Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Funerals and Family Weirdness

Yesterday, I attended my Uncle's interment ceremony. It was a sad family occasion, yet it was weirdly happy too. I had a chance to see cousins of my dad and uncle whom I've not seen for years.

Why is it always during the luncheon after a funeral where people dig out the camera and take pictures. Going through scrapbooks, I have more family group shots taken after funerals than any other kind of occasion.

It was good to see my own cousins, their wives and kids and my aunt. But I have a question...when did eulogies become more about a church than about the life of the deceased? Did I miss that change in trend somewhere? At both the funeral in April and the memorial service in July, the focus of the eulogy, if you can call it that, was on religious message instead of the life of my uncle. Now, I've rationalized that this may be because my uncle was a minister. So a minister's life is going to be about the church and religion. However, his wife and kids were barely mentioned at either service. It just struck me as a little weird. But, to each their own. We all choose to be remembered in our own way.

This kind of thing makes me think about my own life and how I'd like to be remembered. Who might show up for my funeral...if any body. Stuff like that. Morbid. I think I'm turning into my family. Next thing you know, I'll buy a burial plot, lay out my stone, have my name inscribed, and to top it off-have my picture taken with the stone. If I do, just shoot me. Please?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Revisiting Childhood Memories

Yesterday I stepped back into the "way-back machine" and took a little ride back to my youth. I went to Gowrie, Iowa for the 4th of July. My sister and her family were there too. What prompted this? Well, my Uncle passed away in April and on Monday his ashes will be interred. So my sister decided to come down for the weekend and I hadn't seen her in ages, so I made the 2 1/2 hour drive up to northwest Iowa to visit.

So what did we do? Well, we walked past Grandma's house. Why is this a big deal pilgrimage?

Up until I was 12 or so we went to Gowrie every year and stayed at Grandma's house. We would watch the parade and celebrate the 4th. In the park in town, there was always a carnival. The American Legion sold beefburgers and amazing baked goods as a fundraiser and we swam at the pool. That evening we always attended the fireworks display in town too. As kids, we rode all the rides and at night, we could look out the upper story windows as we laid in bed and see the lights from the rides. It was great.

Well, we didn't relive all our childhood memories, but quite a few of them bubbled to the surface. I dragged myself out of bed early enough to get to Gowrie in time for the parade. Not only that, but I...yes, little ole me...secured us prime acreage for seating right along the parade route. The parade was pretty cool. The American Legion rolls out the flags of all the veterans who have passed away. We have at least three very important flags on those floats. Our grandfather, father and great uncle. I saw my dad's flad, which was pretty cool and sad at the same time.

The whole thing was quintessential small town. Two jets did a flyover to signal the start of the parade. Then we all stood as the colorguard went by, respectful silence for the flags of the fallen vets, kids running for candy, and everyone cheering for the motorcycles as they leaped off a ramp and did wheelies. I have to admit, there was a HUGE wait in the middle of the parade because the motorcycles held everything up, but they were worth it. They were good!

After the parade, we wandered into the park to look around. The line for the Legion booth was VERY long (yep, they still do their fundraiser - even after...oh LOTS of years). So we took a walk downtown to see if any restaurants were open there. A food booth or two. The Methodist church was doing a food fundraiser. We continued our amble through town and by the time we came back, all their chicken was gone so we ended up back in the park anyway.

We hit up the Legion booth. My sister was not impressed with the food, but the beefburgers tasted the same to me and I enjoyed them. Sadly, the baked goods were not as good as I remembered. Tasty, but not melt in your mouth, to die for good, they way they used to be. Of course back when I was a kid, most of the legion wives were just in off the farm and baked as a semi-civilized form of domestic combat. Nowadays, we cook out of a box. It's just not the same.

Then we went out to the cemetary to visit the graves of our mom and dad. My sister and I had a conversation. She said she hadn't been back to Gowrie for awhile because she didn't know anyone...at least not anyone alive. We both found that we knew far more people in the cemetary than we did when mixing with the populace in the park. It's just plain weird to wander a cemetary, point at a gravestone and say things like, "Oh I remember him/her. Didn't they do X?" etc. Maybe it's a sign of advancing age. Or maybe we should have visited more often.

Needless to say, it was an entertaining trip down memory lane. More on Tuesday.