So today was my mother's memorial service.
I was not pleased.
Tuesday night, I received a message stating that the memorial service was scheduled for Friday, that it would be in a chapel, and that my sister was bringing in someone to preside over it. I was also told to clean the condo up, as she was bringing that person over to the place.
I'm not irate there was a service: most folks require some sort of closure, a good-bye to those we lose. No, I'm upset because it was done without any sort of discussion. Not to mention that I don't respect what this person does at all: inviting an unwelcome, unwanted guest into my living space while I wasn't around.
So I left a terse message telling little sis to call me back.
She did, and the gist of it, was that she felt obliged to make it a religious service to honor mom's wishes and her friends. I chirped up with "But she never even went to church." I was told she did. (This being newsflash to moi: I lived with her for 2 years, and she spent her Sundays playing solitaire endlessly and drinking wine. She only went to weddings and funerals, not much of a qualifier.) I was also informed that she'd done all this legwork (scorecards are a particular pet peeve for me, family or no), and that I had to do a 'lot of thinking', and that I didn't have to come, due to my 'belief's'.
She knows me not at all, this woman.
(I didn't bother cleaning anything up, I might add. Rat's fart in a whirlwind, all that.)
So Wednesday and Thursday, I was infuriated. She was my mother too, after all. We would've had the service - but I would've insisted on a more secular one, as I've stated elsewhere, these rites of passage should be human, not religious.
But I resolved to go, and shored up the words I wished to speak.
It was at a VA chapel in San Bruno. I dressed up in a very nice looking beige Asian-cut outfit I'd gotten a few years back (on the Internet, for fifty bucks, no less!), and a white turtle-neck. I timed it just right: I got there just as the services were beginning. As I walked up, I saw a very large older man wearing a kilt and a tam, packing bagpipes. ("Bagpipes?" I thought. "But we're Irish.") Strangely, my skin didn't begin to sizzle like steak on a grill, as I'd expected.
I sat down in the pew, as some preacher woman was doing one of those life-in-a-nutshell eulogies (my little sister had written, as I understand it - it was all right.)
When she finished, she opened the floor to any commentary.
Now, I'd wanted to point out my mother's lack of religiosity (how she spent her Sundays, for one thing). Also, that she'd been excommunicated for marrying a divorced man (and if she'd listened? Well, I wouldn't exist right now, would I? Somehow, I find that...objectionable.) But the self-editing kicked in, and as this wasn't the time or place for airing dirty laundry, I tossed out some items.
Here is what I said:
"I was her son. I don't believe in an afterlife. What I do believe in, is that she touched us all, everyone in this room, deeply, and that the only way she'll live on forever, is if we keep her memory in our hearts and our minds.
"She taught me many lessons. She taught me to be honest (though that's proven detrimental at times). She taught me objectivity: she was endlessly refereeing the chaos of sibling rivalry. And most of all, she taught me that principles are to be stood by, not to be put aside when they're inconvenient.
"These are the lessons she taught me. I will honor these, to the end of my days. Thank you."
The preacher lady chirped in an "Amen!", which I duly ignored. I left.
(That last line about principles, I lifted straight off of the film, The Contender. Both my parents did teach me to stand behind them, however.)
As I walked out to my car, I looked back. The Scottish fellow (was he a 'true Scotsman', one wonders? Ah, well.) was watching me leave.
At this juncture, I'm ready to turn my back on the rest of my family. My sister's actions and words demonstrated just how little I truly matter to them. My unpopular 'beliefs' and opinions are a matter of great inconvenience to them, and it's evident (at least to me), that I'm the comic relief. My older sister's much too self-involved and a big lover of convenience, lacking in empathy (remind me to tell you the story of how she kicked me out of the apartment I was renting, over her inability to deal with the vermin/raccoons that were making my life horrible), and my younger sister's control issues have kind of come to a peak for me. It's like being involved with a drug addict: there's only so much caring one person's capable of, before you scrap the whole kit and kaboodle. Between the two of them, I've become a bundle of neuroses, that it'll take years for the scars to heal, maybe decades.
The only reason I've put up with them so long, is that I didn't want to burden my mother's golden years with this nonsense. I'm ready to toss this particular baggage in the lake now.
Anyways, thanks for listening.