My mum was visiting for her birthday, she used to dislike birthdays so her sister and I (my beloved Aunty D.) would do her birthday up big. We made her have fun, and I think she did. Until My Aunty D died the day after mum’s birthday. Somehow things hadn’t added up and the three of us weren’t together. It hadn’t happened often but this year my job got in the way and I can’t remember if it was mum or Aunty D who was busy so we put off the celebration. It was the next day that Aunty D died in a ridiculous, senseless, single car accident. A woman she barely knew was driving with her back from a jazz show. This woman got distracted, swerved, and flipped the car. There was another car behind. Aunty D was unconscious, but all she had was a broken ankle. They left her in that damn car, hanging upside, and she suffocated. Big lesson if you are ever in an accident, seat belts save lives but people can suffocate after an accident. Be careful.
Any way, that made it impossible to get mum to celebrate her birthday but she would come to my house. It was Saturday, the 25th, when I got the message. It was a request via Facebook, from my dad’s neighbor who I’d know since I was 13. It had been a bit over 10 years since my dad had married the Ukrainian mail order bride. We had almost no contact with my dad. Mum and I would trade off emailing him. He would answer once usually at 2am. I was pretty sure she was monitoring his email. Just as she had changed all of their numbers. We got proof of that when she answered one of mums messages to dad telling her how happy they were and what a horrible person mum was. It infuriated me. That this woman who had cut my father out of all of his children’s lives dared to say that my mother, my mum, wasn’t good enough. It also proved that she had my mum’s email address.
Any way, when I saw that message from our neighbor I knew that dad was dead. I’d always been afraid that he would die and it would be a long time between his death and when we found out. Turns out it wasn’t that long. Dad died on Monday we found out on Saturday -from the neighbor. None of our numbers had changed. She knew mum’s email. She knew mine. She saw the neighbors on Thursday but didn’t tell them until Saturday. In the meantime she was so distraught that she went to the lawyer, disappeared his will, made funeral arrangements.
Mum called that woman. She was incredibly compassionate to her; I don’t know how, but mum was incredible. I really didn’t want to go to that funeral, to see that creature, but my little sister needed to be there. I needed to be there for her. We got the news to my brother, though I had to do it through a friend from high school. He wouldn’t come to the funeral nor would his wife and youngest daughters.
So on mum’s birthday we were driving to Santa Fe. I can make the drive fast but it took a bit longer – I didn’t want to be there not for this.
The next day, the day my Aunty D had died, we buried my father.
Let me set the scene, it was me, my half-sister Alex, my mum Patricia Ann, my sister’s mum Patricia Ann, Pat 2. We showed up at the cemetery early, which was really good. The funeral director had no idea my father had children. If you go to his gravesite now you would have no idea he had children. He was very kind and we warned him that she was not likely to be happy with us there. My dad would have hated it all. He wanted to be cremated and left in a cave some where, preferably with all of his stuff.One of his highs was shopping and collecting.
We got the funeral director to put my book and my step-sisters into the coffin with dad. He put them under dad’s head because he was afraid that the Ukrainian mail order bride would crawl into the coffin with dad – she did. I wasn’t there but mum was. I couldn’t see him that way. It was her vision of him, her control. She hadn’t published an obituary for him. She didn’t want his friends there; his “life” began with her. Still we got old friends from Las Vegas, NM not NV. The neighbors who told us he was dead. All in all there were no more than 20 people there.
There wasn’t really a service. No big religious anything, which at least honored my dad, the devout atheist. But it also gave her time to talk. Unfortunately we do didn’t think to record it.
“What will I do without my Robert? I would ask my Robert, do you really love me Robert. And he would say yes, I love you, Yuliya. I would ask my Robert, do you love my dogs Robert, I have four large dogs, and he would say, yes I love your dogs, Yuliya.” If you are thinking about three wolves right now so was I. She continued for quite a while, wailing about what she would without her Robert. Yes, she hung off of the coffin; wailing, with not quite there crocodile tears. That really happened. Finally, the funeral director got her to let others speak.
It was my turn. I was up all night writing my eulogy for my dad. We had such a difficult past. It was not an easy childhood. I’d seen him through multiple breakdowns. He’d been emotionally abusive. He was a rageaholic, his downs included weeks or months of silence. His highs were shopping sprees that left me worrying about bills. It was hard to come up with the words. Finding the good things. As is usual, I think, I used humor.
I got a bit more than halfway through it. I was barely getting through it, mum was right there, beside me always; when SHE spoke. It was angry, “Why are you all laughing, my Robert is dead?” I tried to continue she would not let me. The demands got louder. Finally, I just stopped. My mum spoke, she wasn’t going to, but she was angry now. So she too spoke lightly and Yuliya got more unhappy, though her friend tried to quiet her. Two others spoke, they too recalled with humor. Then it was Pat 2, my step-mom still, Yuliya hated her. She remembered with humor. And then it was Alex, my baby sister, she knew a kinder version of my dad. They were two peas in a pod until Yuliya broke them apart. My sister hadn’t seen her dad since her early teens.
She begin to remember and Yuliya patted the seat beside her,
“Alex, come sit by me, comfort me” yeah, you heard that right. She wanted the grieving daughter to comfort her, who had kept that same daughter from her father. Who had ensured she was cut off from insurance on her 18th birthday. She was the one who had broken his collarbone. She had taken money to have sex with another man on their honeymoon.
Needless to say Alex was done she let Yuliya have it with most of the above and then they were yelling face to face. I was yelling.
She did not hit my sister, but that might be because she fled. I raced after her and the funeral ended with her neighbors everybody but one person crowded around us, and she sitting, with those not quite crocodile tears with one person beside her. And that was my father’s funeral. His memorial hosted by sister and I was much different, more suited to him.