Monday, March 18, 2002

An "8" on the Guilt-O-Meter

This is exactly why I am committment-phobic: I feel so awful when I fall behind, let down my end of the dresser, neglect my duties, or generally let things go by the wayside. The dearth of blogs here on my blogsite is a thorn in my side. So I'll try to make up for it by being unnecessarily informative.

Well, the last few days, at least I have an excuse for my silence...aside, of course, from having nothing of interest to say. Last week, my Grandmother's first-cousin Juanita died (at the age of 96, the magic number for women in Grandmother's family), and I had to take the Grandmother to Visalia for the funeral on Friday. Of course, the funeral was at I had to get up at 4:30 in the morning (after getting to sleep at my accustomed 12:30) in order to leave at 6:30. It's a four-hour drive (going the speed limit, anyway), and I planned for us to get an hour behind schedule, as we usually do, and spend an hour at breakfast on the road (I just love Anderson's in Santa Nella...the Danish sausage is absolutely to die).

So we got to the funeral home in Visalia, just a trifle early, and I slipped into the top half of my rather fabulous black suit with pale taupe Geoffrey Beene shirt and tie...and almost instantly wished I hadn't, after getting a gander at the other, more casually-attired mourners...hell, even the mortuary staff were wearing navy. The décor quite simply defied taste, being made up of faux-Victorian 'antique' repros, copies of bad lithographs, representative oil paintings entirely lacking in artistic merit, and bric-à-brac that would shame the name of Flea Market. The only really tasteful thing about this place was the corpse...excuse me, the "dearly departed." It was the first time I've ever seen a dead body that actually looked like it was still alive, and, according to the relatives who had seen her recently as she suffered the double-whammy of cancer and Alzheimer's, she looked rather better than lifelike. And she really looked like she was asleep, attired in a very attractive royal-blue fleece housecoat with pretty lace trim. For the first time in all the times I've had to go to funerals, I wasn't uncomfortable being in the same room with an open casket (normally I find open caskets morbid in the extreme).

Well, the viewing portion of the proceedings went fairly well as I chatted with a slough of distant cousins I've never met before (how many people are acquainted with the offspring of their grandmothers' first-cousins?). The graveside service, however, was hellishly irksome. The minister was of the Calvary-Baptist variety, and after the long and poorly-reasoned soliloquy on the nature of salvation (aimed more at recruiting the survivors than comforting them) was completed, he handed out colorfully illustrated evangelical tracts. I was deeply offended. Plus my feet hurt, as my shoes were fabulous rather than comfortable (black Bass cap-toed oxfords), and there weren't enough chairs, so I had to stand behind my Grandmother on the stone slab marking the final resting place of Phyllis Ethel Herman, Beloved Wife and Mother, 1898-1986.

Afterward, we wandered about a bit in the cemetery, where many of Grandmother's family are buried--her parents and two of her brothers and two of her sisters, as well as various aunts and uncles and cousins (the Grandmother comes from a large and close Oklahoma/Texas family, most of whom lived in Visalia at one time or another; she's one of two survivors of her generation, just her and her older sister Alice in Texas, out of seven brothers and sisters and about ten first-cousins). It's a very flat cemetery, as Visalia is a very flat place (which makes it so attractive to displaced Texans); the gravestones tended toward the sentimental, with all sorts of unsolicited information about the persons planted beneath, especially if those persons were young. It had some lovely trees, though it was obvious that whoever planted them hadn't realized that the trees would actually grow--the trunks were often right in the middle of several graves, having filled out from a blank corner and pushed the crypts out of the way. It always amazes me how stupid people are when they plant trees. It's the nature of a tree, after all, to get bigger.

So then we went over to the home of the deceased's eldest daughter, Imogene, for the wake. This was also nice, with lovely food and nice conversation and suchlike. Imogene collects miniature porcelain village buildings and things with hummingbirds on them. Unfortunately, the four hours of sleep and the four hours on the road being constantly reminded of the speed limit by my passenger started to catch up to me, and I got quite dizzy. I went out to the car to rest for a few minutes and actually slept for just over an hour.

Then we drove out to Ivanhoe, an agricultural community in which resides Grandmother's nephew, Lee, and his wife Beverly, in the middle of fifty or so acres of orange trees. Beverly collects all sorts of things: Victoriana, black-and-white cows, mammy dolls, delft ware, antique lace, Depression glass, etc (made me feel much better about my comparatively tame obsession with costume jewelry). Both of them smoke, too. But they're very nice people, and they let me have the TV remote (a signal honor for me, as one of my few really masculine characteristics is a lust for power centering on the remote control), and I chose a double-feature of Brenday Fraser movies, Bedazzled and Monkeybone. I just love Brendan Fraser. He's so goofy and approachable-looking and yet somehow sexy.

Come Saturday, we headed back home...again driving at the exact speed limit despite my preference to drive at whatever speed the car wants to go (usually 80-ish) and which guarantees my ability to pass people of whom I disapprove. It's a long-standing argument with my Grandmother and I...she feels that it is her business how fast I drive, and always spends any trip we take with her eyes glued to the speedometer. And it's not a fear issue on her part...she doesn't do it to anybody except me. But it's very tiring having to drive to someone else's specifications, not being able to listen to any music that might make her nervous (i.e. nelly and disco-heavy soundtracks like Queer as Folk (Brit version, of course) and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. It was also really windy that day, and the noise around the car was very like being seated behind the engines on an airplane...a very wearying level of noise. But we stopped at Harris Ranch for lunch, where I ate the biggest T-bone steak in Creation, so it wasn't all bad.

Upon arrival home, I had to jet right back out again to Shiloh's...he was having a dinner party, and very kindly invited me along (also inviting my matching silverware, a commodity he does not possess). It was a very pleasant evening, with stimulating company, and Shiloh is a very good cook, so the whole thing was quite a success. After a dinner of mushroom white lasagne and salad, we had the most sinfully delicious chocolate soufflé for dessert, which we then followed with a rousing game of Cranium (a hilarious time was had by all, though my team lost, defeated by the charades component).

Which brings us to today! Caroline came over in the early afternoon and we talked about the Brewer Twins and the A&F Quarterly while I sorted my laundry (ooops, I just remembered my bed doesn't have any sheets on it...) Then I went over to the Ds to discuss the music for some upcoming shows with Daisy; afterward we had pizza and watched Queer as Folk. A most stimulating day, but not too strenuous altogether.

Well, darlings, I had better scoot off to beddie-byes. Big day tomorrow. Gotta go to work. And try to get car insurance. And send in my registration for the Fourth-Step Retreat. And start hunting for a green beaded evening gown. And any tasks my various taskmasters might come up with for me...and I won't be able to kow-tow to their vicious whims without a good night's sleep!

À bientôt!

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