Guido and I are motoring over to Tampa for a funeral. Her uncle — her father’s sister’s second husband — gave it up Thursday morning after a long downhill slide.
This means her aunt will have buried 2 husbands, 2 siblings, and 1 child, not to mention her own parents, uncles, aunts, etc. That sounds like too much grief for one life. I mean, it’s great to lead a long life, but there’s clearly a downside, on the assumption that watching loved ones die somehow bothers you.
Whenever I attend funerals, I’m struck by the fact that lots of old people always show up. I’m convinced some just come for the free coffee, but I wonder how many old timers consider their presence at elderly acquaintances’ send-offs something like a victory lap. “I outlived ya, loser! Gotcha last!”
I’ve also observed, not without alarm, that with each funeral I find myself at, I’m outnumbered by greater and greater ratios by younger people. In the case of family, where it used to uncles and aunts, now it’s nephews, nieces, and children of cousins. Are these little strangers with my last name actually my relatives? And how did my goofy little cousins wind up with such knock-out spouses? (They ask me the same damn question. In fact, from the very first they specifically asked Guido what the hell she was doing with a lowlife like me. These are my family, remember.)
My oldest living relative is an uncle — he’s 90, and still playing basketball (he was a pro, spending time in the NBA with the old Baltimore Bullets, among others). He and his wife of 70 years raised a flock of kids who are my first cousins, all of whom have children, some with grandchildren. Technically, we’re cousins, too. There’s an outside chance they’ll come to MY funeral, and they’ll ask their grandparents, “Who was he? What was he like?”
No need to hire a holy joe to sing my praises. Guido can tell them whatever lies she likes. Of course, this means she has to outlive me. Of course, there’s no doubt she will.
The upside is, we’ll get to see family again, and as is the case with any final send-off that concludes a long period of decline and suffering, grief will be mitigated by relief. At last it’s finished. The end of doctors’ visits, medications, tests, paperwork, bottomless spending. His troubles are over, and the family goes on.
This is the Italian side, too. There might be some mild drinking.