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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Stuff. And a lot of nonsense.

It's seriously hot here in the urban village. Oh hell, it's hot everywhere around the urban village too but, frankly, the heat in the valley doesn't bother me. Mostly because I'm not there. The heat that's got me up at 3:30am is the heat that surrounds me and not the heat that surrounds people I may or may not know 20 miles to the west. I'm sorry they're hot, but not as sorry as I am that I'M hot.

I've had to turn the ceiling fans off because, after about three days straight my sinuses rebel and I begin to feel as if there's a tennis ball sitting in the back of my throat. IF I catch this early enough I can, through the noisy use of saline nasal spray and salt water gargle, nip this in the bud, thus enabling me to haul it out to work while the other three people I support either go to school (an acceptable alternative) or sit around the apartment running up the power bill by using a box air conditioner that has needed a new filter since we moved in three years ago and only blows tepid air anyway.

I also don't dress well in this kind of heat, I look like Jabba the Hut when I wear short sleeves and it's too oppressive to wear anything BUT short sleeves. My older son had a birthday yesterday, it comes around this time of year every year, go figure, and we're usually too hot to do much of anything, which disappoints him greatly but he claims to understand. Yesterday morning I had to tell the hubster to wish the lad a happy birthday, the hubster had forgotten. He's been too busy sitting around brooding about a memento of his father's that he had always wanted and, it turns out, is now in the possession of one of his brothers and has been for several years now.

His brother has had it for years and the hubster didn't even know it was missing from his father's wall. Why? Oh, maybe because he never freaking visited his father? Because for years I dragged his sorry ass to their house once, maybe twice a year when we got an invitation and the rest of the time the hubster spent complaining about what a witch his step mother was. Now granted, I don't think she's a witch. I think she's a LOT worse than that, I can honestly say that she is one of the meanest, petty and hateful people I know but that's not really the issue, is it?

The ISSUE is that the hubster has spent the last 40 years on a campaign to show the bitch up. Like THAT'S gonna happen. While his sister and brothers figured that she wasn't going anywhere and dealt with that, the hubster refused to do anything of the sort. While they picked up the phones and called their dad now and then, just for the hell of it, the hubster continued to sit around and complain about his step mother.

So, she's still here, not that we'll even see her again (and it's not like that bothers me) his dad is gone and his memento is in another state with a brother he complains about only slightly less than he complains about his step mother. I'm sort of conflicted about this actually. In the first place, if the hubster had spent any freaking TIME with his dad that ugly wall plaque would have been hanging in my dining room right now. Or else it would be shoved in a box sitting in the storage garage we pay monthly to maintain because, God forbid, we actually get RID of the 100 sq feet of JUNK we shoved in there three years ago and never go near now. In the second place, well, what good does this crap DO anyone? It hung on my father-in-laws wall. One day, my father-in-law went to the hospital to have his gall bladder out and subsequently died, never again returning to the home and family he loved. Okay, that part is a private joke, I'm not that maudlin and I write a hell of a lot better.

But my point is (and yeah, I have one) that plaque didn't do anything for anyone. It was a company logo. A company, btw, the hubster worked at for as little time as possible and hated while he did. My father-in-law, just like my mother-in-law (the hubster's mother, not the witch) and my own mother, had houses full of crap. And I had a house full of crap because a) the hubster can't leave anything, he has to bring every freaking piece of detritus home with him including furniture we neither needed or wanted but it wasn't nailed down and b) I sort of felt like it was what I was supposed to do. I kept this shit because my mother kept this shit.

And in the end, my mother died and all that crap was just sitting there, doing no one any good, taking up space and accomplishing nothing. Does that dirty teddy bear dressed up in the lace dress and holding a parasol hold any memory of my mother? It was hers, yes, but if that thing ends up in the dumpster will I suddenly forget what my mother looked like? Those stupid baskets of porcelain roses I felt compelled to keep hold nothing dear to me, it's just stuff, and most of it is in boxes in a storage facility by the airport which costs me more money than I can afford.

Every now and then, something happens to an item, a table gets scratched, a plate gets broken and the hubster goes ballistic. OMG, there's a scratch on the table! This strikes me funny in a way, had he cared half as much for my heart as he did for the coffee table I wouldn't have so many empty spaces in it where the breaks never quite healed. Not to mention that the tables are usually a foot deep in junk that the hubster has deposited there and never goes through, I cleaned the entire apartment last week because I knew my father was coming over to see my birthday boy and left the dining room table to the hubster, as he uses it as a desk. After a week of whining and asking, we sat here last Saturday, in a clean living room and a dining room knee deep in papers and mail and magazines, some of which the hubster threw a table cloth over while my step mother tried, in vain, to sit down at the table and failed because I actually trusted the hubster to take a little pride in his living space and freaking TIDY UP THE TABLE. He uses "tidy" as a verb, by the way, I don't. It's not an action, it modifies a noun as a rule, thus making it an adjective. As in "the room is tidy." The hubster, however, insists on "tidying" a room. I think that's weird. But I digress...

Anyway, I think it's extremely annoying that he goes ballistic about a scratch on a table he piles with junk. Now, I have, every once and again, tried to soothe this tirade with the explanation that it's just a table, no one was hurt, it's a scratch and it's not going to affect anything. This is ALWAYS greeted by him going off on how, since it's just a thing, we should just take an ax to it and destroy it good and proper.

And then he accuses me of hyperbole.

I don't know if this is a guy thing or what. What I do know is that my son's birthday is more important that railing about someone leaving a fingerprint on the spine of a book. I know that the time that's been wasted mourning a metal plaque could have put to better use shopping for a birthday card, or going through the mail and finding the disconnection notices or just standing in the front window early in the morning while it's still cool outside and watching the pink streaks of dawn meander through the ever lightening sky.

The things that are of value are intangible and untouchable. Last night my younger son gave his brother a birthday card and a lottery scratcher. It was all he could afford. The grin on his brother's face when he got that ticket was worth way more than the five bucks his gift cost. Someone remembered him. And it made him happy. And no plaque in the world, no porcelain rose, no perfectly sanded piece of maple could have come close to the feeling he got when his brother remembered his birthday, and the feeling I got watching him.

The twenty-nine bucks he won on that ticket didn't hurt either.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The house of cards collapses.

I keep telling myself that things could be worse, and they sure as hell could. Have you even reached a point though, where a TON of small things pile up and up and up and up and suddenly one little thing just comes at the wrong time and you find yourself up in the middle of the night because your freaking BRAIN woke you up?

Haven't slept in about three nights now. I go to sleep for a couple hours and I wake up, mind racing and I can't seem to get it under control. How can I pay the bills? How can I buy groceries? How can I support all of these people on the lousy salary I make, why have I worked FIVE years to be told that, oh, sorry, too bad, now you have to work SIX years to get that extra week vacation, sorry, anything else I can help you with?

I sell Avon on the side, which no one buys because we're in the middle of a freaking DEPRESSION and, while it's cheaper (and better in many ways) than Lancome it's still an expense no one can afford. Hell, I'M out of foundation and can't afford to replace it.

Well, anyway, it started with my father-in-law who went in to have his gall bladder out and then died. This put me at the mercy of my remaining in-laws, most of whom have raised selfishness to an art form. The day after my FIL died I packed up the requisite food basket and hied myself to my MILs home. We all went and oh, how we were welcomed, how happy to see us, oh my, let's open a bottle and talk about "Papa". Yeah, well, SHE called him "Papa" and kept signing cards from "Papa", my kids called him "Grandpa" and the hubster called him "Dad" but yeah, whatever. It went well and I thought, okay, she finally got smacked upside the head for once in her petty, privileged life and her shit, as the say, is together.


Now, as I see it, when someone dies everything rises. Like cream. And, as Lew Harper observed, shit. My FIL, for all his good hale and hearty smiles and party atmosphere and jokes and sports and good company was, for all intents and purposes, a LOUSY father. This isn't something that has come to me in the last two weeks, I've always thought so. However, I kept it to myself. The hubster loved him (of COURSE, I would expect nothing else), liked him and blamed most of his failings on the second wife.

I had a pretty fair relationship with my MIL, one that got closer as she got sicker and I had other information regarding that, but again, I kept that to myself too. He was the hubsters FATHER for crissake and, well, hell, he's dead now, what's the point?

But I've stayed quiet these last few weeks, which really isn't like me. My FIL was friends with everyone and close to no one. He lapped up his simpering daughter's fawning and left everyone else in the dirt. Oh, my SIL knew how to get what she wanted. Always arms draped around "Daddy", always snuggling, always pushing everyone else out of her way and making sure "Daddy" was there for her and "her girls" and no one else.

"Daddy" had no problems with this. "Daddy" had a full social calendar at all times and, on the rare occasions the hubster (or any of the other boys) felt they needed the advice or time of their dad well, yeah, let's see when we can pencil that in, there were parties and trips and tee times that had to be honored.

I never ONCE saw that man drop anything for his son. He gave him NOTHING in life, not his time, his advice or anything else. You ever had to just stop what you were doing, or wanted to do, because your kids needed you? Not him. Not ever. I suppose I really do give my SIL props for demanding his time and affection, because, when it comes down to it. if she hadn't she wouldn't have been simpering about how was she going to survive without her daily dose of Daddy?

Anyway, we got to his funeral Mass...the one we were told about by E-Vite? On time. Right on time, traffic was abysmal but yeah, right on time. Three rows reserved for family up front. The hubster, always the optimist especially after the wonderful, warm welcome he was given right after his father's death, kept walking to the front. The hubster needs to get his eyes checked. I could see that the family section was full. He thought, no, or course there's room for us there. Ha. And may I say HA! There was SIL with "her girls". MIL, wearing off white and drawing all eyes in that see of black and navy blue, much like Bette Davis wearing the red dress to the cotillion in "Jezebel". And her brothers and her nieces and nephews and their kids and spouses and some neighbors and friends...

Did she allow room for the guys oldest SON? Not even hardly. I grabbed the hubster by the suit coat and got him into the first pew with room for 4 of us. There WERE 6 of us, but his stroll towards the front which, I admit, was justified if overly optimistic, sort of put us in a pickle as the service was now starting and we were going to have to turn around and go back which I frankly thought was just too embarrassing, even for me. We grabbed 4 on the end, my father and step mother right behind us and a cousin, the deceased's nephew in front...he had been TOLD about the reserved seating for family and told he was to sit there but he, too, was shut out. Have a mentioned my step MIL is a pretentious douche bag?

At least the witch TOLD him. Once we left the cheese ball at her home we never heard from her again. Never. An e-mail regarding the service was responded to with the answer "check the website". The website was password protected, btw, had to beg for that. Calls were not returned, by my step MIL OR my SIL, who, while her father lay dying, drunk dialed me in the middle of the night and I, fool that I was, spent 90 minutes on the phone buying into her damn "oh, I want to make sure you're in my life, oh, we're family, oh, we're doing a spa week-end, oh, I love you, Deb" BULLSHIT.

And I, sap that I am, momentarily bought into it. Because I'm a softie and I always buy into this crap.

We were sent an email telling us that the reception following the service was to begin, not at 2 as originally stated but at 2:30. That was, apparently, just for us. We got there at two to find that everyone else had been there for half an hour and we had to park a mile away and hike it, including my step mother with her cane. We RSVPd promptly as the RSVPs were, supposedly, to ensure there was room and seating for everyone. Not even hardly, my step-mother AND her cane, stood most of the time while the privileged class of the greater "we don't really live in Bel Air but we use the name in our community name so you poor folk will THINK we live in Bel Air" sat on their rich asses and watched her.

We finally found an abandoned table outside, in a corner, we pushed aside the uneaten food and half drunk beer glasses and got her seated. Every bee in Los Angeles attended. Open Mike night was being held inside the clubhouse but there was no room for us, nor did anyone ask about or even make room for the guy's SON to speak. There was a 20 minute slide show running, about 500 pictures of my FIL with my step-MILs relatives and my SIL and "her girls". There was exactly ONE picture with the hubster and my sons in it and a second picture taken at our wedding which did not include us.

MIL spoke not a word to us until we made it a point to say good bye. SIL acted in the same manner, said oh, so busy, sorry, like your hat. Come to Arizona an visit me, when I came here I'm way to busy to work you in so come to me. She actually said that.

Between that and the drunken cousin who came home with us the next day but didn't want to stay at our place and wouldn't LEAVE and I ended up driving him up to the Bel Air wannabe at 1:30 am, having been up since 5am, well, basically, I haven't slept. I can see why he was avoiding going back to MILs place, she woke him up on Sunday morning, told him to get dressed and drove him to the clubhouse where she hosted my FILs farewell reception and put a vacuum cleaner in his hand. Yep, she made him go over with her and CLEAN UP.

I assume this is why the little things have me ready to collapse. Not a joke, I'm actually kind of afraid of what's happening to me. Oddly enough though, this last debacle with these people (and I DO mean last) has angered me but not hurt me. I think I've spent too many years being hurt by these people, there two faced "promises" and their offers of family and friendship that are offered only because they want me to to something for them and they know that I'm suck a fucking SAP that I buy their bullshit every damn time. And then I feel bad and cry but what the hell do THEY care, they're on their way by now.

I feel bad because I DON'T feel all that bad. There's been stress and tiredness and frustration but, as it's all said and done now, I don't feel remorse, or even loss. They've taken advantage of me for the last time. I have no warm feelings for any of them. They publicly embarrassed my husband, shunned my kids and abused my tendencies to let bygones by bygones.

For all the friends and neighbors who could speak of little else except that he was fun at a party and hated USC, well, my MIL thought it was a wonderful tribute to a flawless man. But neither his sisters nor my brothers-in-law bothered to come to his funeral. I know why his sisters didn't come, there's no love lost there. The other sons? One said he didn't have the plane fare and the other one went to work. And we, basically, invited ourselves. I'm not sorry we did, it's the right thing to do. We dressed properly, my father and step mother were there with us. I spent most of Mass literally praying for the grace and dignity to act with a little class, I settled on just shutting up.

God, what a sad end. A lot of superficial friends filling up the spaces where one's family should have been but chose not to be. And the saps that DID show up were shut out, shoved to the back in favor of the more comely and overtly successful. I find myself wondering if she didn't hire dress extras to pad the crowd, which wasn't, btw, as big as I had been led to believe it would be.

We took our cousin to the airport yesterday morning and I realized that last night was the first night my step MIL had been without a house guest, the first night she had been alone in her home since her husbands death. I thought about calling her, seeing if she was okay because, in spite of everything, no one can ignore the fact that she really loved the guy. I thought about it and decided not to waste my time.

I've never really experienced schadenfreude until that moment.

I think I like it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

"Do not bring the dog."

I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out just what to wear to the "invitation only" funeral. It keeps me busy. I decided to go to my standby on most things, Mark Twain, who wrote, in a brief essay about proper funeral behavior, "Do not bring the dog." It's not helping much but they ARE words to live by and I fully intend to leave the dog at home. I don't actually HAVE a dog but if Twain had suggested I bring one I would have rented a pup.

I find myself getting increasingly nervous as this occasion approaches. In the first place, it's being held in a very snooty place. Very. It's SO snooty it's the only Catholic Church (possibly the only church period) in the State that never has to give the "We need money" sermon. They can keep running on the change that its congregation drops in the padded pews. They also have no parking. There's a lot which accommodates approximately 20 cars. I know this because we drove over there and scoped the place out last weekend. There's a possibility of valets, we're not sure yet. All the street parking is restricted so we'll most likely be using the public parking garage across the street from the Church and next to the Cartier's. You think I jest?

In anticipation of this, I went looking for appropriate funeral attire. Appropriate RICH people's funeral attire. Well, not really rich people. It's been my experience that most legitimately rich people are quite nice, very friendly, accepting of all your Payless Shoe Source-shod relatives, VERY generous with their gin and they usually think your car is really cool.

NO...this is a service for people who are well off, having become well off not by hard work but by throwing other people under the train, and think their crap doesn't stink. Ever been to a rich persons home for a meal? Hors d'oeuvres are plentiful, wine flows and food is wonderful. They actually invite you into their homes.

The pseudo rich book the club house at the gated community which is named as if it's a really, really tony area and hopes maybe you might confuse the two. Sorry, but calling your apartment complex the "Upper East Side lofts on the Hudson" won't negate the fact that it's a co-op in the Bronx. But the people who paid inflated prices for their living area THINK it's as good as, if not better than, the Upper East Side and they expect you to treat them with the appropriate reverence. They also tend to feel that you're too stupid to know the difference, being part of the unwashed masses that work for a living and live close enough to your office to walk.

What the "clubhouse" is, is a big, square room which will be punctuated with round tables, folding chairs and the contents of my step-MILs refrigerator which include the bleu cheese ball I made and brought over to her last week. I can picture it now, a small round table, a paper tablecloth and my cheese ball with a stack of napkins and a box of Ritz crackers.

Well, what does one wear to such a pretentious gathering? I bought a simple navy blue suit. On sale. BIGGGGG sale. One of those "Take 50% off the last marked price because we only have one left" sales. Sheath, matching jacket. I planned to pair it with a pair of black pumps, a black church-type hat and the tourssade of freshwater pearls the hubster gave me when our second son was born. Simple earrings and a nice pin for the jacket. The pin is the important part. It's an enamel pansy, obviously vintage. Vintage is a nice way of saying the paint is chipped off the edge. But this really IS old. There's a nice size real diamond in the center.

It's important to wear this pin. It was a gift from my mother-in-law. No, not the one who is planning this tacky event, my ACTUAL mother in law. The hubster's mother. The lady who married my FIL first. In the very church that's been chosen for the funeral.

It doesn't GET much better, does it?

But...I am on the horns of a dilemma. My step-MIL is the woman who wore a sailor suit to my mother's funeral. No, not like the kid on the Cracker Jack box, although all it needed was the hat. Blue and white striped slacks, a buttoned up sleeveless white vest with no shirt under it and wedge espadrilles. Because, as she kept saying to all of the black- and navy blue-clad people who were in attendance, no one wears black to funerals anymore.

I own a just above-the-knee length skirt in a jaunty print of white sailboats on navy blue which, I'm thinking, would look nice paired with my Bellagio Las Vegas souvenir t-shirt. The shirt is white, btw, with a big gold sun on the front which should enhance the overall regatta theme. I think that and a pair of flip flops might be in order. I'll even get a pedicure. I wouldn't want to be accused of appearing slovenly.

I'll end up in the navy suit I imagine. As the hubster said, given the choice of doing the appropriate thing and getting skewered for it or telling someone to go to hell I'll do the appropriate thing every time. Lesser of two evils and all that. I won't feel good about it, I will resent it and I will have been badly used in the process but every family needs a doormat and that's MY job. I also think I'll end up leaving off the pearls. I subscribe to Coco Chanel's advice on accessorizing. Less IS more. Besides, they might detract from the pin, and I'm so looking forward to saying "Thank you! I just love it, it belonged to the hubster's mother."

IF anyone asks, from what I gather my FILs children aren't "family", the widow's brothers, nieces, nephews, ex-wives and caddies are "family." Says so. Right there in the obit. He was loved, admired and adored by HER family, all of whom are named, along with their spouses, kids and trash collectors. He was "survived" by his four children and some assorted grandchildren, four, five, something like that. I don't really anticipate being seated anywhere close to the area the important people will be, I'm frankly surprised we're being allowed in at all. It took me a WEEK to find out where the funeral was, I kept asking and was told "just check the website or your e-mail." Really? You couldn't just SAY "The Church of What's Happening Now"? No, I have to wait for my invitation in the mail.

I'm reminded of the time my step-MIL threw a rehearsal dinner for one of her stepson's weddings. My niece had RSVP'd for herself and her significant other. At the last minute her significant other was bumped off his flight and couldn't come. My step-MIL loudly berated the girl, outside, in front of people, yelling at her that the dinner had already been PAID for and she couldn't get the MONEY BACK and how terrible this was and it was all my niece's fault for being rude and inconsiderate. Apparently both the airline and the National Weather Service should have given her guarantees of the boyfriend's availability for said dinner. She then followed this up with a lecture on manners via e-mail which my SIL, God love her, chose to share with me. That was 8 years ago, I still have the email.

We may be leaving early (depends on how long this soiree goes) because we're going to a wedding in Laguna. We had already said we would be there and they gave the head count to the caterer and then we had to say "Well, sorry, I could have told you this a week ago but no one would tell me where, or when the damn funeral was." They responded with heartfelt condolences and told us to come when we could, we would be welcome on-time or late, they would just be happy to see us and they would keep our dinner warm if at all possible.

For my money, that's the way REAL rich people act. And it has absolutely nothing to do with the balance in their checking account.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Life's a party. With place cards.

I've been doing a lot of thinking these last couple of weeks. They've been tough. The hubster's father went in for a routine laproscopic gall bladderectomy (I know, it's a cholecystectomy but face it, if I said he was going in for a cholecystectomy would you know what that was? I sure as hell wouldn't) and two weeks later he had died. Stop rolling your eyes, that's the way I am and always have been. I don't use the term "pass away". I think it's vague and, frankly, says absolutely nothing. It sounds harsh to a lot of people, but in my world, people die. We don't "pass in" to this world, we're born. Why is it so distasteful to say we leave it by death? It's what it is. Saying someone "passed away" isn't going to make it any easier and, frankly, saying someone died isn't going to increase the personal difficulty or change the situation for the better. But I digress...

It has been a tough few weeks. First off, there was the "drop everything and run to the hospital because I'm working in another state and don't want to leave until the week-end when it's convenient" call. Which we did. Two days vacation shot. Okay, I had the time coming but still...

FIL looked stronger than I was led to believe but it didn't last. He declined with dizzying speed, life support was employed and, after a week, removed, and that was that. The relationship between us has always been strained, if I hadn't given birth to his grandsons I doubt we would speak at all, he never liked me much although he was always a good host. I have a mouth and I open it. This is NOT what Italian men warm up to. He also didn't care for the way I raised my kids. Twenty plus years of NOT farming the boys out to housekeepers and babysitters so we could go to every party on the planet. Twenty plus years of staying home with my kids rather than accept every "adults only" invitation to their home. Seriously! When he turned 70 there was a big birthday party, we were invited. Oh, but no grandchildren. Their home wasn't childproofed and this really wasn't a kids event. A BIRTHDAY PARTY? Now granted, this was the doing of my step-mother-in-law, who spent the time she wasn't working and/or planning parties (that other people would end up paying for) making lists of what gifts she had received so she could change the tag on them and give them to someone else.

You think I'm kidding? She's given us gifts that had tags on them where the names had been obliterated with white-out. She used to do this at all dinners too, not re-gift, use the white out. Her name is an old Italian word translating to "pretentious and cheap at the same time." She would have the occasional family dinner. She would set out place cards. Place cards which were thick with that funny, rough too-white stripe that indicates Liquid Paper where she had painstakingly painted out the names of the previous guests and wrote in ours.

THAT we made fun of to her face. She eventually stopped.

My FIL's FUNERAL is by e-vite. No, that's not a joke, I RSVPd on Friday. It's at a church in the richest, most pretentious ZIP code she could find (and the one with the least free parking) and the traditional "let's go back to the house and eat" pot luck is being held at a country club clubhouse. I'm surprised and not surprised at the same time. She's locked it down as "private, family only" but needs a CLUBHOUSE? Hell, if she had let people into her own snooty (and Lord, is it ever) canyon town home they would have probably brought casseroles and such, thus cutting the catering bill down to pretty much nothing.

I come from a place where, as Harper Lee observed in "To Kill A Mockingbird" "Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between." I remember my grandmother's funeral. We came back to her house from the cemetery to find the neighbors there, the dining room table laden with all the casseroles and baked goods that had been brought over and pitchers of lemonade and iced tea and an urn full of coffee. And we all ended up, as always, in her big den, her six grandkids, all teenage now, congregated in the corner, sitting on the floor and on the steps up to the hallway where we had congregated our entire lives, her three sons and their families and their high school friends all eating, drinking (Jimmy had a bottle in his pocket and was spiking everyone's coffee) and laughing and reminiscing, leaving at dusk, tired and full and knowing that we had just done the thing my grandmother loved most in the world...we had gathered at her house and we had fun.

When we came back from my grandfather's funeral, 15 years or so later, the ladies of the church had done the same thing for us. And his six grandchildren, all in the same place again, catching up in the corner, on the floor and sitting on the steps, his three sons and their friends all together, one last time, in his home.

I miss those times. No, not the funerals. But the togetherness, the camaraderie, being with people who, like myself, were brought up with the idea and life is a circle and family is pi, the radius, the measure by which the circle is defined. There is no beginning, people join at various places. Births, deaths, marriages, christenings, graduations, school plays, baseball games, events both minor and major, all dropping onto the radius and expanding the area, the circle grows and shrinks but doesn't break. Everyone's in-laws were welcomed, there was always room at the table. There was NEVER a time marked "by invitation only." You could show up with your current boyfriend or your out of town guests. There was always enough food, there was always a card table to be set up on the end of the dining room table, always a place to sit and people to talk to.

The hubster claims this is a fantasy because I was an only child and don't understand sibling interactions. Bullshit. Both my father AND my mother were one of three. I watched them fight and squabble with each other. There were times they didn't speak, times they threw each other out of one another's homes while yelling "never darken my door again." One such battle was raging between my mother and her brother when my aunt, their older sister, was sent to the hospital for the last time in a long illness. I watched them drop the baggage of the fight where they stood and become family again, knowing full well that, when everything was said and done and that funeral was over, the luggage would be where they left it, and they could pick it up again or not as they chose.

My father-in-law was a great host, a raconteur, the type of person you were always glad to see. My step mother-in-law rolls over everyone she sees, revels in the trappings of wealth and power and has, at times, been absolutely malicious in her treatment of my FIL's family. She pulled him away from his own kids and grandkids and moved him into her world, and away from ours. But, when it comes down to it...he let her. A funeral that should be a time of acceptance and healing and camaraderie and moving forward has become a social event by invitation only. Not only that, it's being botched from start to finish. I feel bad about this for a couple of reasons. One...I've done this before. I've worked in the office of a cemetery/mortuary, I have an inkling of what needs to be done. I also used to write obituaries for the Los Angeles Times. Yes, I did, they called us "Miss (or Mr.) Black." Corny, no? I'm a commissioned Eucharistic Minister and there will be a funeral Mass. Will I be allowed to contribute?

Nope. Not good enough. Not only am I an in-law, I'm not a member of the widow's family and it's HER family that is now front and center. My father-in-law had FOUR children. Only his daughter now exists and that's only because she's his daughter in so many ways and bulls her way in whether she's invited or not. My Father-in-law had three sons and three grandsons and, although he was cremated, these people, at least to me, are the obvious "honorary" pallbearers. But, it appears, that honor is going to her brothers and nephews IF she deals with it at all.

My mother's funeral was amazing. Shortly after I had signed the papers at the cemetery I was phoned by a nun. I spent 12 years in Catholic school, I run from nuns every time I see one and for a few days after that. But I was raised to be polite so instead of screaming in terror, I listened. This was her ministry, helping the bereaved with funerals. And did she ever know her stuff. She got me the musician and helped coordinate the Mass. She asked me if my sons were altar boys, she was hoping they could serve their grandmother's Mass. They weren't, so we set them up to present the Eucharistic gifts. My mother's niece did the readings. I served as the Eucharistic Minister and distributed the communion. She helped me with the pall. She had to explain it to me too, I'd never seen this particular Catholic rite performed, it's optional.

As they brought my mother's casket into the small church, they stopped in the center, the place where the side aisle and the center aisle meet. The floral spray was removed and taken up front and Sr. Michelle produced a woven linen tablecloth like thing, which was blessed by the priest...a family friend, btw. I covered the coffin with the cloth and placed the crucifix on top. The priest then led us up to the aisle to the altar...the priest followed by my mother followed by me while singer with the keyboard sang "Here I Am, Lord" which, I have to admit, struck me funny. Even I was aware of the theatrics at the time. HAD to have looked amazing.

My point in retelling this ancient history is that, had it not been for Sr. Michelle this probably wouldn't have happened. I'd watched my mother handle many a funeral, I knew what needed to be done but what the nun brought to the table once the i's were dotted and the t's crossed was invaluable. I took her advice was glad I did.

My MIL, however, as well as my sister-in-law, are very much the "no, we don't need YOUR help" types and, in a crises, they rise to the "out of my way" part of their personalities. It soothes people to be of help, they deny people that comfort.

I'm fond of quoting Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." One of my favorite quotes is towards the end, as Scrooge and the ghost of Christmas Future listen in on a conversation being held by several men after Scrooge's death and upcoming funeral. "I'll go if a luncheon is provided" says one of them. That's pretty much how it's going right now. Maybe, that, in it's way, is just another way of interpreting the life goes on philosophy.

But, for my money (and I haven't very much) it's just more pretentious bullshit. And it hurts.