Family Funeral

My cousin died last week. He was only 42 years old. I do not know what he died from and it shouldn’t really matter. I was told he went to sleep on the couch and never woke up. He had a stressful job, so that could have been it. It could have been from a bad diet.  Or it could have been from the alcohol and drugs he did years ago. I am not certain what or if there was drug use, but I know he was in AA. The drugs were an accusation by my sister.

I was not close to my cousin. I think the last time I saw him was twenty years ago at my grandmother’s house. I stopped by for lunch and he happened to stop by also. We swapped some stories about my time in the Navy and his time in the Marines. Maybe he just got out of the military at that point? I do not remember. We were not close before that either.

I was not close to his sisters. I would not have recognized them on the street if I did not search for them on Facebook after I received the news. They were all older than me. I think one has grandkids now. I do not know any of their spouses nor kids.

I can not remember the last time I saw their mom. My aunt. My godmother even. I do not have any bad memories of her. I think she and my mom got along. But we were just never part of each other’s lives. Her ex-husband, father of her children, and my mom’s brother died in 2009. I was traveling in South America at the time so did not attend the funeral. My mom did not either. She did not talk with her brother since their mom died 8 years previously. She said she felt showing up would be rude. To this day, I do not agree with her missing it.

My sister knew their family the most. She got close with my cousin when she ran into him in an AA meeting. But whatever relationship she once had was soured by her accusations. I heard she was calling his work place. She was telling them things. Stories. I don’t know all the details, but I know he had a restraining order against her. This was also about the time she called me 5am, drunk, and yelled about something that happened in 15 years earlier.

When my mom called me to tell me the news, I cried. I cried for his loss of life and my lack of a loving family. My mom began to speculate the cause. She brought up my sister’s accusations and said “maybe there was truth to it.” I was angry. I said it shouldn’t matter if drugs or alcohol were part of the cause. It was like she was making an excuse for her daughter’s actions. I cut the phone conversation short to avoid hearing more rationalizations.

Tonight was the viewing. I drove an hour and a half to pay my respects. There was a long line. He was well liked in his community. I heard so many comments about my cousin always having a smile on his face. As I waited, there were photos on display showing him with friends, with his kids, at work, in the military, and with his sisters. I cried realizing there are very, VERY few photos of me and my siblings as adults.

Then I saw photos of my cousin with my grandmother. She passed away 14 years ago and I was not able to attend her funeral. I lived a few states away and had no way to get there. Also, I was going through personal struggles at that time. I just failed a class, had a car that kept breaking down, was going through my divorce and kept having new relationships fail, and was pretty broke financially. Seeing her photo made me mourn not attending her funeral and remember my hard times. I remembered my attempt at suicide the following week. When I woke up in the ICU, I thought the angel of my grandmom must have saved me.

As I was standing in line, I saw my sister. She brought her son. She walked up to me and said “I didn’t know you would be here.”

I wanted to say “you SHOULDN’T be here!” Instead I just cried again.

She said “what is wrong?” At a funeral? Why would you ask someone crying at a funeral “what is wrong?” I just cried more. She hugged me. Her son hugged me. Then I pointed and told her the end of the line was back there. I did not want her with me. I wanted to distance myself from her. I didn’t know if anyone that was standing around me knew her and the problems she caused.

She asked where our mom was. I honestly told her I did not know. My mom never bothered to tell me the funeral details so I did not know if she knew them. If I did not find my cousins on Facebook, I would never have known. But my mom stopped by earlier.

When I got to the receiving line, I was almost out of tissues from crying. I stopped at the casket briefly for one last look of my cousin and said “I’m sorry.” I met his wife for the first time and apologized that we met under these circumstances. I said hello to the next guy and afterwards wondered if that was my cousin’s half-brother. That technically makes him my cousin but I only met him once. My grandmother always referred to him as “the bastard.”

My aunt was looking very old. She was seated in a large chair because she has trouble standing. She didn’t recognize me at first. When I said my name, a look of shock came over her face. She kept repeating my name over and over and I kept saying “I’m so sorry” over and over. She said she wants to stay in touch now. She hasn’t seen me since I was a little girl. She asked if I talk to my mom. Does she know how little my siblings and I talk to each other and how some of us are estranged with my mom? I told her “yes we talk” and she told me to get her address from my mom. It is horrible that her son’s death is what it takes for me to want to reconnect with my godmother.

I spent a few minutes with each of the sisters. One of them has a daughter going to college near me. One said my mom looks just like our grandmom. Another said I look the same as always. I wanted to turn back time and create a bond with them. Become close as young adults. As teens. As family. I want to know them and spend time with them outside of funerals.

I want a relationship with my cousins that I do not have with my siblings.





my Mom

I do not have problems turning down alcohol yet. I am not sure if that is due to lack of influence or weak temptations. My brother’s girlfriend offered me white wine on Friday night. She said she put a bottle in the fridge earlier. It seemed she bought it for my visit. I declined it and requested water instead. She did not encourage or ask offer it again. Neither she nor my brother were drinking booze that night. So no pressure.

I am visiting my mom now. She is aware of my intentions to quit. I shared with her some of the things I learned from the audiobook I was listening to on my roadtrip. She asked me if I believe alcoholism is a disease. She never believed my dad had a disease. She thought he just did not have the desire to quit. I told her I believe there are different levels of alcoholism. I think delirium tremen seizures are proof that it can be a medical problem. I do not have a physical addiction. But I am hoping I will be encourage to never drink again by noting some of the problems and mistakes from my drinking habits.

Mistake #5: Well this was not just one mistake. There were many times I would stay up late drinking wine or beer while my mom visited or when visiting her. Then the next day, I would sleep in while she would read the newspaper and drink her coffee. Sometimes it caused us to have a late start if we had site-seeing plans. Or I would sleep away most of my visit. She would place the empty wine bottles in the recycling bin and I would apologize when I woke up. If I drank a bottle during dinner, she would make some comment about not knowing how I could drink that much. Then she would give her consent to open a second bottle. I think living in denial of a husband’s disease formed her beliefs that her children could control it too.

my Dad

My Dad

Today I visited my dad. Well, I visited his grave. It was difficult to find in the snow. I am not sure when was the last time I went to the cemetery. Maybe 2011? He died ten years ago from cancer.

My dad was a drunk. But he never drank at home. He would go to a bar after work. Then he would stumble in later that night and pass out in his bed. Sometimes he would come home early if my mom asked him to pick up some Chinese dinner from the place next to the bar. On the weekends he would be home watching television or mowing the lawn, but never drinking booze.

I was never close to my father growing up. We actually preferred when he was at the bar. On weekends or the nights he came home early and sober, he would yell at us to keep quiet. We couldn’t talk loud or laugh loud. He would ask if we finished our homework and if we said yes, he would tell us to go to bed. Even as early at 6pm. We grew up with that joke but it still felt like a threat. When he was home watching TV, it meant we could not watch our shows. James Gardner and “Rockford Files” will always remind me of my dad preventing me from watching cartoons.

I knew my dad had many DUIs. It never stopped him from driving to work or to the bar. Both were within a mile drive from the house. He was in a car accident that put him in intensive care when I was a baby. He almost died but it did not stop him. I remember my mom taking him to his DUI classes once a week the summer I was 9 or 10 years old. I remember once seeing flashing lights outside our front window and witness a cop pulling over my dad’s car across the street. I am not sure when that occurred and my mom is not sure either. When I was 20 and visiting my parent’s house, I answered the phone and my drunk dad asked me to pick him up at the police station. I do not know what number DUI that was. I do not know how many he accrued. I am not sure if he ever had a legal driver license when he died.

My dad and I got closer after my parents’ divorce. I would visit him a few times a year. Neither of us drank alcohol at his house or around each other as adults. He would buy big bottles of Diet Coke for me when I visited. He drank regular Coke. Or we would drink ice tea. I went out for New Years Eve once when visiting him and he warned me not to drive drunk because there were a lot of cops out that night.

We got even closer in the six months before he died. I went with him to all his doctor appointments. He told me about a lot of his regrets and worries. He said he was worried what my siblings would do after he died. He said he was not worry about me but warned me to watch my drinking. I do not know if he felt guilty. I think he was scared.

Mistake # 4- I went out with a friend and got very drunk. He and I got in a fight that night. I spent the rest of the night drinking at home and crying. I was hungover and slightly drunk the next day when my brother appeared at my bedroom door. He was driving my dad and I to one of my dad’s appointments. I sat in between my brother and dad in the front of the pick-up truck. I must have reeked of beer. I kept falling asleep in the doctor’s waiting room. The only thing my dad said was “out late?” I think the appointment was an xray or MRI. It was some diagnostic test because I was glad I did not have to write down any information about my dad’s condition. But my dad was mad. I apologized but was never able to get over feeling guilty.