Given my background, and family experience, I seem to specialize in gallows humor. I guess that’s about the best way to deal with a, well, tumultuous childhood and youth. So, starting from the end and working backwards, here’s a story about my mom.
My mother’s posthumous three-way.
Mom and I had a very contentious, difficult relationship. She didn’t ever understand me, and didn’t ever really get my motivations in life. Mom was a “go along to get along” kind of person, who wanted to adhere to the social norms. And me, I was an abnormally smart kid who wanted to change the world. I think that she would have been happy if I’d have stayed perpetually 12 years old, and lived at home. Once I got past that point, she didn’t know what to do with me.
My dad killed himself when I was 10. (More on that later). So, in addition to our odd relationship because of me being me, because of my dad’s premature death, I got thrust into the role of being a substitute parent for my brother, which wasn’t healthy for anyone. Additionally, mom’s dating relationship was…. checkered. I started high school when I was 13. By the time it came for me to consider high schools, Mom and her second husband, Bob, had gotten serious enough that they were looking at houses in Detroit, where Bob had to live because of the residency requirements for City of Detroit employees. Mind you, there were enough “new dudes” between my dad’s death and when she met Bob for me to distinctly remember around 6 or 7 others, very distinctly. Anyway, she thought Bob was the one, and instead of sending me to a Detroit public high school, I went to Catholic school.
After I graduated from law school, mom and Bob moved to Arizona. I didn’t go out there very often, because I didn’t like him, didn’t get along with her, and didn’t consider Arizona home, for holidays. Arizona was not the place where I grew up- I had no family there, save her, and really no memory of the place. Ultimately, mom got diagnosed with ovarian cancer, stage 4, and I did go out and visit her at that point. If we’re being honest with ourselves, I think I only ever visited her 2-3 times during her life in Arizona, which lasted from 1997-2011. Thankfully, mom did recover from the ovarian cancer, and had around 5 more years of pretty good health after. She ultimately died in what I’d consider a pretty decent way- she was at the casino at 2 in the morning, won a small jackpot, celebrated, stood up, and dropped from a massive heart attack. There are worse ways to go.
Following her funeral, my brother and I were trying to decide what to do with her cremains. Ultimately, I got a third, my brother got a third, and Bob also got a third. I decided that I wanted to put my portion of her cremains near my dad’s grave. This goes over extremely poorly with my brother, because he still resents our dad for killing himself. Whatever, those are the only two parents I will ever have, so that was my decision about what to do with the cremains.
So, one day I get a smallish box in the mail. Contents: 1/3 dead mother. Kind of unceremonious, but whatever.
I go to the cemetery, to see what there is to see. I evaluate the plot where dad is, and decide to go to the nearest garden store to get a nice plant that’ll come back yearly. I go and get the plant, and come back to the gravesite to take care of things. After cleaning up the site, and digging the hole, it’s time to get the cremains out of the box.
I look at the box. It’s about 4 inches by 4 inches by 8 inches, to give you a sense of size. Your average cardboard box, containing 1/3 of the mortal remains of my mother, with whom I’ve had a troubled relationship. NBD. I peel the sticker off of the box that says “mom, XXXX-yyyy”. There’s another sticker underneath, that says, “Steve Jones, XXXX-yyyy.” Inside the box is a bag of cremains. Now I don’t know if you’ve ever seen cremains, but they’re really just grey powder with an occasional bit of bone within. As they say in Spinal Tap, “you can’t really dust for vomit [or cremains]”. I have no idea who’s in the bag. But it’s what I’ve got.
So, I open the bag, stand upwind of the hole, and say, “Dad? Mom? Steve? I hope the three of you will be very happy together.”
There are times when all you can do is laugh.