A Wake without Liquor, or Trippin’ Down the Rabbit Hole

Went to the wake and funeral for an old friend from the neighborhood today. When its said out loud its capitalized as in “The Neighborhood”.

It was the brother of my childhood friend who dropped dead of a heart attack. Same age as me, heavy smoker, overweight in that ex-football player way, and lots and lots of aggression. The aggression was channeled into his work as a security officer in local corrections, where he not only got to carry a gun, but got to knock heads together for a living. This is a big step up from the other option commonly available to guys from The Neighborhood which is being in the correction facility as a guest of the county or state.

The first step down my rabbit hole was seeing him laid out in a blue plaid shirt and jeans in the open coffin. Being on the other end of corrections he didn’t own a “court coat” (aka sports coat), and only wore a suit when he got married, which means he was buried in the neighborhood uniform. The bottom of the coffin was closed so I can only speculate that he had steel toes on as well.

The next summersault down the rabbit hole of the past was when I was listening to the memorial tributes from his buddies. Rambling stories about how much he loved his guns, and how he was a brawler with a tender heart. He was “warrior called home to God”, a “brother” who will use his strength to hold open the door to heaven. A gentle giant even though three different stories started with “The first time I met him, he chased me and beat me up”.

He never was violent to me. He was my friends little brother, and although he was bigger than all us by the time he was 15, we still picked on him. There was also the fact that he “didn’t hit girls”, he might punch a hole in the wall when we harassed him, but we were in no danger. Sometimes watching men beat on women makes an impression, and in this case it did so he didn’t hit girls.

In the old days parties were always at my friends house because her mom would buy us booze. Her policy was we were going to drink and do drugs anyway, so she wanted is to do it where she could see us. We would each drink a pint every Friday night (I was a Bacardi girl then) and then beer the rest of the weekend. We were 13 years old.

Sitting in the church, remembering this and that, was a WTF moment: we were 13 years old – why was she buying us booze? Anyway our routine of drunken sleepover parties every weekend included my friends mom periodically checking that no one choked on vomit in their sleep.

I was yanked from my interlude during the service by the realization that the guy two pews ahead of pew of me wasn’t drinking coffee but had a spit cup for his chaw.

The funeral ended and I kept my weeping friend company at the front of the church. She was clearly not leaving. People wandered back in to try and comfort her and she introduced me to her “Aunt” saying “She was the best damn stripper there ever was. That was back when you had to be able to dance, none of this bikini and a pole shit.”

I finally got her to leave the church and go into the fellowship hall for the funeral lunch by telling her it was time for Round Two – time to face down the relatives she doesn’t like, shake hands with her brothers pious church friends. She knows that you gotta do what needs to be done. And we did.

Too bad the past can’t be cremated and put in a jar on the mantle. Or scattered in an ocean. Or even buried.