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Day of the Silly Dead
You would think a trip to a cemetery to visit my father's grave would be a somber or loving moment. You would think. But when you're related to me, apparently nothing is normal.
As I have said before, my father died when I was three years old, leaving my mother with five kids--ages 2-16. With that many kids, and a mother who can't find her car parked in front of her house, many unique experiences are created.
When I was about ten years old, my mother loaded up the station wagon with all five siblings, packed snacks and blankets then headed off to a garden nursery to buy flowers to plant on my father's grave.
Mistake number #1 - Not eating at home before we left.
What happens when you get a bunch of kids together who are kicking and screaming? They want soda, ice cream, to go the bathroom, etc. On our way past Jack in the Box someone hollered they wanted to eat. Of course I shoved my head out the window to yell into the speaker of the funny clown. I shouted what we wanted, as the entire car shouted different things-- and EACH kid had to have something different... one likes cheese with no ham, one wants ham with no cheese... you know the deal. Booming chaos..... and the reason they invented Bayer Aspirin. The cool thing about stopping off at Jack in the Box was that they had toys we would put on the grave next to my dad's of a 3 year old boy named Max. His parents are not there. Just him with a little lamb stone. I don't remember in what year he died, but it always felt as if we were the only ones to visit him.
Mistake #2 - Buying Flowers
Kids never agree, and everyone argued over what flower they wanted. It's not like we couldn't have planted all the flowers... we just couldn't fit them in the car. So of course that took about an hour. And those who didn't finish their breakfast in the car before the nursery now screamed the food was cold. Why the hell didn't I invent a microwave for the car for parents on road trips?
Mistake #3 - Letting My Mother Drive
By this time Dad had been buried for seven years, but my mom still only knew one way to get there. One very long, winding way. She insisted on driving through center city Philadelphia then through a ton of horrible neighborhoods and God knows where else we went before arriving. I always thought it took 2 hours to get to my dad's grave... until I drove the 40 minutes myself---with traffic.
Mistake #4 - Bringing a Video Camera
No lie. I don't know on what planet it is proper etiquette to bring a video camera to a cemetery, but here on Planet Nuthouse it was perfectly acceptable. My older sister received the video camera as a gift from her boyfriend, and she soon thought of herself as Steven Speilberg. Only, she couldn't hold the camera straight and you would get seasick by watching anything she filmed.
Mistake #5 - Expecting Not to Get Lost Inside the Cemetery
My father, grandfather, and two sets of great grand parents are buried side by side. Still, the only way we ever found the plot was by driving around looking for a huge statue of a soldier that memorializing all the German soldiers who died in wars.
Random Kids Chattering:
"Look! There's Schneider. I think we're close! Aren't Schneiders in front of our grave?"
"Yeah. Ours and everyone else's. It's a German freakin' cemetery, and that is one of the most common names."
"Would you people shut up? I'm trying to film."
"Film what? Dead people? If you see any, let us know so I can drive. We got a better chance of getting out of here with someone else at the steering wheel."
"Why would you want a silent movie anyway? They suck and are in black and white. Isn't that a color camera?"
Holding the video, "I'm trying to zoom and find the soldier statue that is across from our stone."
"Then why do you need the record on? You can still see it."
"Some of these mausoleums are so pretty I wanted to film them. Mom, just make sure you don't stop in front of a tree. This is a great shot."
"You didn't want me talking on your movie, but you can talk? Not fair!"
The car stops. At this point in the video, a 3 ft wide elm tree makes a cameo appearance, taking up the entire screen.
"MOM! I just told you to not stop in front of a trrreeeeeeeeee"
"Sorry, but I'm looking for the names, not watching you."
Eventually we found my dead family. But the adventure didn't end there......
My oldest sister hopped out the car, and trudged to the grave with the flowers and gardening tools. She had worked at a florist and enjoyed this sort of thing. Even today, to me it is just like playing in the dirt-- like the worms in my other story. As she used the little hand garden shovel thing (see, I don't even know what it is called), someone shouted, "How far down are you going to dig? Anymore and you'll hit the body!"
While they were doing work, I decided to go visit 3 year old Max's grave. I took the toys and Ms. Speilberg followed me with the camera. When I got to the stone, I found a horrible sight, and looked at the camera. "Oh my God. The lawnmower came along and chopped off Max's head!"
As my sister burst into laughter at my declaration, I became hostile. "It's not funny! The poor lamb has no head." I shouted some insults and the camera goes back to the family plot. Watching the video now is hysterical, because I did not realize what my words sounded like.
Then you hear from my brother, "I have to go to the bathroom!"
Mom suggested, "Then go behind the tree. There is no one else here."
"No! That's gross."
Mom then replied, "Oh come on, you're the only boy here. The rest of us would have to squat. At least you get to aim. Just don't aim for anyone's grave. Peeing on somebody's head isn't nice."
The poor kid went to pee behind the tree, but Ms. Speilberg followed him. She did not violate his privacy, but when he emerged, she started singing, "Smilllllleee.. You're on Candid Camera..." (An old 1970's television show of hidden cameras).
After we had been there awhile, with nothing else to do in a cemetery, we wandered around looking at headstones. There is a whole family who is buried nearby. Each has their own stone, and you can see the mother died first and the husband remarried.
On the mother's stone it read, "Meet me in Heaven"
On the daughter's stone it read, "Going to meet my mother in Heaven."
On the son's stone it read, "Going to meet Mom and Sis in Heaven."
The father died before his second wife, it read, "Going to meet my family in Heaven".
A shout from behind me, "Oh no he ain't. That man is going to burn in hell. Not only did he get remarried, but he died first leaving the second wife with all the money."
"First, what makes you think they have money? And second.. it's DEATH do us part."
"If he gets to heaven, that first wife is kicking his butt out! There's no place else to go but hell. That death to us part stuff won't matter to a scorned woman."
Then my eyes blinked. I saw something surreal... my grandmother and her third husband's name on a headstone. Just the names, cause they were living. (This is the one from My Guzzling Granny). "MOM! Why is Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop on a grave? Is there something we should know?" Mom explained that people sometimes buy plots in advance. But having the names on the stone... That was just creepy.
As my sister walked toward me, she stepped in a hole in the ground and shouted, "Oh my god! Something's got my leg!"
"CARRIE'S REAL!" I shouted.
"IT'S ALIVE!" said my brother. We both ran to the car and left everyone behind.
We finally calmed down and loaded back in the car. By now, it was time to eat again.. .so off to Chicken George we went. The screams for orders started again.... I swear my mother's a glutton for punishment.
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