Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Cemetery

I was thinking about my brother this morning. Yes, I realize I think about him every morning (I think about you too, Big Brother, but I do not discuss you here.) but a favorite incident has been tickling my brain the past few days. David was a character. We all have slightly twisted senses of humor, ways of dealing with our past that some may find a bit off-setting.

We have more dead than many people of our generation. Well, perhaps not now, not now that I am a little old lady, much closer to my demise, so close I can smell the cordite and treacle, than I am to my beginning, but when we were in our twenties, it seemed we were the only two who had more relatives in Wellwood Cemetery than in our phone book.

Every time ten people in my phone book die, I replace my phone book.

I have had many phone books.

I don't keep a physical phone book any longer. That is another story.

So, David and I would often talk of our dead, our ghosts, speak of them and to them. I still do. He still does. We had a nice little chat yesterday morning. He agreed that the new purple sheets were a really nice shade of purple and reminded me to wash them before first use. And I better watch out, the last time I had purple sheets, I was five years old and ended up head to toe purple hives. I replied, these are sheets, not sulfa drugs. Which also turn me purple, FYI. As do other medications, but not penicillin. I am such an old fashioned old lady. Give me a poultice of moldy bread, that'll fix me right up, good as new. But I digress.

Back to David, who was also allergic to sulfa drugs but took large dosages of them during the week before he died, blood pouring out of every orifice in his body, the morning after they would not let me see him, his visitor passes already in use, his phone line dead. I stood there in the hospital lobby, so desperate to go upstairs, making such a scene, hoping they would have rachmunis on me. They threatened to have me arrested, sent me out into the night.

The doctor called me at 6:15 the next morning.

I was already awake, waiting.

I was already awake, waiting when my mother called to say that my dad had died.

I was already awake, waiting when my uncle called to say that my mom had died.

I was already awake, waiting when Kay called to say Richie had died.

Is that why I never sleep?

Am I always waiting for the phone to ring?

Alright, Robyn, you wanted to tell a tale, stop staring at the computer screen. The flickering diodes hold no answers, no insights. The warmth and pressure of the laptop on my thighs will have to suffice as an answer, a comfort. It is the closest I get to losing myself in physical pleasure, the solace, my drug of choice to make it all go away for a while. It is the closest I get to not being alone.

David was widowed. After a while, he dated. He would meet men in bars or at clubs or wherever and decide whether or not they were worthy of going home with him. When the first throes of mourning had passed, the random faceless fucking of shloshim, he resumed his selective tendencies and decided to pursue a relationship. After a third or fourth or fifth date, he'd determine whether or not to introduce the person to his family.

"I want you to meet my family."

"Wow, I am honored. Great. When?"

"Now is as good a time as any."

The person hopped on the back of David's bike and wrapped his arms around David, thinking, oh wow, I am going to meet Kid Sister and Most Amazing Niece and maybe even Long Suffering Brother in Law. This is great, I must really rate.

And they took off. Down Eastern Parkway, Linden Blvd, onto the Southern State they'd fly, exceding whatever the posted speed limit was (you thought I was the only one who exceeds the speed limit? Daddy and David were each ticketed at over 100 mph.) until they turned in at the gates of Wellwood. David would continue, much slower, pulling up in front of our parents' tombstones.

"XYZ, I'd like you to meet my parents. Mom, Dad, this is XYZ. Okay, Grandma and Aunt Ettie are right over here and then I'll introduce you to Jeff and Erica. And Cousin Irving, he's in the front. Oh. You thought I was going to introduce you to Kid Sister? Maybe later."

Depending on whether the person politely introduced himself to the granite markers, helped trim the bushes, laid pebbles on the base of each grave, how the person responded to David's dead determined whether he would get to meet David's living.

Not a bad way of winnowing the wheat from the chaff.

Maybe one day I'll tell you about David and Vita's list of repairs.

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