The priest, I mean. Maybe I should say, “He still pisses me off.” But there was a certain lack of personality, and anyway it was more the situation than the guy.
When he first came over to the house, I asked him about his background, and he told me he was Orthodox. So I asked him did he know Father Joe, and he said yeah, and mentioned that Father Joe had to step down because of health issues and all that, which I didn’t know but could have guessed. He once said in a sermon how we all have a certain number of inhales and exhales ordained, so why waste any of them on exercise? A clever sounding philosophy. Doesn’t work too good in real life.
When the Hospice people asked what we needed, I mentioned we could use a nutritionist. They asked could we use a clergyman. I said no, but Dan was indecisive. They sent the priest, and we never heard from any nutritionist. Apparently when you have pancreatic cancer, it’s just as well to eat nothing but candy. Do I believe that? Hell, no. If the man had gone for raw fruit instead of candy, and maybe some raw greens in place of all that ice cream… Food is important, dammit. People treat nutrition like some kind of a joke because they don’t want to deal with it, but the numerous small gains that come from each individual meal add up to big statistical differences.
Anyway, the priest. The reason the guy still pisses me off is that he acted like my husband was this really keen guy. As if it was perfectly all right that he rambled and rambled about Ugaritic alphabets and motorized bicycles and electronic minutiae and some imaginary wedding involving his sister. No, Priest. It is not okay that my husband was running off at the mouth. That was the morphine talking, not the man.
Which is why at the memorial service, I thought it was totally wrong for this guy to talk about my husband. A few cousins got up to do eulogies, but overall it was a pretty quiet crowd. Maybe I was supposed to say something. But I don’t think so; my guess was that the widow was supposed to be too broken up to get and talk.
Actually I was in pretty good shape at that point. Better than a month later. Heck, better than now. For a short few days after the night when I was with him, the night when I observed his death, I was okay. Because death was a beautiful thing.
Surviving is not so pretty. Mainly, I think, because I am not so pretty.
But during the memorial service I was perfectly okay. I wore the ugliest blouse I own, because I knew that whatever I wore to that day I was never going to wear again. So I picked out this matronly long-sleeve knit, which I’d bought at the local cheapass cheese-girl butt-ugly fashion emporium during a misguided warmth-seeking episode.
The boys were with me, seated in the second row. Nobody was in the front row except Cousin Liz, and she was only there because she was in charge of the music. Her mother, Dan’s sister, was the one who made all the arrangements. It was she who told the priest to do it up Catholic. Dan hated that shit, but a few weeks before he died he went to lunch with his sister, and she got him to make some morphine-induced positive statement about the faith they grew up with. From that, she got the idea that he wanted to come back to the church.
She was also the one who chose “Oh Danny Boy.” This may shock you, Reader Zero, but when Cousin Liz got up at a stately walk and put that on, I had to swallow some fucked-up laughter. Kid A must have thought I was crying or something; anyway, he gave me a pat on the shoulder and I leaned into him as if for comfort. And I said, “If your dad could hear this shit I bet he’d puke.”
Kid A kept a straight face, bless him. Don’t know what Cousin Liz thought.
Anyway, about the priest. He delivered a eulogy about what a great guy my husband was, drawing from his acquaintance with my husband, which was all about his morphine-induced reverence for collectibles and his insurance-money-induced love of travel and his morphine-induced positive cancer-kicking good humor.
And I wanted to get up and say, Fuck that! None of that was what Dan was really about. He was a guy who could make things work. He fixed what was broken, and drank too much, and listened to Blue Cheer, and jerry-rigged electronic test equipment out of dumpsters. He kept a bunch of junk he found with his metal detector, but never looked at it. He didn’t kick cancer–hell, nobody kicks pancreatic cancer. Dan was a real, sane, rational person that this priest, this person who only met him after he was deemed eligible for Hospice, never knew.
Not the priest’s fault, of course. By the time they met, no one would ever have a chance to know Dan again, because the person inside was already flittering over to the other side of the universe.
Still, it pisses me off that he, a man who was convinced he knew a thing or two about the spirit, let himself be fooled by the shell.