This was only my second funeral. I sat out several before these. I said my goodbyes in quiet. But it didn't seem right to sit out those of my stepfather and my mother.
There's not really much for me, as far as the services go, especially the religious aspects. It's not like I'm sitting and smirking like the fundies' stereotypical atheist, barely restraining myself from jumping up and interrupting the preaching with smug superiority. I save that for here. Tremble before me, for I am mighty and stuff.
Actually, I'm just bored, tired, and concentrating more on keeping myself from nodding off. The preachers at both services followed a general structure of quoting the banalities that We The Family came up with at a previous meeting, meager summaries of something so complex as 82 years of life. From there, a few Bible selections, a couple of poems. None of us spoke at either funeral.
In both cases, however, the preachers did all the talking for us, and related personal stories of their own that didn't really fit. In both cases, they summarized a parent's decades of life to a minute or so of quoted material before making the service about themselves, their own beliefs, their own agendas.
The preacher at my stepfather's funeral was a fire-and-brimstone fellow who regaled us with tales of reborn dead, beloved family members who will one day rise again when That Day comes, the one preachers predict but don't really believe in. My zombie stepfather, my grandmother, a pair of aunts, my grandfather--and, now, apparently, my mother will be made whole and all that. This service had it all--somber organ music piped in over speakers, a couple playing a duet of a Hank Williams song and a hymn, admonitions to get right with the proper version of god. There were easily 40 people. I didn't recognize many of them. Might have been from the pastor's church. I think my stepfather went there a few times.
A long service. It might have only been 40 minutes, but these things can stretch to eternity fairly quickly. I imagine my stepfather was snoring. I nodded off a couple of times, myself.
There were no conflicts with his side of the family. Crazy Hank! didn't do anything crazy, his screechy accusation-slinging sister kept her pie hole shut, and all the relations who usually ignored my mother and I at "family" gatherings (hahaha) ignored us.
Then came the pall-bearing. I can't remember who or how many aside from Hank! and I. The mortal remains were transferred into a hearse, then a mess of us followed it to the gravesite. There was another service here, a shortened version of the one we'd just been through a few hours before. No singing, no organ. Shorter is sweeter. Long drive home from there.
Today's service was much less involved. There were about a dozen of us, and that's really sad considering all the people who Mom worked with over the years. Sixty years as a paralegal, mostly in real estate; she worked on some legal matters for the Poarch Creek tribe in Atmore, Alabama and for the Perdido Bay Creek tribe in Pensacola. Only one of the lawyers and his daughter showed up. No one from either tribe has so much as peeped. And, of course, nothing from the stepfamily.
The usual summary by the preacher, a few paragraphs that didn't tell anyone about her, not really. No mention of her being a wizard with a sewing machine and serger.
Nothing about her cooking, how she made cream cheese pound cakes right up until she couldn't remember how anymore, or her amazing rice and gravy. What about the wooden spoon I wrapped in aluminum foil one Thanksgiving, as a prize. She was proud of that silly spoon and kept it on display next to the kitchen window.
What about her life in 1950s Castleberry, Alabama, where she faced racism for being Creek and Cherokee? She was made to use the back door of most houses where she did peoples' hair. People called her "little black girl." It was good to see her bringing her heritage out and wearing it proudly in the last 20 years. I wish the Perdido and Atmore tribes had shown up to give her a better ceremony.
This preacher seemed to be rushing it. We still had the piped-in organ (which sounded like we were trapped in a Whitney Houston song), but no duets, no zombie relatives, no fire and brimstone. No fire, really: this guy was a mechanic in a funeral assembly line, thirty minutes and on to the next. A little preaching, a few Bible quotes, a few bits of filler about himself...well, actually, two thirds of the thing seemed to be more about him. Before he dies, he really ought to record himself at several of these quickie funerals and just have the preacher preaching for him play it back, since he's already got the patter. It'd save some time. His might only take 20 minutes.
No pall-bearing, no following the casket up to Castleberry.
By height and by age: their mother and the three sisters.
This will be the first time they've all been together since 1991--and the first time poor John Garner has had all four of them in one place since 1965. Tremble!
We just got the call from the Hospice folks. She's gone.
There's no way I want to remember her the way she was the last few weeks, so here's a shot from the mid-90s, when she was active in the local Muscogee Creek community. Chief Bobby Johns Bearheart named her "Eyes That Shine."
She made the jacket herself, if I remember right. She used to do presentations at schools, college classrooms, anywhere she could tell her stories. She certainly earned her name. Her eyes never shone brighter and she was never happier than when she was interacting with students or visitors full of questions.
She had to put it on the back burner to care for my stepfather as he wasted away from Alzheimer's, only to suffer the same fate.
She was a steely-eyed badass, a force of nature, and a damn fine woman who had one hell of a good ride even with bumpy roads.
I still haven't figured out what caused the problem. Haven't been able to reproduce the problem since then. In the last month, as a matter of fact, it seems like I fixed the supposed engine/battery/starter problem by replacing an exhaust hanger.
It'd be pretty damn cool if that's what happened.
About 6 weeks ago the car's rearmost exhaust hanger failed. I was in traffic, heard a CLUNK and clanging, heard the catalytic converter grinding as I pulled into the driveway. When I looked under, the converter and the outlet pipe leading to the muffler were a few inches off the ground. The muffler itself was dangling at a 45 degree angle, the exhaust tip nearly touching dirt.
I dug through my camera box. That's not as random as it might sound.
Back in 2008, I bought a few sets of exhaust hanger straps, U-bolts, and a mess of 1/4"-20 screws for making lightweight camera rigs. One of the hangers and U-bolts made a good clamping mount for a bicycle handlebar. I'd been planning to use that on one of the "hike & bike" rides out to Fort Pickens.
All the hangers and parts were in a bag. Once I sorted through it all, I had three complete hangers ready to go. Free is better than shopping for all new stuff.
It took a few more days to get my legs convinced to let me go out (all the going up and down stairs in the cellar the day I picked the spare X-11 engine off the back of the Tracker messed up my left knee). Took half an hour to get one of the hangers modified to fit the car's factory hanger bracket.
Man, the muffler is a mess. When I first got the car nearly 5 years ago, the thing seemed solid. Some burn-throughs in places, probably from too-rich, too-hot exhaust. One scary detail: the right rear bumper guard, a piece of hard black rubber, is partly melted. It sits several inches above the exhaust tip. Looks like there was a hell of a flaming exhaust problem at one point. Yikes.
Anyway, the muffler's belly is torn open and it's spilling rusty muffler guts everywhere. Got a replacement on the way, nice and shiny and keeping its guts inside.
Back to that hanger. Some previous owner had rigged up a hose clamp to replace the rusted/broken original strap. The hose clamp finally gave up, snapped, and dropped another project in my lap. A freaking hose clamp.
Took another couple of days, but I went back out to replace the other two hangers, certain that they were all snapped, given how low the exhaust was hanging. Hell, I've been needing to replace them since I got the car. Knew it, kept putting it off. Even knew about that stupid hose clamp. Hitting a speed bump or something at the wrong angle would get me a loud, embarrassing grinding racket or even a momentarily much louder exhaust as the spring joint at the front end was pulled open. Fun, fun, fun!
Didn't have to worry. Middle hanger was fine, next one needed to be adjusted. And that brings us to the accidental making things better. For the past year or so, I've had some random problems with a crappy idle after driving long enough to get the car warmed up, going into a store, and trying to drive it after letting it sit hot for a few minutes. More recently, it was the starting issue, where the hot engine seemed to get harder to turn over (or the engine heat was overloading the starter).
Ever since I tightened up the exhaust, though, no trouble. Engine cranks and starts more easily cold or hot. No trouble restarting even after a long drive. The only thing that makes sense is that the drooping exhaust was causing a restriction that kept the engine from breathing properly.
Saved myself the cost and effort of replacing the starter, and the disappointment of realizing that the starter wasn't the problem. What the hell, an accidental fix still counts.