Monday, June 7, 2010
Apologies to the Person Who’s House We Illegally Dumped My Grandparents’ Remains Behind Yesterday
Several years ago, I was traumatized to discover that my grandmother was keeping her late husband’s remains in the closet next to her handbags. My much younger self had been under the impression that my grandpa’s ashes had been thrown into the ocean like most people; instead, he was gathering extra dust, waiting for the day my grandmother passed on so the two of them could have their ashes mingled together.
Well, he waited a very long time, because my grandmother passed away only just this year, several months shy of her 100th birthday. Oh, and how poetic it would be – I mistakenly thought – when we finally took grandpa out of the closet and laid them both to rest.
Unfortunately, my grandfather’s wishes were that he and my grandmother should be spread over the horse corral where he once kept his horses. This seemed like a nice idea until yesterday, when my family actually met up to do the deed.
You guys, now I know, there is a reason why people choose to throw ashes into the ocean.
That wasn’t even on my To Do List to begin with!
You see, you can’t exactly just go throw your family members’ burned bodies all over public property. But my family has very little regard for the law, and we showed up after hours at the local horse corral like a bunch of bandits armed with urns.
When we had all gathered – Cancer Dad, Wife Number Four (or Five), my uncle, aunt, brother, two cousins, and a random girlfriend of a cousin – I asked loudly with my typical lack of tack, “So, what’s the plan? Are we dumping the ash and running for it?”
Cancer Dad gave me a quizzical look, to which I replied, “Um, Dad, you know this is illegal, right?”
You’d think after 66 years or so of life, Cancer Dad would have this kind of basic knowledge. However, he looks at me and says, rather condescendingly I might add, “No it’s not!” At which point Wife Number Four (or Five), in a rare moment of clarity, yells, “Of course it’s illegal! Why do you think we’re all here after hours WHEN NO ONE ELSE IS AROUND?!”
Now that it has been firmly established that we are all possibly going to be thrown in jail for unlawful disposal of not one, but two dead bodies, we begin the rather difficult task of finding an appropriate place in which to empty out the urns.
In hindsight, what we really should have done was tied the bags of ash to some horses, poked holes in said bags, and let the horses run for it. Because what really happened is not in the least bit poetic.
First of all, do you know how much ash one human body can produce when you burn it?
LIKE, A SANDBAG FULL.
WE HAD TWO SANDBAGS FULL OF CREMATED PEOPLE.
And while ash is soluble in, say, ocean water, IT IS NOT SOLUBLE IN DIRT.
This is more basic stuff my family should know, really.
Anyway, we all start marching towards the horse corrals, hoping that someone – anyone, really – will find a decent spot in which to perform our little ceremony before we run out of space.
Cancer Dad decides the best course of action is to dump his parents behind their old house, which backs up to the horse corral.
Okay, seriously, with all the picturesque cliffs, vast beaches, beautiful hills, and open land in my hometown, someone please explain to me why we are dumping my grandparents’ remains BEHIND SOME POOR UNSUSPECTING PERSON’S HOUSE?!
OH DEAR GOD PLEASE LET THEM NOT BE HOME.
Cancer Dad picks a sad looking tree and then we all look at each other expectantly.
There is no way in hell I am doing this. Right now, it is still possible for me to run in the opposite direction if the police show up. If I pick up an urn, I’m totally going to jail.
Finally, my aunt settles it. She instructs Cancer Dad to pick up one urn, and my uncle to pick up the other.
I smile as the universe proves, once again, that some things transcend life and death – Cancer Dad, with all his crippling mommy issues, picks up his father’s urn. His brother – the one with daddy issues – picks up his mother’s urn. My brother, Topher, turns to me and snickers, “I didn’t see that one coming!”
And this is where it gets funny.
I am expecting a cinematic experience here, people. The sun is supposed to start setting. The sad music should swell; our eyes should be filling with tears. The wind should carry the tiny particles of ash away, and my grandparents should disappear into nothingness.
This is clearly not what occurs.
No – when you dump a sandbag-sized container of ash onto the ground, it stays there.
Like, really, really stays there.
My grandmother’s remains hit the ground first, as they are much fresher. Sadly, my poor grandfather has spent over a decade in a damp closet, and he’s a little – errr – chunkier?
Cancer Dad shakes the urn in frustration.
“Hit the urn! Hit the urn!” cheers my aunt.
I have now basically doubled over and am frantically trying to smother my laughter with my hand. Topher shoots me a death glare.
My aunt continues cheering my father on.
Someone suggests that we remove the bag of ash from the urn to speed up the process. My cousin says he believes the bag is stuck in the urn. Cancer Dad whacks the urn harder.
Finally, grandpa is on the ground too. Ash is slowly billowing upwards and coating Cancer Dad’s and my uncle's jeans. My aunt instructs my uncle to stamp his feet to get rid of some of the ash. Great, my family is covered in, well, my other – dead – family.
We are now standing around what is most definitely, without a doubt, a massive sand dune of human remains.
Under a tree.
In the dirt.
Behind some poor person’s house.
“Umm, Amen?” says someone.
I can’t say it. I’m laughing too hard because we’ve TOTALLY JUST DESECRATED MY GRANDPARENTS IN THE LAMEST AND MOST ILLEGAL ASH SPREADING CEREMONY THAT HAS EVER BEEN CONDUCTED.
And then we all stand there.
I know I’ve got to say what everyone is thinking.
“We can’t just leave it like that!”
I’m starting to fear that Cancer Dad’s space plague cancer has killed off some of his common sense or something, because he promptly states, “Yes we can.”
I turn to Topher. “But what if a child falls in it?! Or a puppy?!”
Everyone murmurs, and then comes to the conclusion that no, we can’t just leave a giant pile of dead people behind a house and somewhat on a horse trail. It would be wrong.
So, my uncle goes to get the rake he uses to clean up his horse stable.
WE ARE ABOUT TO FUCKING ZEN GARDEN MY GRANDPARENTS WITH A HORSE RAKE. OH. MY. GOD.
Luckily, my brother and cousin get to it first – they both grab branches of the sickly-looking tree we’ve just deposed of my grandparents under, and begin spreading the ash around on the ground.
And then they try covering it with dirt and leaves.
By the time they’re done, they’ve basically stirred my grandparents into a soup of dead foliage, horse poop, and other organic matter.
Great. My grandparents are fertilizer.
My cousin – who, oddly enough, had his first wedding – which was pimp and ho themed, mind you - in this very horse corral, turns to his girlfriend (who, for some reason, decided to attend this catastrophe) and says, “Hey! We can get married while we’re at it!”
Cancer Dad chimes in, “Yeah! You can stand on top of your dead grandparents and say your vows!”
So now, a brief letter, from me to my dead and decimated grandfather.