Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mirror Mirror On the Wall, Who's the Fucked Up Of Them All?

Many of you have wondered what exactly went down when I went to Salt Lake City to deal with my uncle, the passing of my grandmother, and the ensuing drama.

Here is the update.

On Saturday, my parents will travel to attend the "memorial service" my uncle is having for my grandmother. I use quotes because initially my uncle's idea of a memorial service sounded like he was having a kegger in his backyard.

We arrived in SLC on Monday, checked in to the hotel and had my father drop my mother and I off at the mall. There was no way in hell I was going to my uncle's house. No. Way.

At this point, things had been so awful that gallows humor had started to set in.

Walking around the mall, drinking my Orange Julius, my dad called me to help fill in the death certificate. There was something very surreal hearing the cheerful, shopping music watching families together while supplying names and dates to my father.

After my father took care of business, he met us back at one of the food courts. My mom sat across the table from us, eating her Dairy Queen sundae. I sat next to my father.

Throughout this entire drama, my father has been very anti-cremation. He knew that was what his mother wanted, but he wanted his opportunity to "pat the casket". Being able to say goodbye in this way was very important to him, and I respect that. The only time my father had freaked out in any way at me was when I asked him if he intended to bring any of my grandmother's ashes home.

His response: The ashes are just like her body! I may as well cut her head off and take it on the airplane with me...

I cut him off at that point, explaining that now I knew how he felt, and I wouldn't ask again.

It is important for you, the reader, to know this because after my father took care of the cremation paperwork, death certificate and various and sundry he sat in that food court to tell us how the meeting with his brother had gone.

Apparently, my uncle has no intention of buying an urn. He told my father that he is going to bring one of his ornamental vases to collect the ashes, bring it home to his house and pot her in a plant.

Yes. You heard me correctly. My uncle intends to dump my grandmother into one of his house plants.

I stared at my father. My mother burst into tears.

In the middle of a food court in Salt Lake City, I stammered and stuttered for clarification, my mom sobbed into her sundae, my dad turned to me and asked if I still wanted some of her ashes.

That poor man.

I told my dad that yes, I wanted some of her ashes. My dad commented that he'd better bring some Tupperware to the service, and while we laughed at the horror of it my mom renewed her sobbing.

Ain't it a kick in the head?

The "viewing" was technically the legal identification of my grandmother's remains. It was awful in a sad way, but still very cathartic and much better than we had anticipated. Because we weren't paying customers, they had us in the antechamber to the freezer. We could see the combo lock on the door. At least they had a few beat up sofas in the room, but it was still down in the bowels of the funeral home.

The whole thing was just sad and fucked up.

We did our business, had our ten minutes to pay our respects. Thankfully, my uncle had refused to come. I had not seen him at that point, and I had no intention of doing so.

We left the room, and my grandmother, behind. I can't describe the feeling knowing I am the last person in our family to have seen her. It is both a gift and a burden. I may expound on that some time in the future, but all I know is that I am glad I went.

Because we were in the freezer/basement shopping corner my mom wanted a few minutes to look around. They had beautiful urns, headstones, and the usual tucked into this corner, and my mom wanted to take a look.

Next to the ├╝ber-expensive urns were the memorial urns. They were $30 and similar in style to their regular-sized counterparts. My parents have always hated the TV shows in which the urn has fallen off the mantel into the fireplace and the characters have had to scrape up the ashes, carpet fluff and the like back into the urn. They have always found it to be crass and disrespectful. I pointed out the memorial urns to my father.

Look Dad! I said. All of that crap on TV is just TV. See how these have screw-on lids? There is none of that bs about the ashes falling out onto the floor.

My dad, his intersted piqued, grabbed one of the memorial urns off of the shelf. The lid? Yeah. It fell on the floor.

Let me tell you, we laughed 'til we cried, and I still haven't heard the end of that one.

After talking to the funeral director about the lids (they use industrial strength sealant, whatever the hell that is), I ended up buying a memorial urn. It was my $32.50 insurance policy, and I'll tell you why.

I do not trust my uncle to give my father ashes. Not unadulterated ashes, anyway. For all we know, he's already dumped her in a pot with potting soil and fertilizer and will tell my dad to scoop out what he wants.

This way, if my dad wants the urn, he can have it. I know my grandmother would hate to sit on someone's bookshelf for decades. My parents have a few ideas of where they should bury or scatter her ashes. And it is a far sight better than my uncle's druggie friends stamping out their cigarette butts in her ashes.

The climax of the trip was having lunch with my uncle. My dad kept mentioning that my uncle wanted to see me. That we should go to the house and visit for awhile. While that was the last thing I wanted to do, I told my father that I was there to make him happy. To make this awful trip as bearable as possible. That if it meant that so much to him for me to spend time with his brother, I would. No drama. No questions. No accusations. And so after the viewing we met my uncle at a sports bar and had a lunch I can only describe as a psychotic break from reality. No one mentioned my grandmother. It was as if we were on winter ski holiday. It was sharing appetizers, Kahlua and coffees, and splitting the check three ways because my uncle refused to pay for anyone but himself. It was fucked up, man. See for yourself:

*A huge thanks to D for letting me call her about the cremation jewelry.


RiverPoet said...

You win, NATUI. Your family is even more f*cked up than Pete's!

Seriously, you can call me anytime about any of this stuff. It's going to be my next career, after all, helping people to deal with loss and bereavement. My doctor is convinced that it is why I'm doing "so well" in dealing with our loss. I simply accept my feelings and keep living.

Pete, on the other hand, isn't doing as well. I'm helping all I can, though.

I'm so glad that you all found some light-hearted moments in the midst of all the chaos. It was your grandmother's way of making light of the whole thing, I'm sure.

We didn't get the sealant on Stef's urn, by the way, because Sean is going to put some of her ashes into a necklace, and at some point we may want to scatter her or turn her into a memorial reef. We left our options open.

Love you and the family - D

Blue Momma said...

Hmmmm...let me guess which one in the picture is the uncle....


I really think you should have put dick clip art up there though, because that sounds like exactly what he is!

{{{{big hugs}}}}

Lindsay said...

Wow. Wow. That is indeed fucked up. How on earth is your Uncle justifying this train of shit?

I'm now wondering if the urn of my stepfather's that I have is coated with sealant or not. I'm afraid to check and spill him all over the carpet.

Patois said...

I don't know if there's anything as funny as gallows humor.

Blues said...

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Thanks for sharing the story. It shows the up and down emotion of living through it.

Not Afraid to Use It said...

@RiverPoet: Hubbie keeps trying to tell me that my family crazy trumps his family crazy. I just tell him one uncle doesn't make a whole family. LOL

@Blue Momma: Nice to see you!! Yeah, but there is something very satisfying about the FU finger.

@Lindsday: If you've moved and the lid hasn't popped off the urn, I assume you are safe. :) As for the justification, my dad hasn't even asked. Grrrr.

@Patois: I agree. Which is why I have so few friends in real life.

@Blues: Both emotions are appropriate here. The Tupperware comment still makes me chuckle. most people I mention it to look at me with a horrified expression. I guess you just had to be there. LOL

SSG said...

I can't believe you had to have lunch with the uncle, how did you manage to smile in the photo? make small talk? I guess you did it for your other family present. And you know you'll never ever be like him.

A Free Man said...

If a story involves the food court in a mall in Salt Lake City you know it ain't going to go well.

The good news is that it sounds as if this episode is very nearly behind you.

I miss a lot of my family, but there are days that I'm glad there are 10,000 miles between us. Your story is why.

buddha_girl said...

Honest to God. You simply cannot make up this shit.

The urn's top falling off? Yeah. Loved it. LOVED. IT. I think you're grandmother was giving you and your parents a big hoo-hah laugh at the expense of your fucktard uncle.

I can only hope that the idiot uncle got botulism while at the restaurant. One can hope, right?

*hard hugs* I'm so very happy to hear that you and your parents were able to give your grandmother as much of a proper farewell as possible in the most fucked up situation possible.

Anonymous said...

Holy SHIT I am sitting here laughing AND crying because I can hear you telling this story in your beautiful way... with that smirk on your face... but with pain in your eyes. Gawd... and I thought MY family was fucked up!

I bet you're smiling in the lunch photo because you put ex-lax in his kahlua, didn't you? ;)

Love you...

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...


Dooce lives in SLC. Let's sick her on him.

I'm so very sorry. And if it makes you feel any better (maybe not), the ashes are typically in a plastic baggie. That is tightly closed. And unless the baggie falls on something sharp, the ashes aren't going anywhere.

OK, that sounded morbid, but it's true. At least, that's how my father's and uncle's ashes were prepared for us.

I love you and hope that someday, you can laugh about this. It's so horrible it's a comedy sketch.

Gypsy said...

That uncle of yours is a piece of work.

Joe said...

Man, I thought my family was effed.

I LOLed at the middle finger in the picture.