I have come to the conclusion that the things that we have to endure as part of dutiful family when stuff like this happens, is an antiquated ritual of sentimental obligation in and of itself. People you haven't seen in 20some-odd years, or more, and there's a sort of love there that defies logic. I'm not going to lie, I was dreading the living hell out of it, because so much of it is pretentiousness, it comes off like everyone acts like they give two shits about you and have missed you forever, everyone saying "lets stay in touch and stop meeting only at times like this". There's the cookie cutter "I'm sorry for your loss", and I guess to an extent that's probably true, but it doesn't make it feel any more genuine when you hear it 800 times in the course of two hours. And then you get to the funeral home, and you see these people you haven't seen since you moved out from your childhood home, and you're hit with this strange nostalgic, sentimental feeling, almost like you're that same little kid again that you were when these people were your age. I really can't help but feel like the emotions you feel at stuff like this is nothing more than sentimental obligation. Doesn't change the fact that I realized even though these people suck, and the fact that they've all pulled in different directions and we have nothing in common at all except blood and marriages, that there is love there for them.
I really can't help but feel that my uncle would have seen the whole mess from wherever he is now, and been laughing at all of us for making such a fuss over him. He lived his life on his terms, and he lived it simply. I admire that. For the last 10 years or so, he hasn't been able to ride his motorcycle because of his arthritis, and I would like to think that wherever he is now, there's nothing but him and a bike and miles and miles of road for him to ride on. My aunt is understandably a wreck.. he was her life, they didn't have children, and I worry about how this will affect her in the long term. The strangest part of it, at least for me, is as we were leaving, I went up to his casket for one final time, and realized the sadness I was feeling was more about the fact that I had not kept in touch with them all this time, it was more guilt than sadness. I'm not really sad that he's gone, I'm sad for the fact that it takes a death to bring a family together. It didn't feel final to me, but I went up to that casket more because it's "the thing you do". I like that I can come away from this with acceptance of what's happened, rather than depression and grief like I use to experience at someone's passing. It's also become glaringly obvious to me that at some point I have stopped referring to it like "so and so died". They haven't died, they've just passed on. I can't pinpoint when it started bothering me to hear the word "dead", but it has. Like I said, this just doesn't feel final to me. He's always been so full of life, and for that life to just be suddenly extinguished, my mind cannot logically allow it to be final. It felt strange to me to see him laying there so still, when I had just seen him alive Saturday.
I did appreciate the words of the men who'd served in the AMVETS Honor Guard with him (which I didnt even know he'd been doing), and there were quite a few people from my dad's work who came by to pay their respects even though they had never met my uncle. It touched me to see it, complete strangers. I don't know if this is just something we do here in the south, or if it's something people do all over, or what. But the fact that these people care enough about my father to show up and do that for him means more than words can even describe. I broke down so many times tonight it isn't even funny. The worst one (or best?) was when Daddy'd had to walk away from everyone cuz he had started cryin, and Mom went over to him and hugged him. That wasn't something I ever expected, but it was good to see them put aside differences, and for just a moment, behave like they would have had they still been married.
There's alot more on my mind than what I've said here, but my mind is all over the place so I'm sure I've left something out. All I know is I'll be glad when this week is over and I can get back to my normal routine, however dysfunctional it may be, it's still mine.