The next day we all reconvened at the funeral home. Like the rest of this family affair, we started the day without one of the most important aspects of the funeral: the pallbearers. So, as we said our last goodbyes to my grandma, my dad went around the room gathering pallbearers which included me and Amanda (suck it people who think that only boys can be pallbearers. My family don’t play that).
As the rest of the family began trickling in, Amanda and I fixed our Boutonnieres, sitting in the pew behind my uncle Robert and aunt Sylvia. As my mom adjusted Amanda’s Boutonniere, the funeral director approached my uncle Robert to let him know that the funeral home had a limo prepared for all of the pallbearers.
The thing was, Robert was still pretending we all didn’t exist.
“No, the pallbearers don’t need it. It’ll be for me and my family, there’s 5 of us.”
Amanda and I laughed and we laughed. I laughed so hard that it took me a minute to realize that in a room full of people that have no problem expressing themselves they’d suddenly fallen silent.
I wiped the laugh-tears from my eyes to see what everyone was looking at.
It was Tom. Fresh out of prison and joining us in saying goodbye to the matriarch of our family.
We’re going to segue for a moment because it was only recently that I discovered why his mere presence made everyone uncomfortable.
It wasn’t that he was a convicted murderer, nobody batted an eyelash at that. In our family we love each other, we don’t kill each other – just other people, I guess. Anyway, it wasn’t that.
No. It was his affair with my cousin Joe’s wife. Joe, who was also at the funeral home. (I have a lot of Joe’s in my family)
Tom’s conviction was one that was well-deserved. He killed someone decades ago in a drug deal gone bad. What I didn’t know was my cousin Joe was with him when it happened and turned states evidence on him – the other thing you don’t do in our family. No killing each other, no selling each other out.
For 25 years, Tom stayed pissed.
I’ll admit, it’s a little unnerving that my ability to hold grudges for all eternity is something I have in common with my murderer cousin. At least he’s not a serial killer, I suppose.
There’s always a bright side.
Anyway, when Tom got out of prison the first time, he met Julie (Joe’s wife) and they began their fling. He ended up going back to prison for a parole violation but they never lost touch, and after another few years of incarceration, they finally got together. Julie was ready to leave Joe for Tom but didn’t only because Tom made it clear this was just a revenge thing.
Ladies, we’ve got to do better. Tom’s are a dime a dozen, minus the murdering – we hope.
So when Tom walked into the funeral home everyone got quiet. However, it didn’t take long for my aunt Diana to be over Tom’s presence.
In fact, I think she forgot he was even there because she’d come to the realization that someone was going to be able to keep the crucifix that was in my grandma’s casket.
And that person, she believed, should be her.
My dad asked my uncle Robert about it and, of course, Robert stated he would be keeping it. When my dad relayed the info to Diana, her response was “well he touched it so I don’t want it anyway.”
Don’t care, she’s still my favorite aunt.
We were preparing to load my grandma’s casket in the hearse and head to the church but after that response from Diana, and the way things had gone so far, my dad felt it important to have a talk with everyone and reiterate the importance of behaving.
And by everyone I mean just the adults.
When he was done parenting, my aunt Diana responded to his lecture with “don’t worry, I won’t do anything. That doesn’t mean I don’t have something real bad planned for later, but I’ll be good today.”
So we load up my grandma and head to the church, each in our own cars because Robert and his family were the real stars.
Upon arrival we all took our seats in the first 2 pews on the right side of the church, an area meant for pallbearers. To the left of us in the first pew sat my uncle Robert, Sylvia, Viva, and their other daughter Ashley (their son, my cousin baby Robert, was a pallbearer with us). Because nobody wanted to sit next to Robert, the rest of the family sat about 5 rows behind them with the exception of my parents and sister.
Before the priest began talking – and I mean he was literally getting ready to open his mouth – Sylvia stood up, turned around, and yelled at everyone to MOVE IN CLOSER BECAUSE THERE WAS PLENTY OF ROOM, which they did because the priest and God were watching.
It had been years since I’d been inside that church. I quit being catholic in my early twenties and the only time I ever liked walking in there was when Amanda and I used to go with my grandma when we were kids.
The church looked exactly the same as I’d remembered with 2 notable differences: a different priest (understandably as it had been almost 30 years since my last appearance) and no choir (unacceptable, this is a fucking Mexican church where was the choir?).
To my recollection the choir had always been comprised of volunteers but, even if they were paid, it’s not like this catholic church didn’t have the money to replace them (looking at you Vatican, don’t y’all have a coop program?).
This would not have sat well with my grandma. She loved that choir and the Jesus songs they sang. She also loved the back-in-the-day priest. The same one that once stepped down from his podium to interrupt my comedy routine to tell me I was being disruptive and needed to come back to church the following week to repent. Whatever.
Anyway, you know what my grandma got instead? A severely incomprehensible priest and songs from what I can only imagine was Now That’s What I call Jesus Tunes Vol. 3. At one point, that generic Shout to The Lord song (the Kidz Bop version of Shout at The Devil, I believe) came on, a song that Amanda and I used to make fun of as kids. Even though she wouldn’t have been happy about the choir, I actually think my grandma would’ve gotten a kick out of that stupid song.
An hour later, it was time to head to the cemetery. When we’d first gotten to the church I’d handed my purse to Amanda’s husband, Jerry, which seemed like a good option at the time. The thing with Jerry, though, is he has one major character flaw: he’s nice.
There was no place for that here.
After we’d loaded my grandma’s casket into the hearse, we headed over to my car and stood there. Jerry still had my purse which held my keys and the 3 of them were nowhere to be found. This normally wouldn’t be too big of a deal except, as you’ll recall, we had to drive ourselves to this cemetery and the hearse and, particularly Robert, were not going to wait for us.
The hearse drove right by us, revealing Jerry’s whereabouts after it passed. He’d been helping Amanda’s mom (who she’s a bit estranged from) into her car.
“Shake a leg, Jerry!” Amanda yelled as he ran to the car.
“Sorry! I was helping your mom and then she wanted to look through Jenn’s purse.”
“Goddamnit Jerry” Amanda and I said in unison as we prepared to finally leave the church.
We jumped in my car and started cutting our own family members off to get in the procession line. The burial was the only part of the funeral where things went fairly smoothly. Except for when the funeral director asked if anyone had any words they wanted to say and Robert just goes “No!” and my dad had to make Robert chill so he could say something.
As they lowered my grandma into the ground, we all took handfuls of dirt and threw it in with her. In the background, Robert and his family sped off in the limo/getaway car.
My grandma was buried in the oldest cemetery in my hometown with tombstones dating back to the 1700s. She was laid to rest right next to my grandfather who died in 1981, 2 years before I was born. My grandma was only 48 when he died and she never remarried or so much as had a boyfriend.
I know some of that is attributed to her religious beliefs and the times but I think it was very Betty White of her. In her eyes, there was never anyone else. That’s pretty special especially when you consider how out of the norm that is now.
As I stood there, taking everything in, my mom walked over to me and had my sister join us. I figured she wanted to have a moment with us since we were all together. She very lovingly pulled us close.
“You better not bury me in this cemetery. When I die, you both better bury me in the Gucci cemetery.”
My mom calls the newer cemetery the “Gucci cemetery” as though that makes the fact that it’s a cemetery any better.
My mom isn’t the most affectionate or mom-like mom there is so I chalked this up to it being her way of having a moment. And this was a day of family so I didn’t want to deny her that.
“Mom”, I said. “I told you, you don’t have to worry.”
I looked her in the eyes.
“I’m letting the Home decide that”.
2022 wasn’t the easiest of years for me (as I’ll be letting you all in on) but, luckily, it was also pretty ridiculous.
So, no matter what happens in 2023, I hope you can find the humor in it all.
Let’s have an entertaining year!