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Lake Village [Oct. 16th, 2003|10:58 am]
[In the Moment |determined]
[Special Music |Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - I Won't Back Down]

(Part Two.)

Well I know what's right,
I got just one life.
In a world that keeps on
pushing me around,
but I'll stand my ground,
and I won't back down.


No, I won't back down.


Lake Village tries to improve itself more like a normal modern city, but I told the folks on Saturday that they should just keep it exactly like it is.

At night, you hear insects, not vehicles, on Airport Road.

The weather lent itself to that mild high of 70s, mild low of 60s that I long for around these winter months. Somewhere along the line, my hillbilly blood line detests this weather in Michigan, and never has it taken such hold over me than in my current time.

Dad and I were the first to arrive from the travelling relatives.

Eric, who travelled from Okinawa, had the longest trip. I hadn't seen him in such a long time, and it was great to talk and look at his photos. We were kids when I saw him last, back at my grandmother's house in Sterling Heights, MI.

We shot the shit that afternoon in the front yard of Henrietta's home. Dad, Henrietta, Eric, Ken, and I waited for the rest to arrive. I kept my mouth shut. I had little to say. My year is vintage depression, a potent bottle not to be served in that time and place.

Families generally fill themselves with many crazy moments and strange people who call themselves relatives. Our family is no different. Whether or not family dysfunction is necessary or not is a family-by-family case, and it's very much up for debate.

Another older relative would be at the funeral on Saturday, but that part of the family spent Friday at a prison . . . some relative sits on death row somewhere for putting two bullets in a man over a woman. It's a common story, so it needs only your imagination.

When I was a kid, I knew grief well. Dad sourced himself for a lot of it in me. He had his bouts with the alcohol, and I never knew on any night whether he'd come home with hellfire, so friends over at my house generally proved not an option. That serves true to this day. It's part of my nature.

The last family funeral was that of my aunt Betty. She was the daughter of Alma, and she had an accident before I was born. She developed that rocks-in-head common sense ability that so many of my relatives sport.

She had chemical dependencies, and she liked to chase her meds with alcohol. In Spring 2002, after many months of non-communication with dad and the family, a neighbor called the cops because of the smell from her apartment.

Betty had too many meds and alcohol one night. Her aparment's heater was jacked up to around 90 degrees. She had been dead for quite a few days, so it was a horrorshow when dad identified her.

The cops wanted to investigate any foul play, but it was a simple case of overdose and heart failure. Some relatives with ties to the cops pulled some strings to get her released, and the family had her cremated.

My dad called me to notify me on that one, too. That was a shock. Betty may have been a bit goofy, but she never gave me any shit. She loved me, and I loved her too. Not everyone is strong, and she was certainly weak.

Our relatives failed to notify dad of the memorial service to honor her on a Saturday. My aunt on my mom's side caught her obituary, and phoned me. It was to be the next day, and since I'd already left work, I was hopping mad.

I called dad. Dad didn't know it was going to be the next day. I heated up about this, but he didn't. Dad learned that all the rage and fire wasn't worth it a long time ago. I guess I'm still a bit thick. I haven't forgiven them for that mistake.

I had to drive to work and plead with management to give me a day off to attend my aunt's service. That was around the beginning of my animosity with EDS and General Motors and OnStar. I got my way, and I was able to attend.

Dad and I talked about this a bit on the subject of closure during the road trip.

"Her ashes ended up in the possession of your relatives in California. They didn't bring her urn to the service. What was that, anyway? A service with just a picture? That's a hard way to close things well."

No shit. I kept my mouth shut at Betty's memorial too. Some good came out of it . . . I poured out my anger to a new friend named Heidi. She listened, understood, and we met up that Saturday spring 2002 night after the service.

All of dad's family grew up down in Lake Village, so they were close, if not for the constant drama. Dad feels like a black sheep, but I feel like a space alien. Such is the bullshit and brass bands that accompany any family function, but I'd just wish I didn't have a fucking family at times. The jury's still out on how I feel about family at the moment.

We never told Alma about Betty's death. Alma was in full Alzheimer's, and any sort of unneccessary bad news didn't feel really fair to a confused and tired old lady.

Henrietta drove our small band to the funeral home to visit Alma that Friday, October 10th. Had she lived further, that would have been my grandmother's 80th birthday.

Ken is my dad's brother. Ken's had his major struggles in life. A lot of nutty moments have materialized from all parties, and Ken's no stranger to strangeness. Ken stayed with Alma literally all through her final years, and he took as best care of her as he could with dad. Dad would come by in the evenings to tie loose ends and visit, but Ken stayed there, and he helped her through her good and bad days. I give Ken great credit for this, and I give dad great credit as well. I never went over there because she didn't recognize people well, and I didn't think I could do anything more for her than dad and Ken.

Ken had a real hard time with Alma's death. He wanted to put her glasses on her body, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. I knew he was very unsure of himself, and the whole process was probably the most hard on him. Dad put the glasses on Alma's body, and we viewed her.

She was just like I always knew her . . . they dressed her in her favorite color, purple. Her casket was a plain and tasteful dark green. The proceedings and all of the work had been coordinated by Henrietta, an old matriarch around Alma's age. Henrietta stayed down in Arkansas and had been down South forever, even when dad's family had moved up to Detroit after WW2 for automotive job opportunities. Henrietta gets great credit for the work she did. My grandma looked really nice.

I had shrugged off bouts of sadness all week. My take was probably the best one, but we'll never know. I was happy to know that she wasn't going to suffer any further. Her death wasn't a surprise, so there was no added grief when she passed for me.

The women from the family flew in from California later that night, after plane delays and other hijinks.

I didn't talk to them much. I don't hate them, but some of the recent silly and unneeded moments have been at their hands, so I generally resigned myself to not saying a whole lot. I was going to get through this one too, as I am a good boy at heart, and I don't like to contribute to the already bulging bullshit account.

Let's just say, if they stopped sending packages at Xmastime, I wouldn't give a shit. I do think they are doing the best they can. Our dad's family has seen kids become disowned, run-ins with cops, general lack of common sense, and other hard-to-forgive moments. The best thing one can do is just shut his damn mouth . . . it's a trait that I think more people should develop at crucial times.

Not every family member has a long history of grief. There are more than just nutty folks in my group. One of them has a website of old family photographs and such, and I'm going to email him some of our vault of stuff in scanned pics soon . . .

Dad and I did minimal conversation, and then we excused ourselves that evening to find a place. We forgot to check Lake Village that Friday night. We went back up to McGehee, only to find that the Best Western was booked. We stayed next door at the Relax Inn, an older, lesser kept up place that was a place to rest and not much else. The toilet didn't work well, and the bathtub had seen better days. At least, there wasn't a pubic hair on the pillow like in the room that my friend Brad and I stayed at in Barstow when his alternator died.

That Saturday morning, we got in our suits and waited to go to the funeral. I watched The Postman again with Kevin Costner. That film would have worked better, had it not had added crap like the drawn-out ending. Still, it did the trick of passing time, and we headed down to Airport Road for the proceedings of putting Alma to final rest.

There's a Baptist church on that road and a cemetary. Alma and the older relatives helped put that church together, so it was quite fitting that she be put there in the end. Her wishes were to be buried in Lake Village, back home where she lived for a while before she met Clarence, my grandpa, who had died in the late 60s, long before I arrived.

The funeral service in church was thankfully quite short. The Rev. Tom Christmas, a really old country preacher, did the best he could to send her off in the right way. I could have done without Tom's pleas for those who haven't to now accept Jesus as their personal savior, but he did quite well. Henrietta and another lady did a good rendition of Amazing Grace, and my dad got a little teary-eyed. They played that one at Clarence's funeral, and it brought up double moments of grief over his parents' passing.

I was to be a pall bearer, like I was for my other grandma, but I forgot my camera and went back for it. They started without me, and they put Ken in place of me. I was a bit put out at first, but dad explained that Ken wouldn't have been able to participate, due to so many men carrying Alma's casket. It meant something in a great way for him to do it, so it worked out for the best.

They had a wake of good food, but I wasn't eating much. I wasn't talking much. I was bored, and I didn't want to get to know any more people enough for me to really want to do it at a time like this. I was sad on the inside, but stone on the outside. I just wanted to get going with my life, so the next time, if there is one, I could have some great things to say for myself.

After the wake, we went back to Henrietta's, and we talked for a little while. The ladies of the family were poking through Alma's jewelry box, and they asked me if I wanted anything. I certainly did not, since I had my grandmother's love, and more trinkets and stuff added to a house in Detroit filled with too many of my own trinkets wasn't an option. I respectfully declined, and it was then that I mentioned to dad that we should probably hit the road and head home.

After quick goodbyes, we got in the ol' minivan and headed off from Airport road that Saturday.