Ladies and gentlemen, it’s D-day, zero hour. It’s time to say goodbye to dad. We all got dressed and headed out to the funeral parlor. My girlfriend, Meixiang seemed really out of it. She wasn’t high like she usually is, she decided to stay straight through the wake, or at least part of it. She and I rode with my sister Renee, her husband Joe, and the kids. I was hoping we could ride with my younger Billy, but that would mean sharing a car with our lovely sister-dearest Margaret. Not that she was a bad driver, I just didn’t like being in her presence at all. Renee’s kids kept staring at Meixiang, but she didn’t even look in their direction, either staring at the floor of the car or out the window, sometimes looking at her nails, or taking her makeup mirror and looking at her face. She seemed really disinterested. I was wondering why I even brought her along. I’ll bet she was, too.
The first hour of any wake is the most painful hour anyone can imagine. You’re at your most vulnerable. Hearing about the death of a loved….a relative after not seeing them for a while is one thing, but when you’re face to face with the guy afterward, it really rips through you. We all stood at the casket, arms around each other and we all wept. I didn’t think I was going to. I have to admit I was kind of nervous standing with all of them, especially my other sister, Ruth. I made sure I didn’t stand anywhere near her, and hoped to avoid any contact with her throughout the weekend. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do that, but that was the game plan. Crying didn’t take very long. It was probably just a few minutes, but it felt like all day. I was pretty wiped out after that. And we were facing two whole days during which we’d feel wiped out pretty much all the time. The wake was going to be open to friends and neighbors and the like at 3:00. I didn’t know what I dreaded most, being in there alone with my sisters, or facing people I haven’t seen in years.
3:00 – 6:00
Out of the crying pan and into the crier – some of them fake. I could tell. We all stood off to the side to serve as a reception line, shaking hands and hearing “sorry for your loss” over and over again. I got stuck in a game of Husker Du. Not the band or even the board game that came out when we were kids. Husker Du means ‘do you remember’ and lots of people asked if I Huskered their Du. I Du not. There were some I actually didn't know, and there were some I pretended to not know. I’d introduce Meixiang to them, and they’d trip over her name. At one point, she turned her head and rolled her eyes and grunted, “oh, just call me May, would you?” She once whispered to me, “I can see why you moved out of here.” After another round “I’m so sorry – thank you – he’s in a better place – did he suffer” I looked around and wanted to walk away – not completely, but just for a few minutes. A break. Standing there in Sunday best, not moving much except for the hand shake and occasional hug, that can be pretty tiring. One of Joe and Renee’s kids asked his dad why this is called a wake when we’re not waking the body up. Joe just lightly tapped the poor kid in the back of the head and grumbled, “hey, don’t worry about it”. I wanted to belt him. I didn’t even know who these kids were and I wanted to punch this guy’s lights out for hitting his own kid during a wake, so I started to slowly slink away, nodding to Meixiang, or is she now “May” and Billy, my youngest (well, only) brother. Ruth bent over a little and stuck her head out of the reception line and called out to me. “Eddie”. I rolled my eyes and smirked to my companions and turned to face this waste of the next 10 seconds of my life.
"Where do you think you're going?"
"None of your fucking business."
And we were off.