My mother prefers her visits to our beloved dead to be spontaneous, because that’s just so MamaFran, who is also Our Lady of the Cemetery Hacks. But I really don’t much care for that. Because if I can’t go, I feel crummy about it, if I just don’t want to go, I feel even more crummy about it and if I do go, there’s that frisson of resentment that makes a two hour car ride that much more enjoyable.
When I got this job which now adds even more to my wheel of the year (which was previously “Craft Show Season/Not Craft Show Season”, otherwise known as “St. Germain/Campari” and now reads something like “Extensions/Craft Show Season/ Extensions/Tax Season/Summertime Sadness” . . .but writing a book should be no big, right?), I decided to dedicate a weekend to cemetery visits and just rip it off like a band aid. If others could keep me company, awesome. If not, that’s what audio books were made for.
This weekend, I was finally due. Of course I’m fighting off a cold, of course I’m exhausted from extensions, but if not now when? I realized that I needed acquire gifts. Flowers are okay, but I like small objects. A tiny pumpkin. A teeny stuffed fox in a suit. Yellow mums.
MamaFran went with me to see Dad, she drove as she usually does. I realized that cemetery visits put us both in a sour mood. And I guess, you could (rightly) ask, why do it then? It feels important, is the most honest answer. And it’s a family ritual. Gifts to bring, weeding to be done, eating somewhere (the shitty diner that fucks up even pancakes, Umberto’s for Sicilian that my dad liked best), sometimes stories told. We don’t spend too much time at the cemeteries. Dad’s is a wind tunnel as it’s a military cemetery and I still feel strange chatting to my dead loved ones out loud in front of anyone who is not my sister. It’s almost more about the pilgrimage that it takes. The traffic, enduring each others’ company in a confined space, all the unresolved feelings no one is talking about because there aren’t words for them at this point exactly anyway, the carbs, the weather, it all makes it feel like it means something somehow.
Our trip to see Dad was uneventful but exhausting. I went to bed early and went to yoga class the next day.
In the in-between points, I bought too many things:
(1) Mage 20th Anniversary Edition
(1) Pair of Ralph Lauren gloves (I lost last year’s)
(4) Pieces of lingerie
(1) Long faux fur vest that makes me feel wrapped in a Muppet’s skinned carcass
(6) Pieces of drug store make up
(1) Box hair dye
(8) Bottles of vitamins
(4) glittery fake flowers for my Halloween costume
Jow signed on to be my nav to go see my cousin, my uncle and my grandparents. The traffic on the Belt Parkway moved at its signature snail’s pace. It was raining and miserable. I found my uncle and grandparents with little trouble, but finding my cousin took some doing. At first we found someone else with his name and then it was a matter of really looking at the numbers on the side of the headstone and trying to orient ourselves with landmarks. We stopped at my uncle’s favorite market and I tried to get some of my anxiety out by spinning on my wheel.
Sometimes when I visit one of my beloved dead, I don’t feel anything. Not their presence, not any feelings about the loss of them, not even their bones under my feet. Just a static empty space in my brain. Over the weekend, though it could be imagined, I felt their presence strongly. I come from a family of frustrated artists ( . . .among other things) who became too busy with keeping a roof over their heads and food in everyone’s tummies to be able to see their artistic dreams come to fruition. Actors, poets, photographers and musicians litter our family. I could feel their sense of pride that I will write a book that the whole world will be able to hold in their hands and read. I could feel where this family member had pushed this sequence of events or pulled that circumstance. It felt so big, I couldn’t speak of it. All I could think was, I will do my best. I will try my hardest. I hope it will be enough.