15 July 2008

No you don't...I do

So do you ever feel like you have the strangest family? I mean extended family. No you don't...I do. This is a very personal post. I'm not holding back any feelings in fear that someone I'm related to will read it. Its how I felt during my trip and I need to put it down on "paper" so I can get past it.

I went to Utah for my Grandpa's funeral. It was heartwrenching to say goodbye to him. He had a beautiful cedar casket with pine trees embroidered on the inside of it. Perfect for him. He had a full military burial which ceremony included my cousin who is in the Air Force. He's buried on a hillside at the foot of a mountain. It was everything he would've wanted. It was also the strangest experience I've had in a long time.

I know there isn't a perfect line of relatives out there anywhere but I feel like "the cake" was frosted with icing made from ingredients thrown in from every family on this side. I had such unreal moments like sitting on the living room floor next to my mother, listening to my 50-some year old uncle talk my Grandma into not going back to church while he holds the hand of his 21-year-old "possible" new wife while they sit next to his daughter who is 31 while I look up at the water stains on the ceiling thinking how it looks like marshmellow fluff and all of a sudden notice a piece of tape hanging off the fireplace mantle.

Another time I was sitting in the "family room" of the chapel waiting for the funeral to start and I see related folk of mine walk into the room wearing what appears to be strappy tank tops and painted on skirts topped off with faded tattoos and a fresh aroma of Marlboro. I wanted to throw up...yet at the same time I realized that I'm a part of this family and I need to accept them for who they are. I did at that moment, however, become keenly aware of my ever-so-modest black skirt, glasses, curly pony-tail, and explosion of freckles and realized they were probably thinking the same thing about me.

Of course we all pretended like were were 10 again and all got along while we played barbies in the "blue" room of Grandma and Grandpa's house. We laughed when appropriate, listened to each other's stories that we really didn't care about, and when it was all said and done we said goodbye, admitting that it would be a long time before we saw each other again so it didn't matter if our kids now remembered each other or not.

We have every color of skin in our family. We're quite diverse in culture. I swear I've never seen so many people of Dutch ancestry married to so many people of Mexican ancestry. As we all milled around the "family room" it sort of looked like a colorful dance. I listened to the muffled conversations, the crying and sniffling and the realizations people had as they recognized the person right next to them as a cousin or aunt they hadn't seen in 30 years.

I'm ok with the fact that 90 % of the people there won't remember who's kid I am or where I'm from or how I'm related to them when we're all together again (which won't be until the next time someone passes away). I do know that my Grandpa was probably smiling as he looked down and knew the feelings of everyone as they mingled so awkwardly together, the unexpected conversion to Buddhism by an uncle who bowed suddenly to the Bishopric during the funeral while quoting "his holiness...the Dahli Lama" (or however you spell it), or the heartbreak of my four cousins who were practically raised by him and called him their "best friend". Most of all, I know my Grandpa was full of joy when he heard so many people say we should live our lives exactly as he did...full of charity, giving, love, hard work and dedication. I suppose that means that I have to continue to learn to tolerate the differences in my wacky family...and hope they tolerate me in return (at least when we see each other next...right fam?)

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