Sunday, June 12, 2011

Peter's Travels 2011: RIP, Grandma; Be Still, My Heart

Collapse This, Corky! (This cross stands somewhere near Effingham, IL, along I-57)

When I received word that my mother's mother had just died at age 88 this past week, I knew I'd have to attend her funeral, even though it was taking place in Antioch, IL, about 1100 miles from home. Flying there was out of the question--way too expensive--so I rented a car for five days for just under 200 bucks. The Kia Soul pictured here was the only economy car available from Budget at Lake Charles Regional Airport. It is not a particularly macho vehicle, so I had to endure scornful looks from bikers and guffaws from buses full of Mexicans the entire trip. After burning about another 200 bucks in gas, 100 for two nights at two different budget motels, altogether the total was still cheaper than flying. A bonus was not having to deal with TSA workers, who profile me every time I fly, so they can look like they're not profiling ethnicities with far more likely terrorist candidates among them. Bastards. [I truly believe it is a racist thing--every time it's some black guy whose facial expression betrays his delight at having the opportunity to stick it to my ofay ass.]

My siblings were either unable or unwilling to go; I took it upon myself to represent all of them. One (or more) of them said she (they) didn't really know her all that well, which baffled me because it's not true, and even if it were true, so what? She's (they've) attended funerals of people she (they) didn't know nearly so well. In 1976, before we flew to England, we stayed with Grandma and Aunt Lucy for several months. That was two adults and six kids ranging in age from 11 to 2 years old. When my father was recovering from his stroke in 1983, Grandma stayed with us in Maryland for several months, despite the fact that there were seven of us ranging in age from 18 to 4 years old. We were a bunch of unruly, mischievous, ingrate Murphy kids, yet she sacrificed a season of her life for us. The problem my sisters had with her, I think, was that Grandma ruled them with an iron fist and let my brother and me roam free. It is a pity that their resentment should have lingered so long. [There's another dark, deeply-held secret behind the resentment that I dare not go into here. I'll say only that people sometimes screw up royally, and my mother had long ago forgiven Grandma for her most royal screw-up.]

I stayed with one of my father's brothers and his wife for two nights while in IL. The only way that could have been more pleasant would have been if I had had Mrs. Peter and the boys with me; it truly felt like I was at home. My uncle drove my cousin and me to the funeral, which was a very small gathering to pray for a few minutes at a funeral home. The priest was someone Grandma had known years ago, before she and Lucy moved to Kenosha, WI. I believe he headed the prayer group of which she had been a part for many years. He looked like he was ready for retirement, but his handling of the "service" was spot-on, ie short and sweet and far from trite or cliche. We had a four-vehicle procession from there to the cemetery.

Hillside Cemetery is aptly named; it's a hill with graves on it. Grandma's parents are buried there; there are graves dating back to the early 19th century, maybe earlier, but I didn't care to take the grand tour. The priest led us once again in prayer, we all chatted for a few minutes, then we parted ways.

Rather than trying to race back home, I decided to leave Friday after lunch. I had let Lieutenant Ilia know I'd be in (near) town; we arranged to meet for lunch before I rolled out. I arrived half an hour early; she was about five minutes late. She was an otherworldly different person than I had imagined. She's taller than she appears in pictures I've seen; she's way prettier than the cameras seem to be able to show; she's an engaging conversationalist, not nerdy or goofy in the least. I had been totally stoked to have the chance to meet her face to face--I really enjoy being her colleague here--I was thrown off by how far from reality my imagined perception of her had been.

She has lived in the Chicago area for over a decade, and it shows. She has much the same affect as any other midwestern girl: maybe it was her hairstyle or the pale yet radiant complexion; maybe it was her clothes or the intrusion of the midwest accent into her speech; maybe it was merely some sort of Deltan hypnotic head trip; I would not have guessed she was who she is.

She started our conversation before we sat down, with a statement that disarmed me completely, something along the line of I'm shorter than I appear in pictures. SMACK!!! From there I knew and kept my place, which is well on the right side of controlling the heterosexual male human's innate drive to make it with every woman of childbearing age (not that I'd have been on the wrong side otherwise...). Just as it should have, it felt more like a business meeting between friendly acquaintances than a blind date (which, of course, it was not). [Fortunately no one noticed how I was hanging on her every word: waitresses down here wouldn't have hesitated to remark how sweet it is for someone my age to be so in love.] I will not say I was smitten--that's a word reserved forever for Mrs. Peter--but I was enchanted in a very good and innocent way. Ilia is awesome, in case you didn't know.

Anyway, I was thrilled to meet the good Lieutenant, but I am even happier to be back home where I belong. The spell has just about completely worn off; I'm feeling much better now. Time to catch a ration of crap from Mrs. Peter...


Sean Bishop said...

Well-written and worded, reserved yet a couple nicely-delivered jabs.

By the way, those 2 hooligans pictured at the bottom... they're not actively ruling the world yet, are they?

Peter said...

The boys are still tyrants in training; progress is slow but steady. When their time comes, they'll be ready.

Knight said...

It sounds like you know you made the right choice in every way by going to the funeral. Good for you for representing your siblings.

Hard as you try it sounds like a blog crush to me.

Peter said...

Perhaps it was; I am quite over it (or is that trying too hard?)