Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Night of the Living Dip

Be afwaid. Be vewy, vewy afwaid. ~ The Fwy

Note:  Another repeat, but an absolutely true story appropriate for the season.

In honor of Halloween, I am moved to tell the story how my hair turned gray in an instant. Well, that would be a good story, but it didn't happen, so I'll talk about the most stunned I have ever been, or ever wish to be, in my life.

I don't do funerals as a rule. I've had to go to four. In number one, I was roped in as a pall-bearer, so it was hard to back out. Number three and four were for my mother and father; it's considered poor form to not attend those, so I did. Number two was for my aunt. It is this funeral, or more properly, the visiting hours that I want to call to your attention.

My family doesn't have many relatives in this country; almost all my surviving relations live in Hungary, from whence my parents came. The lady I called my “aunt” was actually my mother's grandmother's sister's daughter's son's second wife. I don't know what that makes her exactly, it may be one of those situations where water is thicker than blood. For simplicity's sake, my mother's grandmother's sister's daughter's son was “Uncle” George, so his wife was “Aunt” Helen, and their daughter became my “cousin” Pat.

So, because our relatives here were so few, even a once or twice removed in-law deserved our presence at the visiting hours and the funeral. Beyond George and his immediate family, my folks and I knew practically no one in their clan. My dad put in a perfunctory visit then asked me if I could stay on to “represent” the family. Translation: I'm as bored as you are with all these people we barely know, but “tuition-paying Dad” outranks “destitute-college-student son, so I'll see you tomorrow at the funeral.

If there is one thing I simply cannot stand, it's ritual and ceremony. Weddings, funerals, graduations, and similarly gruesome events are the sort of thing I have assiduously avoided over the years. But there I was, keeping my Uncle company, since most of the people there were his deceased wife's relations and almost none of them cared for him.

Pat was attending Our Lady of Eternal Flagellation or something like that, so there was a mandatory appearance by the Nun Squad. Trooping down the aisle to the casket, in strict formation, they paid their respects than came over to comfort my Uncle. I whispered to him, “I ought to get out of here. They can spot a pagan from a mile away.” “Then we're both in trouble,” George said, “so you might as well stay.”

I stifled a chuckle as the lead nun came over and laid a few standard funeral cliches on us. I would pay for that.

After a while, Pat and I went downstairs where the coffee was. I had just poured a cup and was handing it to her, when I saw my Aunt Helen standing in front of me.

I was shocked, paralyzed, flummoxed, rendered speechless, and general put out. It is not proper for corpses to be coming downstairs for coffee. Suddenly Pat said, 'Have you ever met Ma's sister Marie?”

That would be her identical twin sister Marie. And I mean identical: Same hair color, same hairdo, same makeup, same voice, the whole enchilada. So I stood there saying something erudite like, “Hamanahamanahamana...”, thereby convincing Marie that a college education was not all it was cracked up to be if I was the end product.

After I regained the power of speech, I explained to Pat why my brain appeared to short out, which she found to be utterly hilarious. I was glad to know I had lifted her spirits, at the small cost of a momentary cardiac arrest on my part.

What I didn't tell her at the time was what the one thought was that was crawling through my fried brain as I looked at Marie. She probably would have laughed loud enough to bring the whole crowd downstairs, and I was already embarrassed enough.

All I could think as I stared at what looked like the walking corpse of my aunt was, “How did she change clothes so fast?”

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