Putting the fun in funeral

Death is inevitable – as is the sheer absurdity that occurs when someone passes away.  Lord knows I’m trying – quasi-successfully — to meander my way through the grieving process after losing my beloved Mom this week.  It’s a struggle, but I’m also constantly struck by the overwhelming, goofy weirdness that keeps occurring.

For instance, the day Mom passed on someone from “Iowa Donor Services” called.  Um — at midnight. Would we be inclined to donate Mom’s tissue to help burn victims – and, if so, could I answer some questions? “Sure, that would be fine,” I said. For the next forty minutes (!!!), I was sure I was being punked as the procedural Q&A ranged from random to obscure to unbelievably insipid. “Has your mom ever been bitten by a Tsetse fly?” (No.) “Has your mom ever had Ebola?” (Again, no.) “Has your mom ever been in contact with a rabid animal – including dogs, bats or vermin?” (Um, nope. She did, however, have a rabid pet raccoon as a small child though.) My favorite question? “Has your mother ever lived in a grass hut in Botswana or Tanzania before 1977?” Of course, I told them yes – just to screw with them bit. Big mistake. Turns out there were tons of sub-article questions pertaining to African grass huts.

Mom was wise/kind/controlling enough to have all of her funeral arrangements taken care of before she crossed over. Except for one tiny little detail. When the funeral director asked me what kind of music Mom would like at her visitation I announced, “Well, Mom was a HUGE Foghat fan. So maybe that and a lil’ Lynyrd Skynyrd. Maybe some CCR? Just play Freedom Rock!” The funeral director thought I was serious — as funerals are clearly serious business. Always go with ambient music, people. Later, she announced there would be cookies, coffee and tea served. I suggested perhaps a nice taco bar as well. She actually took it under advisement until – again – I informed her I was merely kidding.

In my life, I’ve been through exactly two major deaths. (Knock wood.) Because folks never know exactly what to do to help, they usually end up bringing over a casserole. We have a lot of casseroles in our house right now. They are much appreciated – because – hey, who doesn’t like comfort food?  You really wanna make an impression?  Bring some chilled Chardonnay while you’re at it.  We’ll toast to mom. It’s kinda hard to toast with a fork full of “Asparagus Surprise”.

When someone dies, the phone starts ringing off the hook. Inexplicably, my dad has three numbers – so take the usual amount of calls and triple them. Most people just want to extend condolences, but then there are the people who call already in hysterics.  I’m putting a mandate out right now to be calm, cool and collected when you ring our bell.  You can have a nervous breakdown later in the conversation for all I care … but you better be composed when I pick up your call. Otherwise you’re getting the ultimate “buh-bye”.

During the grieving process, people you don’t know, don’t care about or don’t care for (or all three) want you to comfort them. I asked my best friend what to do – as she went through this whole unfortunate experience two weeks ago.  Her advice was spot-on: “Somehow, in their awkward interactions, their pain will become more important that yours. Seriously. Walk away. Zip.com your mouth and walk away.”  (Zip.com your mouth … I love that.)

What exactly have I learned over these past few – extremely odd, extremely gut wrenching – yet, extremely cathartic – days? Let’s recap, shall we? 1) My mom was an amazing, awesome human being – and rabies-free to boot. If you felt like you knew her because of my musings … well, that makes me (and made her) happy. 2) Go plan your funeral now so I don’t have to worry about it – and have a debate on playing John Fogerty during the services. 3) Bring wine. And 4) Don’t be an asshole. I’m sure there are a lot of other life lessons that I’ll write about later – but right now, I need a nap. My belly is full of comfort food … and I’m in a casserole-induced coma.

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Thoughts on Seattle

How is it I’ve made it 40-something years on this earth and never experienced all the amazing things Seattle has to offer? It boggles the mind. Before my flight home today, I woke up early to do a little Seattle Immersion Therapy. (Read that: pack as many things as humanly possible in to a teeny three-hour window.)

Initial musings: There is a coffee shop or a café approximately every ten feet in Seattle. Few people shake hands in this city … they simply don’t have an extra one to spare. One hand holds a cup of Joe; the other holds a smart phone. Forget fist bumping – it’s more like coffee cup clinking. And anything that compliments coffee is also in abundant supply – donut and pastry shops are liberally scattered to help you carbo-load while maintaining your highly caffeinated state of euphoria. You’ll also find the first Starbucks store in Seattle. (It’s actually not the original-original … but tourists don’t need to know any better.)

I never saw the sun while I was there. Not even once. Not a hint. Not a glimmer. Not so much as one iota of Vitamin D reigned down upon me.  I’m sure the sun exists – just not this time of the year. It also appeared as if it might rain at any second for the past 24 hours – par for the course for this coastal city. I kept my umbrella handy at all times … which only reinforced that I was, indeed, Joe Tourist. Locals tend to wear hoodies. Makes sense.

Didn’t see any of the cast of “Grey’s Anatomy”. Was hopeful. Alas, no. Come to think of it … I didn’t see anyone famous while I was in town. Macklemore is from Seattle … where the hell was he?

The Space Needle is an impressive calling card. And while I didn’t visit the top (as it was insanely cloudy), I did see it up close and personal. My Uber driver groaned when I mentioned the Space Needle was on my itinerary. “You. Are. Such. A. Tourist!” he lamented. “I suppose you’re also going to visit the Hard Rock Café!” (Yep – that was on my to-do list as well.)

Besides Hawaii, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a contingency of homeless people. They are everywhere … panhandling, sleeping in tents or congregating in dense tourist areas. It’s also a bit difficult to tell who’s homeless and who’s a hipster – as it’s a fine, but indiscernible line. When I mentioned this to my cab driver he told me he plays a game called “Bum or Bohemian”. Politically incorrect for sure … but also somewhat accurate.

My head felt naked during my visit. Hats, stocking caps and fedoras are worn by a broad contingency of the population. The rest just have their hoodies pulled up.

Seattle is “famous” for lots of things. If I saw the word famous, I stopped and ordered accordingly.  “World Famous Mac & Cheese” read a sign at Beecher’s “famous” cheese shoppe. It was pretty damn good – decadent, delicious and piping hot. Ditto … famous pastries, famous crab cakes, famous coffee. I was only there for less than 24 hours … but easily put on ten pounds. I, meanwhile, am famous for overeating.

I swear … Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) has more random, made-up airlines than any other airport I’ve visited. Condor Air?? Hainan Airlines?? Nippon Airways?? Apparently, I need to get out more. Or visit Asia.

My friend  (and tour guide) Troy lives in Seattle, but doesn’t own a car. How is this possible I wondered? Well, rented smart cars – like coffee shops – can be found virtually everywhere in the city. You merely scan a magic card over the windshield and voila’ – you’re the proud renter of a giant Tic-Tac on wheels. They are perfect from getting from Point A to Point B at only fifty cents a mile. Even better? You can park them anywhere … literally any street, road or avenue.  We rented three different Tic-Tac’s, er, vehicles during our misguided adventure tour.

Given that most people take a couple days to see Seattle in all of its glory and splendor, I was pretty impressed I tackled it in a mere three hours. Think of the damage I could have done if I had six?! I’ll be back … uh, when it’s summer-rific.

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