I had thought my father’s funeral would be mirror the Comedian’s service in Watchmen — shitty weather, a handful of mourners lost in their individual memories of the man, and a brief set of platitudes uttered over the departed’s remains. When it was over, we’d briefly shake hands or hug before retreating to our personal domains.
It’s what my father said he wanted. It’s what I wanted. Lil Bro and my dad’s family had other ideas.
I understood my brother’s reasoning. My dad did give mixed signals when it came to putting on a big production. A week before any family gathering, he’d call me to he wasn’t going to this particular one and he’d be happier watching TV at home with his cat and I had the right idea about keeping my distance from my extended kin. Then I’d find out after the event he showed up anyhow. The old man’s vanity and hunger for attention always got the upper hand over his grumpiness, especially when it could also feed his long-suffering martyr complex.
If my father’s kin were going to make the long hike to Cape Cod — and they insisted on doing so — then Lil Bro thought it was only right to have a small collation nearby to feed them. What I thought didn’t matter, anyway, because I’d (again) left all the planning and details to my sibling. All I contributed was an obituary that was a find-and-replace version of my grandmother’s. (To be fair, the adoption process had begun to pick up speed around that time and I flat out told Lil Bro that it was going to be Maura’s and my first priority.)
I don’t harbor any strong animosity towards my father’s people, but I don’t feel any strong attachment to them, either. My maternal grandparents had been a huge part of my life from infancy, but the Weissfolk had always been a bit more distant and distinctly more bizarre. My paternal grandfather was Donald Trump minus the parental bailouts and support structure, just one transparent grift after another, for smaller stakes each time. None of his kids emerged unscathed from his shadow. The specific forms of damage and coping mechanisms varied, but with animal cunning and semi-justifiable arrogance as the common denominators. Imagine being in a room where every person is convinced they’re the smartest person in the room, and you’ve got a general idea of a Weiss family gathering.
Lil Bro gets along with them just fine, but they’ve always been too boisterous and tricky for my comfort. The fact that my father’s stroke-impaired mother and teenage sister lived with us during the back half of my childhood doesn’t help either. Over time, I’ve managed to get past the personal resentment — because they were in a bad way and needed help — about it, but the situation only escalated my parents’ downwards spiral.
It was the particular circumstances of this gathering which made me fret. It was my father’s funeral. It’s not as if I could plant myself on the margins and avoid contact. There’s be hugs and condolences and small talk and questions about what I’d been up to since the previous meet-up I’d been obligated to attend. Maura is an accomplished social interaction shield, but even she has her limits. As the day grew closer, so did my dread.
In the end, it was a lot of angst over nothing. Clannishness works both ways, and time and distance had removed me from the circle. I didn’t recognize most of my cousins and the rest of the crowd kept to their own circles, apart from the expected chatter. It was nice seeing my great-aunt again, and I got a little shook when she told me how excited my father had been about the adoption. I knew he was happy for us, but it was never in a demonstrative way. It was nice to hear, yet made me even sadder that he wouldn’t be around to see it finally happen.
I also got a bit of mileage out of my dad’s line, when asked about his plans for the future, “I’ve got a little plot of land down on the Cape for me and my wife.” The old man loved his rough chuckles.
It was a simple service. There was a short procession, followed by an ecumenical sermon and military honors. Lil Bro suggested I get the flag because I was was the elder son. When the honor guard handed it over, he offered the thanks and condolences of the “President of the United States, its government and armed services.” There were a few soft gasps and doubletakes at the first part. I can’t say for sure, but I swear I heard a phlegmy “fuck that dumb fuck, no I’m serious, fuck that asshole” from the vicinity of the old man’s burial urn.
Afterward we drove back across the big bridge to Wareham, where the collation was being held. I socialized where I thought it was appropriate, but spent most of the time with some members of Maura’s family who attended the service. I don’t usually eat at these things, but Maura enjoyed the special vegetarian meal they prepared for her and I swiped a few slices of gingerbread to eat at home.
I complimented Lil Bro for the good job he did, and we left shortly after Maura’s people did. As we rode back north past an unending series of cranberry bogs, I kept flipping back and forth between relief and existential dread.
It was finally over, but it was also finally over.