June 27th, 2005

Whale fluke

The rest of life

My family gathered yesterday. We’re good at that. It helps that we all like each other. I spent Sunday night with my parents, two uncles, two aunts, and my cousin Cindy, the newly minted valedictorian I told you about. We talked about Grandpa Irv; we revised the partially-written obituary for him; we ate good Mexican food; we had DQ Dilly Bars for dessert; we scratched each other’s backs. (In as itchy a family as mine, this is really important.) We were there for each other.

On my way home this morning, I stopped at the funeral parlor. I saw Irv. I had never seen a dead person before. I hadn’t smelled one, either. I spent maybe five minutes with what’s left of him. He still looked like Irv, though his eyes seemed sunken, deeper in his sockets. I asked the funeral director where his arms were placed; the director turned down some of the blankets and felt for them, and told me they were crossed low on Irv’s torso. I don’t know why that was important to me, but it was and I asked and the funeral director accommodated me.

My eyes played tricks on me. I kept wondering if Irv was breathing, was moving. I thought I saw evidence of that. My mind is weird, or perverse, like that.

I want to tell you some more of what’s been happening, the rest of life, as it were (and as I titled this, to remind myself). Saturday, Irv was in good spirits. In fact, he was kind of an imp. He patted the rump of his caregiver Angela. He also was reminiscing, reading an article about my Uncle Greg’s baseball coach from the 1970s. The coach that led Greg and his Linfield College baseball teammates to a national-level win in Arizona. Good memories there. Irv stayed sharp and engaged ’til the end.

As for me, I spent Saturday treating myself a couple of ways. I toured the U.S.S. Blueback, the submarine owned by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. I think Irv, a veteran, would have appreciated that I did something Naval. I had toured the sub once before, in the 90s, but wanted to do it again so that I could use an OMSI pass that was good through the end of the month. I then walked near there to get the lay of the land, and afterwards I drove up Hawthorne Blvd. and had a Nick’s Coney Island hot dog. Owner Frank Nudo, fan of the Yankees and Neil Diamond and Joey Harrington, asked me, “You want cheese and onions?” “Yes, especially onions,” I answered.

Saturday went late for me. My building had a house warming for the recent arrival in the basement apartment. We had a good, boisterous, friendly crowd. Food and drink and visiting were the order of the day, and I staggered to bed at 2 a.m., tired and coming off both caffeine and sugar highs (nothing harder than that; I rarely drink). “Need a cab?” someone asked. “No, I live right up there,” I said. But I went outside and up the front walk, so as not to have to walk up stairs.

More like that will happen. More like what happened to Irv will happen. Just not all at once. But for now, know that I’m home, figuring out Step Next.
Whale fluke

It's worth saying

It’s not so much important what you talk about; what’s important is that you talk.

With all three of Grandpa Irv’s sons in one place, along with other family members, we talked. Not necessarily Grandpa Irv stories, or even family stories, but stories. Heck, this morning we had a long conversation about tattoos, which have nothing to do with Irv as he never had any.

But we have several good storytellers in my family, and that is a pleasure. A helpful pleasure, especially right now.

Though I had planned to return to work this afternoon, I’m taking the rest of the day off, as it’s OK with my supervisors. In the past three hours, I’ve napped, had soup, made some calls, and walked in my neighborhood. It continues to be a low-impact afternoon.