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Friday, February 19, 2010

Limousine Farts; Part II

Remember Aunt Mickey?

Well, unless you joined the My Masonic Apron fold recently, you probably do. If you don't recall hearing her name, or remembering her name, or hearing of her limousine farts, read up.

Aunt Mickey finally died on Thursday, February 18th. "Finally died." That sounds like such a silly thing to say. Of course she finally died. We all die, finally, and, as Basil Fawlty once said about death through clenched teeth, "I'd say it was pretty bloody final."

Pretty bloody final indeed, Basil.

According to her doctors, she should have passed away somwhere around January 10th or so. "You probably won't make it through the weekend," they told her on Friday, January 8th. Well, they were wrong. Doctors sometimes are, you know.

My mother called me Thursday night at 8:43pm. My wife and I were taking a rare break from the Olympics, snuggled up together on the couch like two pretzels in a bag, watching "Julie/Julia" when the phone rang. I know I sound like a bad son when I say it, but ordinarily, when my parents call during a movie, I let it go to voicemail. But, ever since Aunt Mickey mounted her epic Dying Odyssey back in early January, every time my parents call, I pick it up. I always take a moment to summon up the strength to hear the news before I hit that little green button on my cell-phone. Strangely enough, I didn't think Thursday night was the night.

I'm going to talk a little bit about "Julie/Julia" for a minute-- I hope that doesn't make me sound like some emotionally-detached wackjob with Aspergers who doesn't comprehend the enormity of the matriarch of his family passing away. I do. But Aunt Mickey loved the entertainment industry-- and she loved movies (remember "The Hornymooners?") so I don't think she'd mind, if she were alive to mind.

I didn't like "Julie/Julia," barely at all. I think Julie Powell is incredibly narcissitic and obsessive, and not in a charming way, either-- and I don't think Amy Adams brought anything remotely affirming or sympathetic with her wooden, whiny portrayal either. I think it's very obnoxious when you have a character who is self-absorbed and a bitch, and then thinks that she's likeable because she admits to being so.

The performances of Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci certainly elevate the film, and these scenes are filmed, directed, and acted with palpable affection and sumptuous detail for a bygone era, but I didn't think they were enough to save the movie, to justify its existence. I would hope that, if Julia Child had ever met Julie Powell that she would have had enough sense to smack Julie Powell upseide her head with a rolling pin-- and a rolling pin from the 1950s, not one of the cheap, crappy ones that are made today.

Then, the more I thought about it, I thought, well-- you didn't hate "Julie/Julia," you hate Julie Powell, because she's a blogger who is famous and wipes the Boeuf Bourguignon off her chin with money and you are a blogger who will never squeeze a book deal out of this bizarre cacophany you call a blog and you get Kraft Lite Ranch salad dressing on your pants with disturbing regularity.

Or maybe I didn't like "Julie/Julia" because I'll always associate it with the phone call I got at 8:43pm on Thursday night, February 18th, 2010.

Speaking of phone calls-- I didn't make mine. When we were all told that Aunt Mickey was sent home from the hospital, we, my mother's children were told that we could call her before it was too late, before she slipped into her inevitable coma and then organ failure took her away. I didn't call. Now, you know me. Well, some of you do, I think, and pretty well, too. I think you know that I'm not going to turn this blog upside-down and make of it a soapbox upon which I will stand and lecture you in my guilt about the importance of saying goodbye when faced with death-- about how you'll never get another chance to say farewell to loved ones who are slipping mercilessly away. To tell you how wracked with regret I am. To say I'm sorry to whomever's listening.

Well, you know I won't do that. Am I sorry? Oh, yes, I suppose I am. I suppose I "should" have called my Aunt Mickey, on whose freshly-waxed parquet floor I used slide in my white cotton socks, in whose Cadillac I quietly prayed we would arrive at our destination safely, at whose chic country club I feasted on countless corned beef and pastrami sandwiches. I suppose I should have called her.

But I didn't know what to say.

Isn't that funny? Me-- the man who's been blogging every single day for three hundred and seventy-seven days, who shoots his mouth off at work with reckless disregard for the consequences, who makes flip and crass comments at every family dinner, sending everyone into hysterics and head shakes, whose ruthless commentary and remarks have more than once made my mother, Aunt Mickey's little niece, remark, "You're murder," her cheeks red with embarrassed laughter.

I didn't know what to say.

And I was afraid-- of crying, of making her cry, of saying something stupid, of saying nothing at all, of wishing I hadn't called at all, of everything. Of nothing.

I didn't know what I'd say to her youngest son, who was at her bedside from the first day returning home from the hospital to the moment when she breathed her last. Her oldest son had been to Vietnam and came back completely fucked up-- but I think this must have been a thousand times worse. I didn't know what I'd say to him if he'd picked up the phone.

After I put the phone down on Thursday night, I looked at my wife, who knew already because you can hear conversations had on my cellphone if you're in the same room and I said,

"Well, that's that. It's going to be on Sunday and we'll see if we can go," and I pressed play on the DVD remote.

I was kind of alarmed at myself at how apparently callously I took the news, especially considering that, several years ago, when my mother called me to tell me that my pediatric allergist had collapsed and died suddenly of a massive heart attack, I fell into the living room rocking chair and sobbed hysterically in my wife's arms. When I think about Dr. Greene, sometimes tears still fill my eyes, to this day. Maybe it's because he was 55 and it was so shocking-- this passing was anything but. It was a goddamned shame.

"She could have been playing tennis today if she'd had that operation," said my uncle.

Well, maybe. Not for us to say, really. It was her choice, and it was her life. Her's till the end.

I read about a BBC reporter yesterday afternoon named Ray Gosling. He's an elderly man and, while filming a documentary about the right-to-die, he made a startling confession whilst walking through a graveyard on a blustery Midlands day.

"I killed someone once," he said, his voice trembling with emotion, "...he was a young chap. He'd been my lover, and he got AIDS. And, in a hospital, one hot afternoon-- doctors said, 'There's nothing we can do' and he was in terrible, terrible pain. And I said to the doctor, 'Leave me, just for a bit.' And he went away, and I picked up a pillow and I smothered him until he was dead. Doctor came back. And I said, 'He's gone.' Nothing more was ever said."

Ray Gosling, 70 years old, was arrested after Nottinghamshire Police reviewed the documentary and interviewed its producers.

After watching the clip of Gosling, walking through the cemetery, his thinning white hair blowing about as he made this astonishing confession, I realized something my father had said to me back on January 9th. He told me on the phone that Aunt Mickey had told him that she wanted to die, and that she wanted him to 'help her with that.' He had said it, and I'd heard it, but it clearly didn't register that Aunt Mickey had asked my father to help her end her life. Of course, he refused, instead agreeing to arrange hospice care for her and to plan out her funeral in exact detail. Her obituary, for instance, will not be released to the newspapers until exactly two weeks after her burial. That's Aunt Mickey, pulling the strings even from beyond the grave.

Now, just like I don't want this blog post to be about guilt, I also don't want it to turn into a debate about assisted suicide. You think what you think, I think what I think, and maybe what I think will evolve over time after I've had enough experiences with life and death. Maybe yours will, too. I don't know. I just know that my Aunt Mickey's dead, and that I didn't like "Julie/Julia" and that being a blogger is very, very good for me.

Thank you.


  1. Beautifully written. I'm very sorry for your loss.

  2. Wow- he killed his lover? Just like that? Wow. I don't know that I could do that. I suppose I could understand knowing when you're time is up and wanting to go with relatively no pain. I can appreciate that. Maybe that's one of the perks to kind of knowing when it's your time--maybe you get to chose your ending like in those books. But damn- I don't know if I could actually end someone's life.

    And also- what do you say on the phone? I am horrible in these situations. Which is ironic since I work with old people and the only funerals I've attended where for volunteers. Whom I don't really know a whole lot outside of me doing their paperwork.

    Hang in there. Wherever that may be.

  3. I agree with NORTC, this is a beautiful post and some of your best writing. Your being a blogger is very, very good for the blogosphere, as well.

  4. Having a blog is free therapy.

    I'm sorry about Aunt Mickey - not because of misplaced, distant sense of pity (she sounds like a battleaxe of mythical proportions and not somebody who would be wildly delighted with anything resembling pity), but because I wish I could have met her before she kicked the metaphorical bucket with extraordinary sense of character.

    Thanks for bringing her to life in your blog so that some of us can at least imagine having met her.

  5. The submersible limousine tender is out so look out for it


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