a lot. I'm not sure that many other people would consider such proximity to be fortuitous, but I do.

My wife and I were at my parents house on Sunday for a combined Mother's Day/Masonic Apron Birthday celebratory dinner. My father, who is a late bloomer in the kitchen, cooked his traditional garlic-swathed vegetables and succulent shrimp. (A side note: Yes, he is Israeli, and yes, shrimp are not kosher. We do what we want.)

My oldest sister was in attendance at the dinner, and, being the gossip maven, she kept me abreast of the latest important developments in our small little world:

1.) My aunt and uncle are selling their house, which burned to the ground in 2005 while my aunt was drunk and napping in the bathtub. She only survived because a neighbor saw the fire and ran into the house and got her out. They used the insurance money, and a lot of other money that wasn't theirs, to rebuild greater and grander than before. The house is going for $1.4 million. Cash or check. Paper or plastic.

2.) There is a Cryptosporidium outbreak in Montgomery County. Why does my sister know this? Why, because she elected to receive text message and e-mail alerts from the Montgomery County Health Department to aide in scaring the bejesus out of her, obviously.

Cryptosporidium, by the way, "a gastrointestinal illness caused by parasitic protozoa of the genus Cryptosporidium and can produce watery diarrhea lasting 1--3 weeks; one or two cases per 100,000 population are reported annually in the United States. Fecal-oral transmission of Cryptosporidium oocysts occurs through ingestion of contaminated drinking or recreational water, consumption of contaminated food, and contact with infected persons or animals (e.g., cattle or sheep)."

This information is taken, obviously, from the email message that she forwarded to me the following day. I have since taken steps to limit my intimate contact with cows and sheep, as well as putting the kabash on fecal-oral activities.

Thanks, sis.

If you weren't discussing gastrointestinal diseases at the dining room table at your Mother's Day celebration, I have no doubt that you were at least chit-chatting about death and cemetery plots. No? You're weird. We were.

I forget exactly how it came up-- I think we were talking about my Great Aunt who is currently living in Florida with her 3rd husband, who is 92 years old, in excellent physical condition, but whose brain is being turned into a cottage-cheese-like mixture, not by Hulu, but by Alzheimers. He is uncontrollable. When the two of them go out to dinner, he routinely approaches young, beautiful women and advises them to have sex with him, regardless of whether or not they are already accompanied by a gentleman caller. When my parents visited them in Florida last month, my father complained that the kitchen chair on which he was sitting was very hard. My Great Uncle cried, "AH! Like my PENIS!"

Always an Olympic-level alcoholic, this tendency has only increased with his Alzheimers. Where he used to begin drinking at two or three in the afternoon, my Great Uncle will now commence libation activities at around 9am, consuming twelve to fourteen glasses of vodka or gin (that are watered down with futility by my Great Aunt.)

"You know, she's going to leave him there (in Florida) when he dies," my father said to us at the Mother's Day dinner.

"Oh, yeah?" I asked, not entirely surprised.

"Yeah," my father said, smiling mischieveously, "she said that the second he's in the fucking ground she's moving back to Philadelphia."

"Well, where will she be buried?" my sister asked while conducting a necropsy on her eviscerated piece of shrimp.

"With my parents, with us," my mother said with irritation.

"With us, huh? Where the hell are "us"?" I asked.

"My parents are in Frazier."

"Is that where you're going?" I asked.

"I'm going to Heaven," my mother answered with all the confidence of someone announcing that they were going to Trenton or to the gas station.

"Oh, really?" I asked, amused.

"Yes," she answered, cracking a smile.

"Wow. I didn't realize that's where you were going. I guess I should engage in more air travel after you're dead, maybe I'll see you out the fucking window."

My mother laughed at that.

"Sure, you will. I'll be floating around the clouds."

I stared at her.

"Hey, it's better than thinking I'll be stinking and rotting in the ground."

"Well, yeah, you got me there," I said. My father continued eating, no doubt completely disengaged from the current conversation. My father is like HD-TV. Sometimes he's totally tuned in and impressive, and then *poof!* the signal goes out.

"What exactly is it that makes funerals so expensive," my sister pontificated, "is it that people haven't pre-purchased their plots, or is it the service, or.... I mean, what is it?"

"Well, I think part of it is the fucking casket, for Christ's sake," I blurted out. "I mean those fucking boxes alone are, like, $3,000."

"Really?" my sister asked, stunned. I was surprised she hadn't already exhaustively researched and vetted them on Consumer Reports.

"Really," I said, "and those aren't even the ones with power windows."

I asked my mother if they had their plots purchased.

"Yup. Picked out, purchased and paid for."

I admired her businesslike attitude about the whole thing. She's always been a no-nonsense type person, like Margaret Thatcher without the business suits, handbags and cool accent. I guess it was her stoic practicality that made her comment about ascending upwards in a white robe to hobnob with St. Peter and Gandhi so surprising to me. My mother can smell bullshit a mile-and-a-half away and no greater bullshit story has ever been written to surpass Heaven. If there is a Heaven, my mother will be there. I just hope they'll let me have visitation sessions.

Ten or so minutes later, the conversation had moved onto another topic-- God knows what-- I think my wife was putting my sister onto the Consumer Report hunt for a new gas stove for us. In a week, we will have a dossier on ovens bigger and more detailed than J. Edgar Hoover's file on Marilyn Monroe. Ever the perseverator, I turned to my mother.

"So, let's say you decide to get cremated and have your ashes spread in the ocean. If I go snorkeling, will I see you?"


  1. oh.. Mother's Day. It's so good at bringing out the best in us, ain't it?

  2. Sounds like lovely brunch conversation to me!

  3. my friends daughter talked about spray on condoms at the Easter dinner table.. her grandad said I cant handle this and left the table for a bit.. ha ha ha .. everyone else laughed!
    No wonder you go over all the time.. I wouldnt want to miss anything with a sister like yours!

  4. Your family converses like that of a Douglas Coupland novel. :)

    And I don't know how serious you are about your title, or if its sarcastic, but I'm a member of a Masonic Family- my father was a master Mason, my sister an Eastern star, and I am a former Job's Daughter.
    Its always cool to see the symbols turn up in Gen Y references. Its pretty rare these days.


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