This is a personal opinion post that did not need to be shared, or even written by an extremely insignificant goof with a blog. But here we are.
I know that many people will look at what I am about to write and think that I am absolutely right. Others will think I’m more insane than first thought. I’ve been called worse. Much worse.
When my Grandma Ruth (my dad’s mother) died back in the early 90s, it was one of the first legit funerals I attended for a family member. I wasn’t extremely close to her for a multitude of reasons (mostly her narcissistic, manipulating parenting skills with my father which then in turn influenced his parenting style), but she was still my grandmother. It was also the first time I saw my father cry. I had seen him yell, scream, smash things, cuss, swear, slam doors, kick dogs, shout racial slurs, etc., but I never saw him cry. I think I was more upset seeing him cry than I was for the loss of my grandmother. This would not be the last time I would witness tears from my father, but that’s a topic for another time.
When the day of the funeral came, as the family, we had first dibs on visitation at the funeral home (lucky us). It went down just how you would imagine. Then, after a half-hour or so, friends and extended family were invited to come and pay their respects.
This all started off as expected, with a few tears, some hugs, condolences, and shared memories. Then after about 45 minutes, as more and more folks came to say goodbye to my grandmother (an estimated increase of about 99% from those who stopped to say hello to her when she was alive), things got strange. At least strange for this funeral home newbie.
The chatter in the room got louder and louder. Frowns became smiles, and people were laughing loudly. The talk went from memories of my departed grandmother and “how good she looks” (relative to being dead, I suppose) to such topics as how the Steelers were going to do in the fall, whatever happened to Uncle “Pickles,” and how work is going. It was as if people completely forgot there was a dead body in the room. I’ve been in quieter night clubs!
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated the laughs and the distraction from the day, but every so often, I would catch a glimpse of Grandma lying there and get a sudden rush of “What the fuck is going on here?? How can great Aunt ‘Googie’ (or other old person with a goofy nickname of unknown—possibly perverse— origin) cackle away with her 80-years of smoking cough while Grandma Ruth is 2 feet to her right. DEAD!”
So, Jason, what does this have to do with anything??
Well, just as I wasn’t close with my Grandma Ruth for a variety of reasons, I am even more estranged from the yearly onslaught of fall and winter holidays and all of its pseudo goodwill, cheer, and made up FOX News fueled “killing Christmas” bullshit. Travel stress combined with religious, personality and political differences with various family members can make it difficult for my brain. As does the noticeable absence of my two favorite women outside of my wife: my late mother and my Grandma Helen. And of course, there are all those cherished childhood holiday memories of family bitching, yelling, crying, screaming, and breaking things. So you might imagine, I’m not a fan of the holidays even in the best of years! Still, my long-time personal views aside, I have no fucking idea how people are legitimately preparing for, or even embracing, the coming 2020 holiday season.
Things are fucked up on a multitude of levels, not the least of which is a goddamn, fucking global pandemic that has left over a million people and counting dead and has divided countries, states, friends, and families on how it should be handled or whether it even exists (it does) and yet many folks are going through life as if nothing is wrong; thus, making it worse. Looking at you, America.
As a parent, I plan to try and make the holidays as good as I can for my son, to help him forget how fucked up things are. Just as I think almost every parent, aunt and uncle should be, and will be, trying to do. But I am also realistic about the situation. Just like you can put makeup up on a pig, and it’s still a pig. You can put gifts under the tree and mass-murder inspiring holiday songs on the radio, but Grandma Ruth is still lying there dead, and unlike many others, I can’t ignore it.
Unless there is some dramatic change in our fortunes as a country or science makes some major breakthroughs in the coming month or so, I/we don’t plan on traveling for the Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays in 2020. The combination of multiple families, over a variety of ages from 8 to 80, with multiple—mostly fucked up—views about how we should live with COVID, seems like a recipe for someone actually getting COVID, or worse, dying from it. It also seems like a recipe for me losing my fucking shit and throwing a whole ham at someone. And believe me, I’ve been itching to throw a whole ham at someone my entire life!! Or a pot roast, either way, airborne meat is fucking awesome! I might throw one at someone anyway.
Wifey, B, and I are planning to share the holidays with each other, maybe B’s lady friend, and possibly a couple of friends here and there that we swim in the same small germ pool with. Not having to travel for the holidays has been an annual dream of mine since moving to Michigan ten years ago, but it’s now tainted by my inability to look away from Grandma Ruth’s coffin in the room. I knew she’d haunt me eventually.
The photos here were extras from my recent hike in the wet woods of the Sylvan Solace Preserve. It was during that hike that much of this entered by noggin.
NOTE: I wrote this on a dark and rainy Tuesday morning and planned to file it away for a bit until I felt compelled to share it. Well, two hours after finishing the piece, I received a text informing me that two friends of mine—who recently traveled out of state together for a ride mancation—are sick with COVID. My want to say that I am justified in my decision about holiday travel germ sharing is grossly outweighed by my concern for them. I wish them both speedy recoveries and hope their families remain healthy and strong through it all. GODDAMN IT!!