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Hometown Blues

My 91-year-old great-grandmother died last week. Her funeral was Saturday in Searcy, Arkansas, and we were able to be there, though barely. The funeral was a formality. She had been just hanging on for nearly a year, and everyone had had their chance to say goodbye. The centerpiece of the funeral home’s sanctuary was an arrangement of 100 roses, one for each of her descendants, which rested on the coffin lid. Among many things we observed,

  • For some men, apparently, there is no duty so grave that they might choose not to clip their cell phones to their belts—not even that of pallbearer.
  • The practice of playing recorded hymns at the beginning of a funeral service is tacky.
  • According to the sermon, “when we weep at a funeral, we don’t weep for the deceased. We weep for ourselves.” This, in spite of the fact that we were also told it is natural to cry. The “message” was a little sad for being so canned I was surprised there was no invitation at its end.
  • My g-g would have loved to see the roses and to see all the family there.

All was not well. The kissing cousins have caused a schism in the family. My great aunts and my grandmother are factioned. One great aunt and her husband snuck into the funeral almost too late, and she bolted before it was over, and we never saw her again. At the same time, mom is jealous of her sister. She holds it against us that we haven’t reproduced yet: she, the oldest, is the only one of her siblings who is not already a grandparent. We would explain to her that with grandchildren quality matters more than quantity, and that our goal is to have the best one(s) possible; however, she doesn’t ask. She doesn’t ask because her longing for grandkids is born more of that jealousy than of a concern for us. She glances longingly at her sister, then she stares at us and sends bad vibes at K.

Searcy, what little I saw of it, is embracing suburban sprawl with gusto. Wide streets with no sidewalks; large commercial lots with no connections between to encourage foot traffic; bad restaurants that also happen to be chains. Depressing stuff. I wasn’t enthusiastic about anything I saw. However, that we stayed in the Honey Tree Inn Friday night might have something to do with how we saw the town later.

Nevertheless, it was good to go. Much of the rest was a reprise of our last trip, complete with vegetariansanity and more baby questions from the hypervirile. Same old.



i actually hadn’t thought of entering a contest on who can produce the “best” grandchildren. you think these kids are cute? just you wait!

We’ve got to have some angle. Otherwise, the family will start to think it’s not only stupid to wait to have kids, but that everyone should have a half-dozen before they’re 23. I know there’s precedent galore in that bunch, but the trend’s got to stop!

(Said precedent, by the way, is why my g-g had 100 descendents at only 91.)

Should we reprise other highlights of the weekend? I was maybe a bit hard on mom above, in that she’s probably a little more complicated than to be motivated by jealousy alone, but I think the jealousy’s a key component.

One thing different from my assessment of our trip in December (linked above) is that on returning this time, I realized how much I really like the life we’ve made and are making in Iowa. The big, close family has many things good about it; so too, however, does a small, tight-knit, self-reliant family. I am of two minds about what’s better (good topic for discussion: what’s better? what do you miss from your extendeds; what do you love about being apart?), but as K said on our trip home, one thing we know because we are removed, (when we have kids) our kids will be raised by us and not by our parents.

B and I have been entertaining her immediate family since Friday. They leave in the morning. I like my “in-laws,” and B loves them, but we’re both ready to see the back of them come tomorrow. Exhausting.

Enjoyed reading your post. Somehow it never gets mundane reading about family drama. You would think it would. Lord, that I could tell you about some of the machinations that go on in a large extended Turkish family!

There’s always more. A lot of what’s above has already been filtered through the debriefing K & I had on the long drive home (it’s a standard feature of family visits: finally, everything we wanted to laugh and talk about and to interpret to each other but avoided while visiting comes out in the car. Probably when—if—family comes to visit us, we should take a long drive after just to get the visit out of our systems. Otherwise, it often festers in the house).

Food, for example, has become a major point of contest with my family, whose ambivalence, if not hostility, to being a vegetarian is baldly on display. Saturday featured two meals: 1) potluck after the funeral, with your regular chicken-based putluck casseroles and a few sides, including green beans and mashed potatoes; 2) a meat & cheese tray in the evening or chicken & dumplings. Having had too little coffee (I drink a lot) and too little of substance eating only sides at lunch, by late afternoon I had a headache and was getting crotchety. K wasn’t hungry yet, but would be. Easiest thing to do was to go out, pick up something relatively quick and filling, then come back. “You could have lettuce,” somebody said in protest. “Do you eat cheese?” someone else asked. Meanwhile, the kitchen was full, and we’d already asked mom to come with us, and she begged us to eat there. (I thought she would have been happy to get away with us for some facetime, but not so much.) “There’s a lot of eggs. We could make omelettes.” It was all too much. I had stepped away, and K said to my mom (she told me later), “Greg is pretty hungry. I think he wants to go out now.” Mom said, to justify why I’d want to go, “He wants to see Searcy.” Which wasn’t true at all—there’s little there I’m interested in, anymore (although the instant-additions of about 5 new community churches, as I count, is interesting; so, too, are the 3 huge crosses on the interstate; and the fact that Valley Baptist is megachurch size, now; none of that, however, can I learn on a quick visit or drive around town)—but even she, who’s all fascinated in the possibility of living healthy, would have preferred, I think, that we eat ruffage only, simply because it was better to stay.

And then there’s the snack foods….

I laughed at the debriefing part. B and I always do the same thing. We no doubt will tomorrow as well.

In an unrelated note, I’m blogging now.

Sweet. Now you, too, can use blogging as an excuse not to finish your work. What brought you to transcend comments?

As I became more prolific, I just wanted to be able to comment on stuff I wanted to talk about without feeling guilty for hijacking someone else’s blog. Now I can set my own agenda (even if no one reads it.)

With that attitude, I say you’re off to a fine start: no one, after all, actually reads blogs. :)

It’s odd, especially after living in the same vicinity (and sometimes in teh same house) with various family members since I came back after college in 1998 to be living now very far away from all of them. I am one of those freakish people who likes her family, and though I don’t miss having no private life, and I don’t miss the Midwest (except for restaurants and bookstores and good company in IC), I do sometimes miss them.

My mom, uncle and aunt, and various cousins have gathered at my grandmother’s house several times since I left, to do the unenviable job of trying to get her and it into some shape for her move (which, thankfully, is still a year off). And yet I do rather envy them. They say that they all sit around and gaze enviously at my pictures, but so far none of them show signs of coming out to visit. Oh, except my mom, who’s coming over Labor Day weekend. That should be interesting. We’ve both been appointed as judges for the local Labor Day parade.

Well, enough hijacking. I could, of course, write all these things on my own blog, but it’s so much more fun to post them here. Thanks to the Hermits for the indulgence. And welcome to the blogging world, JH!

I hope I don’t give the impression (although I can see how I might) that I don’t miss or love my family. It is my family, after all. (Although I always knew it implicitly, I understand now that family, complex and complicated thing that it is, like wine just gets more complex and complicated with age.) That they’ve maintained the close ties I am a little envious of. Big family, short travel means there’s all kinds of connections that develop that just can’t when you’re removed both in body and spirit. What I said above about liking the world K & I have made isn’t to say I dislike my family’s world—indeed, in many ways I feel most at home there—but it’s to say that our life here is cozy and moves in its own time and place.

But I don’t think you were implying that I didn’t miss them, were you, L? No, I see not, it was more your own musings… and I think we must all hear of this parade you & your mom will judge!

I’ve been wondering today, during these days when all is really busy, we shouldn’t enlist guest bloggers to fill in the gaps and offer some other insights…

so, must i too write confessions of my family reunion?

at least we were in beautiful northern new mexico and where the climate and vistas were lovely.

though, i guess, this was more confessions of a family funeral, so i’m off the hook.

remy, remy you’re glib and you don’t even know it!

No, no. I’m the hermit who is overly honest and self-revealing on the blog (diarist at heart); you’re the one who writes cryptic allusions to books he’s teaching but never bothers to name them (poet, you). Chris just reminds us that we’re all supposed to be listening to the Human Club.

the cryptic reference to those two books, which, are in the “Reading List” section of the page was so that students wouldn’t google the two and find that their prof blogs—and sometimes about them. i will probably comment on them more, once this damned article gets finished and out… funny how the first week of class, well, and the two before class, as well, grinds any kind of research to halt.

re: (poet, you)

now who’s being glib? and quite aware of it, i imagine!

Not glib—sincere. And I don’t dispute you have good reasons to be cryptic.

Thank you, L.

(See how my new blog has already deflated most of the hot air from my comments? Nice and concise. Well, it was anyway, before I added this aside, damn!)

No, I didn’t think at all that you lacked affection for your family—I was just meandering off in my own self-involved direction.

I promise there will be pictures of the parade, and perhaps even tales.

Now that I’m a sort of public person, I tend to be somewhat more circumspect about what I write (though why, I don’t know, exactly, since my arrest is up there for all the world to read about. (Incidentally, G and KL, I got an e-mail today from one of my fellow arrestees, who says that all his new colleagues have already Googled him and thus know all about it.) Also, of course, my mother reads my blogs. . . which does rather limit one’s creative output.