Strange Days

Yesterday morning, as I drove towards Newport I was listening to the BBC. Tony Blair had just stepped down, and at the moment, England was without leadership and in a temporary limbo. That’s kind of how I felt.

I met up with Debbie and Hamid at their hotel. The place was host to some kind of FBI trade show, and was crawling with security folks of all types. We headed out, and got to the cemetery with plenty of time to spare.

The service went well. There was a pretty good turnout, considering the short notice. It was very sunny out, but the road through the cemetery was lined with trees, so it was shady and cool where the service was held.

I was one of the pallbearers, the coffin was surprisingly light. There were only four pallbearers, probably because most of the people there were so frail, they could barely lift themselves. Hamid wove his way through the crowd in time to be a fifth pallbearer. The coffin was lowered into the grave, and the service proper began.

The Rabbi was a friend of Papa’s, he has a column in the paper, and Papa frequently posted articles in the letters to the editor section, and they built a mutual admiration. He pinned a black ribbon on Hamid, Debbie, and Farilyn. “In times past,” he said, “we would tear our clothes when we heard of the death of a loved one. Now, we symbolically tear our clothes by wearing this cut ribbon.” Then he walked by, cutting each ribbon. “Wear the ribbon for at least a week, and as long as 40 days. When you remove it is up to you.” The Rabbi spoke for a while, read the obituary, and a few prayers.

Hamid read something he had written the night before, and sang the lullaby “Little Boy Blue” that Papa used to sing to him, and that he now sings to his son.

Debbie read what she’d written, then Stanley Light came up. “I am here in two roles today,” he said, “as a representative of Veterans, and as Seymour’s last remaining first cousin. So I will read two things. The first comes from this Veteran’s Manual. The second comes from my heart.” He read the standard text, and then recited a nonsense poem that Papa would sing with Andrew.

Then there was some more prayer, then the Rabbi said “Now, the family can do one last thing for Seymour, each member of the family can shovel earth onto the coffin. We convert the shovel into a religious symbol by flipping it over, and carrying the first shovelful of earth on the back of the shovel.” We each shovelled some earth onto the coffin, which made a terrible hollow sound as each batch of earth hit it. The sound of finality.

Then the ceremony came to a close.

I’m trying to remember who all was there.

In Attendence:
Matthew’s kids
Sonny Friedman & wife his son
Jewish War Veterans representative
Rabbi (name?)
Joe Broker
Chris Moss
Jan Templeton (or maybe I’m confused, and some friend of Debbie’s was there… I think Jan stopped by briefly at Salas’ later)
Stanley Light & his wife and (daughter?)
Papa’s neighbors
And other people I forgot the names of…

Vito, Papa’s dog was there. The neighbors have taken him in, and brought him with them to the cemetery. He looked very happy, his fur was clean and he was outside – at Papa’s he was indoors, and his fur was matted and messy. Though he doesn’t get the gourmet select cuts of meat Papa fed him, he’s on normal dog food now.

After the ceremony, there was a reception at Salas’ Restaurant. Oddly, almost no one showed. There were three old ladies whose names I forget, Stanley Light and his (daughter? granddaughter?), Debbie, Hamid, and me. There was food for like 40 or 50 people, and only 8 of us. We talked and had our fill of sandwiches, then Debbie proposed we bring the rest of the food to the nurses on the 4th floor of Newport Hospital, the ones who took care of Papa. She called them up to see if was ok, and they said yes. We had the food wrapped up, and had the flowers picked up and brought there too.

We drove the food over to the hospital, Hamid got a cart and we loaded it up and took it up to the 4th floor nurses. It was nice to have a chance to thank them again, and do so in front of their supervisor.

We stopped by Ace hardware to make copies of the house key for the realtor, cleaners and me. Hamid was entranced by the selection and prices in Ace, which were pretty good deals, but apparently fantastic deals compared to Costa Rica. He was like a kid in a candy store.

Then we went to Papa’s house to look for the will, which Papa had mentioned misplacing. This is where the day took a bit of a darker turn. Apparently, while we were at the reception, other family members had been going through Papa’s house, taking collectibles and things. I’m not sure why, since the stuff was all going to be sold and the result divided up anyway. One of the things taken was the only thing Neil had wanted, a certain painting Nana had done. He even had Papa put his name on it so he would get it. That made me depressed, not to be able to send it to him.

I searched through the house for photos, I’m working on a family archive of photos, records, and family tree, so wanted to make sure no photos were accidentally thrown out. Many of the photo albums had been cleaned out and were just blank pages, I don’t know if that happened while we were at the reception, or just over the years. It’s too bad, because I’m trying to make a complete family record, for everyone to share.

Of course, all this really upset Hamid and Debbie, making the previous tiff into more of a rift.

After failing to find the will, we went to back to the hotel.

I helped look up info on a new laptop for Hamid, and we went over to Staples to get it. Oddly, the one they said was in stock wasn’t on display, and the one on display (the next model up?) was out of stock. But Hamid wanted one quick, so he bought the display model.

We then went to Anthony’s for dinner. It’s a seafood place with very fresh fish, I hear they have their own boats. The front part is actually a fish market. Pretty much everything is deep-fried, I got a Hot Stuffy (a stuffed clam with jalapeno in it, very tasty) and a Flounder and Chips, which is better than the Scrod places usually use for Fish & Chips.

The food was good, but not very healthy. As I looked around, I noted most of the patrons were quite large, and looked as if they had been poured into their booths.

We then went back to the hotel, I said goodbye to Debbie and Hamid, as on Friday they are flying back to Arizona and Costa Rica, respectively.

Then I started home. But moments later, I reconsidered. I didn’t really want to drive back to RI this weekend, so decided I’d go over to Papa’s house to look for more buried photos and newspaper clippings.

I spent a couple hours there, sifting through piles of junk to find the odd photo or box of slides. He was a packrat, so there were all sorts of things there, old cigarette marketing materials, unused greeting cards, clipped coupons, all sorts of things.

One thing I saw that choked me up was on the end table next to the couch, a letter from Neil with a newspaper clipping about his art show, and photos of his sculptures. It was on top, so it was probably the last thing Papa was looking at before he went to the hospital.

Being there alone at night felt odd. Not spooky, just terribly, terribly empty. I called Neil and talked to him for a while, to see how he was doing and fight off the deadness of the place.

After a while, I couldn’t take it anymore, and locked up and headed out. There were probably more records and things I could have salvaged from Papa’s desk (I know there were some army records and things somewhere), but I was feeling terribly tired.

I headed home. I was very sleepy, and nearly drifting off while driving, when a large grey coyote standing by the side of the road snapped me awake. I turned on the radio and kept myself awake the rest of the way home.

I got home, exhausted, and hopped into the shower (I’d gotten pretty grungy in Papa’s house). After the shower, I checked my emails, sent a couple, went to bed, and sank into a deep, deep sleep.

2 thoughts on “Strange Days”

  1. sorry

    I’m sorry I didn’t make it to the funeral. It would have been something to see some of those people. I haven’t seen Chris or Joe Broker in a really long time. I’m actually surprised that Joe is still hanging in there as he had a real problem with drugs and alcohol. And I thought Stanley was Neil’s cousin? I thought they were related to Ida somehow. I’m a bit fuzzy on the Lights. But Stanley had two brothers (I think)- Leonard and Benny. Aren’t they still around. I know Benny had a heart problem, but he was the youngest. Sad if they’re gone. People leave so much behind. It’s hard to go through that. I can remember how upset my father was when my mother’s sisters started going through her things before she was even dead. That’s a bit weird that people would go through Seymour’s house and just think they have the right to take things. What painting did Neil want? Ida did a lot of paintings. Was this a special one? I have one that she gave me before she died. If Neil doesn’t have one, I could give him that one. Or give it to you. I would give it to you eventually anyway.
    love J.

  2. A note from Stan

    Hi Tev

    Amazingly a friend from Austria sent me your post about Uncle Jack’s funeral and the time you spent searching and reminiscing afterward.
    It must have been a very difficult day for all of you … Seymour was an incredible man.

    The relationship on our end is easy to discern. My mother and Ida were sisters, so that makes Seymour my uncle, his children my first cousins, and you, Moses, Julie, and other grandchildren my second cousins. I would love to share what family genealogy I have gathered.

    Seymour specifically mentioned in his will that he wanted Ida’s paintings distributed to any family members who wanted them. Whichever ones were left were to be sold. I have a very small floral picture of hers that Seymour gave to me shortly after she past away. I keep it on the desk in my office to remind me of her. If there are any paintings left in the house or about to be sold, I would like to see them first. Please let me know.

    I am sorry there was a family rift. Uncle Jack tried so hard to keep all the kids and grand-kids close, because he loved you all so very much. The geographical distance took it’s toll. I hope you will all find peace with one another and be able to set aside any petty differences.

    May G-d bless you all.
    Your cousin,

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