Friday, February 24, 2006


Wake, Unplugged

Faithful readers, you guys are fantastic.

So Friday afternoon, on the way from the airport to our destination, my mom, grandparents, and I stop at Applebees. My mom gets up from the table to wash her hands. I'm perusing the menu, mentally weighing the hefty decision of "oriental chicken wrap vs orange chicken" when my Grandmother casually says, "Oh, by the way, we decided that if they want someone to speak from the family, it's going to be you."

I chuckle - oh, those grandparents! - and my Grandfather pipes in "oh, no, really. We're going to put that communications degree to good use."

My mom comes back just in time for me to continue to pretend that that didn't just happen (it seems like "pretending something didn't happen" is becoming a pattern in my life), we ordered food, and everything went on as normal. I got the oriental chicken wrap, by the way, and it was extremely tasty. In fact, I wish I had one right now.

Fast forward a couple of hours. We're at the convent, in the wake room. My great aunt is lying weird. I look at the body - at her - and work hard to suppress the "run away as fast as you can" response that is swiftly rising in my belly. Too disconcerted to say a prayer, I go through the cross motions at the casket, try to look appropriately pious, and turn to make a beeline for the back row. Too late, my eyes connect with my Grandpa, in the front row, and he pats the seat next to him.

I sit down, and realize that me and Great Aunt Mary are basically chillaxing together. Lovely. Then he leans in to me, and whispers conspiratorially, "We told them that you would be speaking." Guess it wasn't a joke afterall.

I look back to my mom, in a panic, and mouth (actually, I say) "Are you Freaking Kidding Me?!!" She comes up next to me and whispers in my ear stuff about how my aunt was so holy and she was always thinking about us, and we knew that she was praying for us, yada yada yada. I think she was frightened for me. I mean, you guys prettty much know me. The possibilities for sticking my foot in my mouth up there were endless.

The wake goes by waaaay too fast, in my opinion. I personally believe my aunt deserves ten readings. And stuff to talk about was spinning through my head like that crazy wheel on the Price is Right. Too soon, it's time for the family members to "have the opportunity to share some stories." My grandparents, as one, turn and look at me, expectantly.

Now, I don't know what your grandparents are like, but mine are formidable. My Grandma is probably 5'8", and my Grandpa is over 6 feet. They're not cute. My Grandma would be highly offended if you called her cute. These are not people that you mess with, or turn down a request. My grandparents don't take BS.

I casually bolt to the podium on the stage, and try to casually look at the casket as if I'm checking out the view. I take a look around - there are scores of nuns, sitting with their hands folded in their laps. There are my aunts and uncles, looking at me and praising the Lord that I was up there, and not them. So all in all, a good, receptive, easy audience.

And good thing, because what followed was truly cringe-worthy. I honestly think I blacked out in order to keep from dying from embarrassment when trying to remember.

A few key phrases (picture me saying it with a smile on my face and a perceptible quiver - from adrenaline - in my voice):

"Umm..Well...this is my first wake. So please bear with me, and I hope you'll forgive me if I do horribly."

"My Great Aunt Mary....she truly was a great person."

"When I visited my aunt, she was absolutely horrified to find that I don't cook. So, if anyone has any good recipes to pass along, I'd love to share the results with you."

"A lot of people my age think that the elderly aren't cool. But you guys are totally amazing. My aunt, she was really into technology and into learning about new my cell phone."

Yes, I know. I really said all of those things. And to answer the question that someone has asked me, yes, this is on a tape somewhere. But my friends. There was a saving grace. Something in there that made everyone look beyond my well-meaning, yet pathetic, blunders.

I. told. The Nail Polish story! And I got rollicking laughter!! I brought the house down at a wake!

That story saved my eulogy.

There are tons more memories from this weekend - seeing my aunts and uncles in the parking lots and giving them hugs and kisses, having a five foot nun wrap her coat around me while we were freezing at the cemetery ("They were looking at you with hungry eyes, Meghan" - my mom. "Tell them you like boys!" - my mom's sister.), my Uncle Tom almost tripping into the grave when carrying out his pallbearer duties, my grandmother's other sister pulling the cross and rosary beads out of my Great Aunt Mary's hand in order to take a closer look at it. The horror!!

(Since I had wheeled that great aunt to the casket, I was wondering whether I'd be considered an accessory to robbing from the dead. Luckily she put everything back, and I didn't have to wade through that moral quandary.)

I'm going to miss her. And there's the honest feeling of knowing that I wasn't the greatest niece. (and don't all of you go saying I was a great niece. for real.) But I remember the amount of pain that was in her voice when she spoke of finding out about her brother's death. It was as if it had been the previous week, not 70 years before. And I felt the sadness in her voice when we talked about her mother. I think that she's with them now.

"So aunt was totally awesome. And she's watching over us right now, with a big smile on her face. At least, I hope!Thanks!"

Meg- you rock. Hope you're ok and that this week hasn't been to hard.
Take care sister.
They should have let you know ahead of time that you would be speaking.
hahaha thanks, Robert. ;-)
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