New Year, New Funeral Part III: The Burial

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 murderingwe 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!

Part I: The News

Part II: The Visitation


New Year, New Funeral Part II: The Visitation

The day of my grandma’s visitation came and for all their scenes from a Lifetime movie, I was pretty surprised that I and my family were the first to arrive. I was also a little glad. We were able to get some alone time with my grandma before it was time to go into jailyard mode.

The first (after us) to arrive was my aunt Sylvia, uncle Robert, and cousin Viva. Now, they’re all pretty messed up but they’re also some of the funniest people I’ve ever known, and their comedy acts are not discriminatory to location. They’ll talk shit wherever.

Viva and Sylvia, who I hadn’t seen in several years, immediately started telling me and my mom (who was sitting in the pew behind us) what happened at my grandma’s house the day the cops got called.

Apparently, my cousin Beverly the Legal Secretary drafted a text message explaining the legalities of breaking into my grandma’s house. She then sent it to my cousin Mickey requesting that Mickey send it out to the rest of the family, which she did on a fucking Android. 

That mass text was as good as a search warrant for my aunt Margie (Mickey’s mom) so off she went to go break into my grandma’s house, prompting my uncle Robert to call the cops. 

Well, my cousin Viva doesn’t have a job so she listens to her husband’s police scanner all day and of course she hears the call come in for a whatever the number is for this type of novella bullshit. She hauls ass to my grandma’s house to find Margie, my uncle Joe (Margie’s husband), Beverly, and Beverly’s penal code book, all talking to the cops.

How does Viva react to the scene? She starts cussing everyone out and threatening to kick Beverly’s ass while Beverly is in the background reading her breaking and entering rights.

By the way, Viva and Beverly? Both in their mid-forties.

Viva, very maturely, ends her story with “when they get here I’m going to cuss them all out and flip them off.”

Fine.

Eventually, the rest of my very large family began to trickle in, a very dysfunctional reunion where nobody spoke a word to Robert. But what did he care? Not only had he kept my grandma to himself but he’d also made himself the star of the slideshow.

Yes, the slideshow that’s supposed to commemorate the life of my grandma featured pictures of my uncle in his younger years, such as when he was a boxer or the time he stood next to a car. Then there were the pictures of random family members with my grandma nowhere in sight. While it was a nice trip down memory lane, the memories were all SUPPOSED TO BE OF MY GRANDMA.

At one point my aunt “just” Diana arrived. She is absolutely my favorite aunt (even though I can’t keep up with her surnames) out of all of them, I just adore her. She’s a blast to be around and to be frank, she just doesn’t give a fuck. When I saw her the first thing she said was “are you going to rumble with me?” The next thing she said was, “did you see my name in the obituary, like I’m Prince.”

I laughed and then returned to rejoin the trio my cousins Amanda and Nancy had formed. We were Switzerland. As we chatted and caught up on each other’s lives, more people arrived.

And then…

“What’s Mr. Worldwide doing here?” my cousin Michael asked.

“Grandma knew Pitbull?” my sister replied.

Our trio looked up to find my uncle Alex and his Latin superstar-Esque boyfriend walking in. We’d never met him before so this was a really fun first impression as he was dressed in all white like a Bone Thugs ‘N’ Harmony video circa 1996, donned a HUGE crucifix around his neck, and wore sunglasses that I think were permanent because he never took them off.

I sat there and thought “this is for sure how the Facebook Metaverse looks.”

Just then, my aunt Ida walked in. Faux Pitbull became old news. 

She walked straight over to the casket and threw herself on it. I’d only seen that done on TV shows so at first, I wasn’t sure what to do. The thing is though, my grandma was an incredibly tiny woman so my aunt’s theatrics were severely shaking the casket. I did my best to comfort her/hold her still but when that didn’t work I turned around and gave my other aunts the “someone fucking help me” look.

Margie and Diana relieved me and I went back to join my trio. We’d survived the visitation which, by the way, was only 4 hours long. The next day was the final visitation, church service, and burial – plenty more hours.

*Join me Friday for the conclusion of “my immaturity makes complete sense now”



New Year, New Funeral: The News

The holidays really aren’t what they used to be. When I was a kid, holidays used to be spent at my grandma’s house. My entire family, which is huge, would gather and eat and talk shit and sometimes fight. These days, the whole family kind of does their own thing with my immediate family being no exception. 

This year my parents chose to attend a party that they made me attend only for me to be, at 39 years old, the youngest one there. I spent my evening not knowing what everyone was talking about and listening to an older couple make innuendos about “eating meat”. Also, I was the only sober one.

By the way, if you ever want to feel like a kid again, find yourself in that kind of situation.

As fun as it was to be in the equivalent of that worst-case scenario where you’re watching a movie with your parents and a sex scene comes on, the 2022 holiday season hit different. Losing close family members over the years has changed the holidays for my immediate family and this past year, we lost my grandma.

My grandmother’s passing felt like the end of an era. She was the Queen Elizabeth of our family except she never let anyone starve and nobody was happy when she died.

She was an amazing woman who didn’t ask for much in life. But no matter how incredible she was, there’s just one thing my family has never been able to do for her. 

Behave.

The last couple of years of her life were rough as she suffered from dementia. For those 2 years, she remained in the care of my uncle Robert but for reasons I’ve still yet to hear, he pretty much kept all of my aunts away from her. To be honest, I didn’t even know he’d done that until the day after she’d passed. And while I don’t know what their feud was about, I do know they kicked that shit into high gear less than 12 hours after her passing.

Growing up, I spent a significant amount of my childhood at my grandma’s house hanging out with my cousin Amanda who, along with her mom, dad, and 2 younger brothers, lived there. Almost every weekend was a slumber party and up until it happened, I always thought that when my grandma passed, Amanda and I would have one more slumber party in that haunted ass house and reminisce until the 2 a.m. footsteps scared us to a hotel.

That never happened, partially because her house fell into disrepair after she moved in with my uncle but primarily because mere hours after she passed it was under siege. 

It all began when my uncle Robert did an incredibly fucked up thing. He waited until after she passed to tell everyone so nobody got to say goodbye before she died. I don’t care who you are, that’s fucking low. 

And because everybody hates him, my dad is the one who had to call everyone and break the news about my grandma’s death. I received a text from my mom the next morning and called her as soon as I could to see how my dad was doing.

He was doing OK. Sad, but OK.

My aunt Ida, one of my dad’s sisters, was not faring as well.

When I called my mom she went into detail about my grandma’s passing and then said “everyone’s already fighting”. I don’t even think my grandma was cold yet. 

Apparently, when my dad told Ida what happened she hung up, drove to my uncle’s house, and drove back and forth in front of it honking her horn and screaming “I’m going to kill you!!” Ida eventually came to a stop in front of his house prompting my aunt Sylvia (Robert’s wife) to go outside and find out what the hell. So Sylvia walks up to the passenger side of the truck and Ida takes a swing at her missing by probably an entire foot because the majority of the women in my family are like 4’11”. (At just over 5’3”, I’m considered “tall”)

Ida would eventually go home but my family was just getting started. Later that evening, I received a follow-up call from my mom.

At the 12-hour mark of my grandma’s death, the cops were called to her house. 

I began to prepare myself for their eventual brawl which I was positive would take place at the funeral home. I’d assigned myself as the protector of my grandma’s casket, making sure their flurry of putazos didn’t knock it over. All of the fights I’d witnessed as a kid at our backyard Pachangas had prepared me for this so I guess they weren’t for nothing.

Just as I’d finalized my new position and plan in my head, my mom hit me with more news. My cousin Tom had completed his prison sentence (FOR MURDER) and would be at the funeral.

“Do I need to be armed?” I asked my mom.

“No, your dad will be”.

BTW, I’ve been told by a friend that the conversation I had with my mom is one that would never happen in her family. Boring.

Anyway, that was day one.

The next day my grandma’s obituary ran. 

The day after my grandma passed away my dad had gone to the funeral home to help Robert with the funeral arrangements. Unfortunately, he didn’t consider asking about the obituary, which was put together by my uncle.

It looked and read like he was working within the confines of Twitter’s character count. 

When it came to her survivors, my uncle’s name came first, obviously. He made zero mention of the grandkids, great-grandkids, or my other 2 uncles that had since passed away. He didn’t include my aunt Diana’s last name but I will say that in his defense, she’s been married a few times and for the most part not very many people know what it is.

He also didn’t mention who the pallbearers would be but that was because he forgot he needed them in his haste to Norman Bates the funeral. And then there was the picture.

He chose a picture of my grandma from when she was 14.

Ok she was 90 when she died. She’d taken HUNDREDS of pictures since her teens.

For most people, the days that follow after the death of a loved one usually involve reminiscing and recalling happier times.

For us, it was a precursor of what to expect at the visitation and funeral which took place just 3 days after her death because my uncle was trying to make it hard for his out-of-town sisters to make it.

His plan, however, failed. EVERYONE made it and for the first time in their adult lives all of my aunts had something in common: they wanted to murder Robert.

I’ll see you this Wednesday for Part II: The Visitation