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JWR 3.47 - Neighbors and the Dearly Departed


Goddamn.  WellÖdespite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage.  You know, just soÖyou know.


Whatís with people liking opera?  What the fuck is that? 


Itís just like, what is the deal with the procession of a funeral?  First, at the funeral home, we all gather, listen to a sermon, then get ready to go to the cemetery.  Then at the cemetery, we all gather, listen to a sermon, then get ready to go to somebodyís house and eat snacks.  Shouldnít we just all gather at the cemetery to begin with?  Whatís the historical significance of all that?  I think the development of civilization has progressed to the point where a funeral procession through the streets is too disturbing to regular traffic.


Thereís that Robert Frost poem ďMending WallĒ with the line: ďGood fences make good neighbors.Ē Iím sure youíve heard it many times.  The line should be: ďWell kept lawns make good neighbors.Ē  Or: ďKeeping your bushes and flower beds pristine makes good neighbors.Ē


One of my neighbors has a big riding lawn mower and he zips around his yard.  It has this big tube that sends all the grass clippings from the cutting deck into a massive bag that sits behind the rider.  He looks funny to me. 


Doing what others want of you makes good neighbors.


I had a small evergreen tree, I guess it was probably a shrub, but Iím no botanist, in front of my house, just outside the kitchen window.  It died after I moved in.  I suppose I killed it by neglect, but I donít really believe in special treatment for plants.  I mean, I cut my grass because the Man says I have to.  Theyíll fine you if your grass gets so high, you know.  I trim bushes because you canít have them encroaching on your mailbox or the street.  But I donít water.  Fuck that.  If Iím going to be dehydrated, then so are my plants.


Another of my neighbors commented on the dead tree.  Twice.  Jesus Christ.  Iím one of those shit neighbors you move to get away from, I guess.  So I cut it down last weekend, with itís one still-green branch, and then dug up the root bulb.  No big deal. 


Jerk off neighbors.  I donít tell them that their kids are ugly or that theyíre really annoying.  I should, though.  Assholes.


Iím the hand up Mona Lisaís skirt.  Iím a surprise.  They donít see me coming.


I keep to myself.  Iím usually a quiet neighbor.  I do say hello to my neighbors if I see them; I can carry on an awkward yet polite conversation about the weather or whatever.  I donít go out of my way to talk to any of them, though.  I like to read on my front porch sometimes.  Iíll take a seat, put me feet up on the railing and read for a little bit after work sometimes, or maybe on Sunday.  Iíve started reading American Psycho.


My house rebelled against meódid I tell you?  This was back in February, and I was in my basement.  I have a 1970ís style fireplace that sits in the center of the floor of the basement.  Itís round with glass panes enclosing it, and there is a masonry base built around it of stone and mortar.  One day, I was walking past it and it leapt out in front of me.  I wasnít wearing any shoes and I clipped my right pinky toe on it.  I felt a quick, sharp pain, but more than that, I heard a pop.  For a minute I tried to convince myself that I hadnít broken my toe, but the fifteen-degree angle at which it was stuck out away from the other toes told differently.


I limped upstairs, unable to believe the stupidity it took to not avoid the moving fireplace base.  There was the question of what to do now.  I didnít want to go to a doctor, so I lay on my bed to gather my wits, then pulled my laptop off the dresser, plugged in the phone line and looked up the treatment for broken toes.  I looked at a few sites and what I found was pretty encouraging.  Basically it said that there wasnít much you could do other than keep off it, ice it, maybe tape it to another toe.  I figured if I went to a doctor, heíd X-ray it, tell me I broke it, tell me to ice it, tell me to keep off it, and tell me to pay him $200 for his and radiologyís time.


It didnít look too bad, aside from pointing away from where the other toes were pointing.  I slept uneasy that night and woke up the next day for work.  I tried slipping my foot into my Airwalks, but it was too uncomfortable to take any steps, so I tried the Sketchers, which had a little more room.  I went to work and stayed there for lunch and finally got home and took my shoe and sock off to notice the toe had straightened out quite a bit (I guess ten hours encased in black leather will do that), but the pinky toe was now almost all purple. 


Over the next couple weeks, the pinky toeís swelling and color went down, but a bruising began to appear across the tops of all the other toes on that foot.  That was the freaky part, almost as freaky as that crazy angle.  But after about two months, all the bruising and swelling on all the toes was gone, and it felt fine, too.  But that fireplace still mocks me.  I taught it though; I set it on fire.


But none of that was anything like stepping down onto a sopping wet carpet on the morning of your grandmotherís funeral.  Unheard of amounts of rain and Grandma stopped struggling for breath.  They let her lay there, head back at an awkward angle, eyes slightly open but seeing nothing, tongue sticking out a corner of her mouth, her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren right there.  They said she was brain dead, so why did I say Goodbye?  You know how to tell when youíre alone?  When you do something difficult, something time consuming, something enraging, and you do it alone despite the presence of others in your home.


She was given a closed casket because she looked very beaten and weathered at the end.  I couldnít connect at the funeral.  Some lady in a large hat talked to me about organizing a family reunion.  She said I should organize it.  I could tell from the start she was weird.  What was with that hat?  Hitting the Shift key five times turns on StickeyKeys.  I bawled my eyes out at Mrs. Petersí funeral, but not for my grandma.  The eulogy at my grandmaís funeral was somber and done by some member of some clergy nobody knew.  The eulogy at Mrs. Petersí was more upbeat, something about a busy street, a big truck and a barking dog which I canít remember but I did laugh and there were folks at that funeral in crazy, bright suits.  When I die, do whatís best for you with my remains.


It wasnít just the big hat, it was the way she looked at me from beneath the vast brim that was unnerving.  Why wouldnít she take that hat off?  Did people who sat behind her, were they able to see?  Who wears hats like that anyways?  It had to have been a funeral hat.  Later, I sat in my car alone waiting for the procession of cars to the cemetery to get underway.  God stepped in and allowed her and her husband to be parked next to me in the lot.  I tried to pretend like I didnít notice them, but she jumped out of her car and knocked on my window and reminded me about the family reunion I was supposed to organize.  Then she jumped back in her car with her hat still on.  I felt like I was losing my mind on the drive to the cemetery.  I was starving.  I wanted to jam the accelerator pedal into the floorboard and just go.  My momís mom was going into the ground soon.  Should I have had my car washed for this?  Maybe you can put me in a Kiss casket when I die. 


Godís plan is to let you age and die brain dead with your tongue sticking partway out of your mouth while your body automatically struggles to breathe until it canít anymore while your family sits edgy out in the hallway or by your side.  Godís plan is to give you cancer.  Godís plan is to give you lead poisoning from bullets shot at you in front of a Laundromat.  Godís plan is to let you drown under an iceberg after you fall through the thin center of it and develop hypothermia.  Godís plan is to have you break your pinky toe and then allow you to care for it yourself before sending a blood clot from the bruising straight to your heart.  Godís plan is to give you defective lungs and let you die while you wait for donor lungs.  Godís plan is to fuck with your head until you give up. 


Why are we here?


Why am I censoring myself?  I think about two people, and one is myself.  I donít want to make a misstep now.  Iím a bad phone conversationalist.  Thereís a lot going on but I have blinders on and am already eyeing November.  Please donít hit me from the side.

Life is not a fairy tale.  If youíre lucky enough to find someone who gets you, hold on.  Jon and Tiffany got married last week.  They, apparently, get each other, and itís a lovely thing.  Jonís brother, Mark, came in from Australia to be Jonís best man.  I met him once before and had a little more opportunity to talk to him this time.  He brought his four-year-old daughter along and hearing an Australian accent from a little child is both strange and adorable.  During Markís speech at the reception he touched on a lot of little things he and Jon did when they were kids and said he regretted not being able to spend time with him more often now that they were older.  In a lot of ways, Jon didnít want to be here, he wanted to be in Canada where he grew up, where a lot of his friends were.  Mark looked down the line at the groomsmen and ushers and said that he had a chance to see us ďblokesĒ and especially Tiffany around Jon, and he understood why Jon stayed.  That may not be exactly correct, I had a hard time understanding him, and I still donít know what the fuck a bloke is, but I get the jist.  Maybe itís easier for someone from the outside to come in and see what friends do for each other easier than we can see for ourselves because itís day in and day out for us, we may miss the obvious or take it for granted.  To be honest, I almost, almost got a little choked up during his speech.  Afterwards, I went up to him told him how I thought his speech was great and kind of found out that he is in the same boat as Jon, his family is in Canada and the US, but when he met his wife, he stayed with her, 10,000 miles away.  Iíd talk more about Mark because he left a very strong impression on me, but maybe another time.

Friends are really an extension of family.  I feel that many of my friends are closer to me than a lot of family members.  I donít necessarily think that is a bad thing, either.  To me, friends are the most important things.  Whether they live two miles down the road, two hundred miles east, two thousand miles across country, or ten thousand miles away on the other side of the planetÖ


That one two thousand miles away.  Thatís going to be a tricky one.  You know, I donít want to fuck that up.  Iím not a total dumb ass; I know I good thing when I hear it.


YeahÖand No, they canít all be dynamite phone conversations!




Copyright © 2004 John Lemut