My grandfather had a viewing and a service already. All that was left was to put him in the ground. He'd always said he wanted to be buried in the military cemetery in Augusta. There are two, and apparently there're space issues in one so there was a change from one Veteran's Memorial Cemetery to another Veteran's Memorial Cemetery, but given that it takes all of six minutes to get from one to the other . . . you wouldn't think we could fuck that up, right?
Furthermore, it takes over a damn hour to get from where people live to fucking Augusta. This means that both ends of the journey are pretty well covered. If someone goes to the wrong end point that can be solved in six minutes or less. If someone has trouble getting started they can call ahead to let everyone else know when they do get started which will give everyone round about an hour's heads up that they'll be late.
There is absolutely no reason that it should be within the bounds of human conception that we could fuck this up in a way that would be unexpected or take longer than a few minutes to fix.
Two Marines were standing stock still at either end of the casket while another stood a respectable distance away with, I'm guessing, a bugle or trumpet for some 15 minutes because a couple people were at the wrong cemetery, found out well ahead of time, and somehow managed to go through a black hole that deposited them in a construction area (God only fucking knows where that was because it wasn't between the two cemeteries) and then forward in time some twenty minutes because it simply isn't possible for it take that long to get from point A to point B without a timeskip. (If you tried to drive that slowly you've be stopped by a snail riding a tortoise and ticketed for going dangerously under speed limit.)
During the ceremony, which isn't much (foreground Marines lift the flag, background Marine plays taps, foreground Marines fold the flag, one of the foreground Marines delivers the flag to family appointed "No, we don't think next of kin is necessarily the best measure" person and that Marine says a nice few words), the drama still didn't end as my grandfather's wife who he was planning on divorcing but he didn't live long enough and don't even get me fucking started on the fact that she was responsible for the injuries that killed him via complications . . . where was I?
Right, the would have been ex-wife and her children (who have been stealing his shit) found a way to add drama to one of the most basic ceremonies in existence. Remember, this is just putting him in the ground. Th service has already been held. How can you possibly make this all about you?
Well by arriving fashionably late and driving your car up onto the grass right next to the place where people are supposed to be sitting so you can watch without getting out of the car while everyone who is in their proper place has no way to avoid noticing that there's a fucking car next to them where there's supposed to be empty space and silence only broken by the bullfrogs. (There were a lot of bullfrogs, judging by the sound.)
I suppose it's somewhat better than how she acted at the last funerary function we had the misfortune of sharing with her.
My grandfather, mercifully, is in a box the entire time and so doesn't have to deal with this shit.
Though he might have noticed when I pissed off the entire already buried population of the cemetery when I accidentally set off a car alarm by casually taking out of the car something I accidentally left in it. To all of the dead veterans of Maine, sorry about that. I never wanted to be that guy*, and I was. Deepest apologies.
After the ceremony is over and people start heading home. . . Wait. Back up.
So one person did call when it became apparent she was going to be late. That was my mother. She was supposed to meet up with my sister but there were problems and my sister stressed her out and they ended up coming up separately and she was late in heading out and called, basically, to apologize for the fact that she'd miss it (this was my father's father, but he and my mom were close and she just divorced my dad, not my dad's entire family) and say that even though she was going to miss it she was coming anyway so that we could possibly meet afterward.
My sister never contacted anyone.
My mother arrived at the same time as most of the people (all of them well after my uncle who apologized for being late) and thus didn't miss anything except three Marines standing perfectly still while they waited for the family of one of their own, none of us a Marine, to get our shit together so they could do what they came there to do and were supposed to have done more than 15 minutes prior.
Ceremony happens, people break up, we're back to where I was before I said, "Wait. Back up."
Now I forgot to take my medication in the morning and there's really nothing for that but taking my medication. I did what little can be done, which is to drink a lot of water and to take any headache meds that might be on hand.
So I need the quick ride home. I don't know if that's going to be my mother or my father.
But hey, the ceremony is over and people have started to head home and the drama must be over now, right?
There was still the matter of my sister.
Nobody had heard a damned thing from her. My mother was going to wait around to see if she showed up (while trying to contact her) but my dad was intent on doing that himself. I pointed out that I, the unmedicated one, needed the quick trip home so if I could just get my stuff out of my dad's car if he was staying, or if we could go if we were going then --
No dice. No dice, no knucklebones, no random number generators, no teetotuma, no dreidela, none of those stick things that serve the same function as dice.
The perturbation of the car alarm I accidentally set off was nothing when compared to my dad's angry accusational rant about, to, and about my sister before, during, and after the time my dad got her on the phone.
My grandfather was in the ground, the accouterments packed up onto a truck, the fresh dirt and accompanying backhoe arrived, and some people with various duties come and gone by the time my dad finally stopped going off.
Thankfully this wasn't done at the grave site itself. It was done around this thing:
That's a sculpture in, I believe, bronze of what's known as "a battlefield cross". One might quickly note that it doesn't look like it's a cross. It's called that because it's an American custom and most American soldiers at the time of the Civil War were Christians. It could as easily be called a "Battlefield [anything a soldier might want on his or her headstone]".
What it is is something that happens on or near the battlefield (hence the name.) Before the body is buried, before the earth is moved, perhaps even before the battle is over, the boots, weapon, and helmet of the fallen are arranged into a memorial.
The sculpture is thus as much a symbol of soldiers who used battlefield crosses because they didn't know if they'd be alive for a formal memorial as it is for soldiers who were honored by them.
Perfect place to have a family spat.
Now some parts of what my sister said don't really make sense, but in the end what it came down to is this:
My nephew, he'll be three years and two months old to the day tomorrow, puked epically. This made my sister decide not to make the drive to Augusta and she didn't call for reasons that may or may not make sense. Since she was on the phone with him anyway, my sister asked if my dad had a car seat she could borrow. He said no, but he'd buy one. She said not to, the one she had just needed to be cleaned. It was worth borrowing one if he had a spare because that would make things easier, but it wasn't worth buying a new one. She'd just asked because it would have made things easier if there were another one to use until the cleaning was done.
I get hazy on order of events here. For no apparent reason, but because he thought my sister had asked him the same question twice (maybe he misinterpreted the explanation of why she asked as a repetition of asking) my dad said that he didn't have one, repeatedly and in increasing volume in word for word identical sentences for a while.
Then he started an interrogation on why she asked if she could borrow a car seat if she apparently didn't need it which completely ignored the fact that she'd already answered (it would make things easier to have a clean seat to use in the interim, but not so much of a difference as to be worth buying a new one) in a display of what courts in Hell probably sound like when it's time for cross examination.
Remember now that we're not just in a cemetery, hallowed ground and all that, we're at a monument in the cemetery.
While we were at some distance from the people doing the actual burring of my grandfather, I have a feeling the sound could carry.
Complete strangers are showing my grandfather respect and such, my family is waking the dead and likely pissing them off because I very much doubt there are many people who are exactly the right kind of masochist as to want to be called back to their embalmed interred bodies just to listen to that shit for an amount of time that makes eternity seem brief by comparison.
If you want to know what kind of family my immediate family is . . . we're those people. We're the people in a sacred space at a fucking monument to the sacredness of the sacred space who are causing enough disturbance to piss off people seven time zones away with an argument that doesn't need to be had about a minor discrepancy that isn't actually discrepant involving one person who isn't there, one person who thinks that it's appropriate to call a child a liar, and go off on her for "lying", if she wants vanilla ice cream when you head to the ice cream place but changes her mind to chocolate by the time she gets to the counter, and two people who don't even want to be there but can't leave until they get car keys from the "You meet a definition of liar, which I made up myself, that you'll find in no dictionary and I'm going to scream at you for an interminable period because of it" guy.
We're those people.
My mother and I didn't try to reign my dad in. It never works anyway. We just waited for the storm to pass.
My mother, to her lack of credit, encouraged my dad before contact was made with my sister. She wasn't trying to, but she doesn't let consequences stop her from venting, and damned be anyone who gets caught in the exhaust. It's bad enough when I get caught in the exhaust, but if my dad gets caught in the exhaust it sets off a chain reaction of DO NOT WANT and she never, ever, thinks to, or tries to, avoid that. Sometimes, presumably, the only one who has to suffer for that is herself, as she winds him up and she's the only one the spring can recoil at, other times I suffer too because having been present is how I know that sort of thing happens, in this case it ended up aimed at my sister.
Did I have stuff that I might have liked to rant about to get it off my fucking chest/mind/thing? Of course. I just wasn't going to throw that gasoline soaked black powder laced kindling on the fire. I wish others would show the same restraint.
We are not going to fix my dad. Maybe once upon a time it could have been done, but no one is still close enough to nudge him into therapy and any attempted nudge would result in the nudger getting figuratively body checked anyway.
Some fights can't be won, and it's not like we could have not invited him to his own father's burial. He's the firstborn for fuck's sake.
So we just have to minimize and contain. It isn't fair, but it's the way things are. That doesn't fucking happen.
And thus we're those people.
If any of you should, in the afterlife, meet a bunch of veterans from Maine, it would be in you best interest not to mention that you know the family who were at the monument in Section A of the Mt. Vernon Rd Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery today. Because I have a feeling that we've pissed all of the dead soldiers there off.
Semper Fi, grampy; tacete the rest of my family.
And sorry to the living as well. The people who did the actual burial and clean up didn't deserve to be in range of that shitstorm either. Though they were far enough that maybe they could tune it out. Even so, they deserved better. As did everyone.
And, no, spellcheck, shitstorm is not a misspelling of hailstorm. I think I would have preferred hail.
* "Guy" here not referring to gender because then I'd be ... um ... that gal.