Saturday, April 24, 2004

bullet time

Still haven't told the boot story.

Or many of the details of the past few days, which have often bordered on the surreal. Long-unseen cousins having screaming matches in the restaurant parking lot. A gift basket that seemed more malign the longer I looked at it, leaving me no choice to attack with scissors (it's amazing, how well all that stuff is taped down) and butcher knife, trailing green easter grass all the way. The Detroit funeral home saying in my father's obit that he was my aunt's sister, and the Chicago one charging us twice for the same service (meaningful when we're talking about a couple thousand bucks). A fraternity brother of my father's showing up after forty years. The guy who came to pick up the hoist asking why we were returning it, and my mother saying flatly, my husband died, information that I had not, apparently, made clear to the woman who had answered the phone when I made the appointment.

But the most unreal aspect has to be what happens to time. The initial official mourning period is seven days from the time the deceased goes into the ground; if we were doing everything the way we're supposed to, all the mirrors would be covered (and I'm understanding the point of that, let me tell you) and all we would do is hang out keening all day. But there's the small matter of Shabbos falling right after we began sitting shiva, and you can't sit shiva on the Sabbath. Not to mention that we're sitting shiva at someone else's house altogether, making the whole thing more of a social experience. So we sat last night, Thursday, and we're sitting tomorrow night, Sunday, and Monday. After that, there are still levels of observance--you can't do such and so for nine weeks, or this other thing for a year, etcetera and so forth.

I didn't understand the system until now. I thought it had something to do with appearances, but now I grok that it's a way of marking time. Because you really need something; all the usual guideposts are gone, especially if you don't exactly have a job-job and have already committed to spending a month away from home. We sleep at night, sort of, and are awake during the day, but that's about it for things we do like everyone else.

Mom asks if we should watch the news and find out what's going on "out there", out there being a place that doesn't seem connected to us at all. We eat whatever's easy, which in my case today meant most of a bag of remaindered Easter candy, some Doritoes, and a wedge of the cheese from the butchered gift basket. We check our email (ahem). Mom smokes cigarettes and we talk about stuff. Like her moving to SF, who came to the funeral, whether we can find a theater to see "Kill Bill: Volume 2" where nobody will see us (it is unclear whether moviegoing falls under the heading of "amusments", from which she as the wife is supposed to abstain for thirty days, and I as the child for A YEAR), and what kind of man dad was. I suppose this is all good, it feels okay, but there's a certain, um, weightlessness to the experience.

Today I also started going through my father's CD collection. I've been tasked with pulling everything I want and that my mother might; the rest we'll sell or give to someone who can use them. It's not as bad as it sounds (my mother's cousin called and was horrified to learn what I was doing) and it's nice to have something to do. I think I'll hold onto some of his blues CDs for a while, see if I can hear what he was drawn to in them, but the Madonna, man, that can go.