21 Grams

Hey Gang!

It was a hot and humid day. I walked inside and sat down in the funeral parlor. People all went to visit the casket and turned away with watery eyes. People came up to me and gave me condolences for my loss.

One by one they filed through and shook my hand. These unfamiliar face who never knew me. Some even show their prejudice towards me openly as they don’t acknowledge me unless I were to shove my hand into their space. For about an hour this goes on and then I sit down in the front row of the parlor, just a few feet from the casket.

My grandfather was dead.

This means that I officially have no grandparents on either side. It only consists of uncles and aunts. That is as high as it goes.

I remember sitting there looking at the closed wooden box. The funeral parlor was packed full of people and I remember thinking, “I hope half this many people come to mine.”

The services went on. People who knew him in life spoke and cried. I paid attention to a lot of it but I couldn’t help but think about the situation period. I wasn’t saddened because I hardly knew him, unfortunately. I think that’s what did sadden me a bit, though. That feeling of a forever lost connection. Maybe we could have been friends. Maybe we could have talked. From what everyone said, he seemed like a great man but his past transgressions haunted my mother and my uncle whom remember those well.

I stared at the grain in the wood and remembered everything about the class I took on death dying and bereavement. I remembered it well. The funeral home and all the services. The business of death.

I also thought about the fact that it has been three deaths in a year and five months. It was just too much for me. Too much to carry. I felt this huge weight on myself that was suffocating. It is hard to describe. That much death kind of feels like an infection in your life. It filters into your happiest moments. You look at the shirt you wore that day or you remember something from that day.

It constantly reminds you of your own mortality. You try to talk to people about it and yet you can’t because it feels like you are bringing them down. You are burdening them with your unburdening.

This situation always reminds me of what I want after death. I remember touching the past two deaths and they were stiff and hard as oak. This makes me vocalize that I want a green burial. A shroud over me and stick me in the earth. Dust to dust kind of stuff. I reiterate this at every funeral. Three of them in a year and a half.

This weight reminds me of a story I heard in that class and it begs the question: what is the soul and what are its limitations?

I don’t like to put my personal beliefs into this blog because I feel like it is a personal thing and this blog is not about my beliefs but it has crept into this post a bit.

I do believe there is a soul or an energy within all of us. Within me. Even Einstein postulated that the body dies before the batteries do, if you will pardon the simplicity in which I used the metaphor.

There was this doctor, I believe this occurred in the late 19th or early 20th century, and this doctor wanted to find out scientifically if there was a soul. So, he took a person who was near death and then weighed him. They checked his vitals and sat near him until the moment of death and weighed him again. What they found was at that moment when the man died his body lost 21 grams of weight. This, he proclaimed, is the evidence that a soul has left the man’s body and that is the weight of the soul within a physical and tangible reality.

The soul had weight to it.

How much can a soul carry? How  much can it be burdened with?

Mine has a lot right now but I am a big guy and I think it can take more. I thought that my soul was hardened for a while but after my mother went for surgery just two days after my grandfather was placed in the earth, I cried like a little girl who skinned her knee.

So, who knows how much a soul can bare but it makes me happy that I am not a robot devoid of emotion. That my soul has room on its shoulders to carry more of this burden of emotion that plagues me lately.

It makes me happy that my body and my soul are not broken.

-Chris

Bloodletting

bloodletting

Hey Gang!

I guess this is kind of my finale in the family series of blogs that I have been doing. The topic of my opinion on family and my journey to understand the meaning of the word. In this final post on the topic I must look back. In a year I have dealt with the death of two close family members and the fallout from their deaths. Dealing with these people, these family members, has been enlightening to say the least.

Ask me to define the word Family and all I can say is what books say. What I have read on Wikipedia and saw on “The Brady Bunch”. Those ideologies of Atomic Families are such an after thought these days. Some sort of thing we all try to achieve but most find it far from our grasp but that is what I thought…until recently.

Have you ever heard of bloodletting?

I like the older practice of it. Today’s common illness symptoms were misinterpreted and viewed as your humors being out of wack and so, as in common practice, leeches would be attached to a person and blood would be sucked out of the ailing individual. This bloodletting was thought to help rid the body of toxins and other misconceptions of common illnesses.

I watched the body of my family crumble due to some of these creatures that were in the midst and now I look at what is left. Fractures lay in our foundation and I believe they are unable to be repaired. I saw the squabbling of people over money and I came to detest it. When asked what I wanted, I declined everything except a brown blanket that my grandmother made years ago. It was because of all this that I reevaluated it all. I couldn’t watch as all of these people sneered at one another. I watched some show their grief in front of others on a grandiose scale and then act like nothing was wrong behind closed doors. I understand grief is different for everyone but this was not grief. This was a performance.

So, I stepped out of the picture. My mother filled people in on what was going on in my life but I wanted to get a wider view of it all.

Statistically, the most common family in America is the blended family. That family in which individuals bring in children from past relationships and get married.

I needed to get out of town a week or so ago. I went up north and visited my brother, who is now my roommate. I will move back in a little less than a month but he was alone; I knew it would be a good time to just hang out. We saw “World War Z” and decided that “Man of Steel” should be on the table as well but there was a two hour gap between the two. To kill time, we went and grabbed dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. It was funny. We sat there and devoured our burritos, mine being vegetarian and his being hamburger. This was the first time in a long time where there was no television or video games on. It was he and I and a couple massive burritos. We talked for a while about how great the movie was and about how excited we were for “Man of Steel”.

Then we played a game called, “Top 5”. We talked about the top 5 things that we loved. Movies, songs and the like.

This was a lot of fun because it was hilarious to hear each others’ “guilty pleasure” movies. His was “Maid In Manhattan” and mine was “Little Shop of Horrors” (the musical starring Rick Moranis). Laugh, but it is still a great film!

We saw the movie and took the bus home but it stuck with me. As well as my father’s visit to bring him an air conditioner. I had never seen him so jovial and animated…and surprisingly funny!

I came home and was happy because I finally got it. I finally understood the definition of Family.

It’s subjective.

Here’s mine: Your family is the one you choose.

Even though you may have blood coursing through your veins that has a genetic code similar to another does not mean they are family. I was in that funeral parlor and looked around at these people and I felt no connection to them. They were just people. They weren’t family at all. My brother is my brother and I love the little dude but we don’t know each other that well. That’s why I loved that mini-vacation, because we got closer. We talked about a lot of things in our past. We got talked about how our lives diverted before now; before this convergence.

Family.

My family are my two best friends from high school. They are my brothers. My mother. My best friend from where I worked before, my sister. They are the people whom I feel closer to than most of my relatives and, in the end, family isn’t about blood. It’s about closeness. It’s about being in another person’s gravity and feeling like it is home. Say anything and they don’t care. Family are the people whom you can truly be yourself around and accept you.

With this last post on my family, or at least my recent revelations about them, I let go. I let go of the anger that held on to me tighter than any embrace. I let go of all of those other feelings that corrupted my trust in people’s motivations.

I have been bled and watch the leeches fall.

My time of bloodletting is done.

-Chris

Our Glue

Hey Gang!

Well, I guess it’s been a crazy week. Unfortunately my grandmother passed away due to complications of Alzheimer’s Disease, something that is truly terrible. I am sure most of you know what the disease is because I have the smartest and best looking readers on wordpress but in case you don’t, here is the technical definition:

“Alzheimer’s Disease
Senile dementia – Alzheimer’s type (SDAT); SDAT

Dementia is a loss of brain function that occurs with certain diseases. Alzheimer’s disease (AD), is one form of dementia that gradually gets worse over time. It affects memory, thinking, and behavior.”- Via PubMed Health

It’s crazy because she was my last grandparent, so now I only have aunts and uncles. Strange to know the matriarch of my family is now gone. She was somewhat the element that kept our family together.

Our Glue.

She’s gone now and I find myself reminiscing about her.

She was nowhere near the cookies and baked goods grandmother but she was definitely part of our family. My family is feast and famine with one another. When we are together, it’s leave it to beaver but when we are apart, it’s like Dallas. They fight and squabble and all of us cousins are stuck in the middle. We hardly ever talk, but when we all came together at her funeral, it was great. It seemed like things quieted down with age.

My grandmother was crass, politically incorrect, sometimes volatile, darkly comical, hateful, nosy, embellishing and I loved every bit about her.

I used to laugh at all the crazy things she did and said. In remembrance of my grandmother, who angered me as much as made me laugh, I give you some of my favorite highlights of her:

Grandma’s Surprise

My grandmother enjoyed the company of men. Not a Jezebel but she enjoyed their company. My grandfather died in 1990 and a man named Sam was courting her. So, I was visiting her with my mother and aunt when I was around 15. I was sitting in the front room reading “Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark” for the umpteenth time, when my interest is piqued as I hear my grandmother say, “Oh yes, he comes down here all the time saying ‘baby this’ and ‘honey’ that.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I put my book down and looked at her in shock. My 71 year old grandmother was talking about her suitor! Then, she mentions that they were celebrating their 6 month anniversary and she got him a present.

“Oh really? What did you get him mom?” my aunt said.

“You should get him a money clip mom,” my mom offered.

My grandma gave them both a devilish grin and held up her small, crooked index finger as she stood up out of her old warn out recliner and shuffled into her bedroom. The three of us look bewildered and I finally ask my mom, “What do you think she got him?”

Just then, my mom looked over my shoulder and gasped. My aunt yelled, “Oh, Jesus, Violet!”

I turned around and saw my grandmother, 71 years old, wrinkles, wispy white hair, liver spots and all, holding up a black see-through teddy. I would have like to have said my eyes burned out but they didn’t.

My reaction? I did what any 15-year-old boy would do. I threw my book down and ran out of the room screaming “ewwwww!” I then hear her scream, “Oh grow up Godd**it! I think it’s cute!”

No Grandma, That’s My Top Ramen!

My cousin Josh was living with my grandma at this time and I was around 13. I was in the front room with my mom and aunt once again in my grandmother’s old, country home; the interior lined with wood paneled walls and worn down green carpet.

Josh was in the kitchen making some delicious Top Ramen noodles and he makes them extremely specific:

Josh’s Top Ramen Delight

1 package chicken flavored top ramen

chili flakes

1. boil water and add top ramen for 3 minutes

2. take off stove and drain most of the water, THEN add flavor packet

3. add chili flakes and enjoy!

So, he was in the process of step 2, just about to pour the water out when my tiny grandmother hobbles in, pulling her stretchy purple pants up to just under her armpits, having just come from the restroom. I see and hear the following exchange from the front room:

“Josh, just what in the hell are you doing,” my grandmother asked as she thrust her hands on her hips.

“Making ramen noodles grandma,” he said, laughing at her anger.

“Why are you pouring the water out? You gotta put in the flavor sh** first,” she said.

“No, I don’t like it like that. I like to put it on without water.”

“Joshua, just put the flavor sh** in there and eat it.”

Josh gave her a wide grin and poured out the water.

My grandmother threw her hands into the air and screamed, “Well f**k you then!”

I have literally never laughed that hard in my life and it is one of the funniest things my grandmother ever did.

The Little Things

These are the little things i loved about her

-She made the best tea in the world. She would steep it on the back porch and it would have just the right amount of sugar. She would make one jar for the family and then, knowing I loved it more than air, she would make one just for me.

-She always kept hard candies for me.

-There are pictures of her feeding me my first bottle of milk when I was still in the nursery. I treasure that nursery.

-She took care of me and my mother whenever we got in a car accident and I was in a wheelchair for a year.

-Finally, My grandfather loved me a lot but he died before I really got to know him. He passed when I was 5. I do have myriad pictures with him though and my grandmother gave me the hat he wore for over 30 years everyday he went to work. That hat was so old the bill broke into bits but I still have it at home.

My grandmother was complicated but she was my grandmother. We may not have been on the same level all the time but I hope she knew how much I cared for her and that she was the glue that held us together; through bad and good, she united us.

I love you Grandma,

Chris “Mop Top”