Saturday, November 8, 2008

40 Italians and a Funeral

So, yesterday was a bittersweet one for both my family and my sister-in-law's family. My sil's (Pat) mom died this past week and yesterday was the funeral. I've known and loved her mom, Mary, for most of my life, since the age of about 12 when my brother and Pat started dating. When mine and Jill's children were born, they referred to Mary as "Grandma Mary", and she loved all the children dearly.

So, the first part of the day was to be spent at their local Catholic church for a funereal mass. For some reason, when I got ready in the morning I didn't think about how I might be feeling later in the day, and in all stupidity I didn't wear waterproof makeup! The second I saw my brother and nephews rolling her casket down the aisle I completely lost it. If it wasn't for my mother and her endless supply of tissues I would have looked like Amy Winehouse within a minute. As it was, I left the church with half the eyeliner and mascara on my left eye missing, with no cosmetic case to fix it with.

My poor girls. This was their first experience with death, and Mikayla had tears rolling down her face during the entire mass, and Madison was sobbing uncontrollably, and LOUDLY.

The procession of all of us leaving the church and heading to the cemetery was a sight to behold. There were so many of us that the funeral home hired a security company to race from light to light, directing traffic so we'd all stay together. This might be common with funerals, but not that I can recall.

Anyway, graveside (but since it's one of those mausoleum things, I guess it would be drawer-side) service was beautiful, simple, and quick. Mary was to be put to rest in the top-most drawer... directly atop her niece's father-in-law (you still with me?), where my sister-in-law joked she could fart on him. The real reason she's on the very top is because in life she was very claustrophobic, so being up top, she doesn't have anything but sky over her head. And about 8" of solid granite.

Afterward, all were invited over to my brother Jeff's house for the funeral reception. I don't know how things are done in your families, but in mine, the moment the funeral is over and all are gathered in someones house, it's as if a light switch has been flicked. Tears dry up, dressy clothes are flying left and right, kids are chasing each other in the yard, and sternos are fired up under tray upon tray of food. Italian food. Lasagna, eggplant parmesan, chicken something or other, garlic knots, and a stray tray of barbecue pork. Hey, one cannot live on red sauce alone, capise?

So try to picture in your mind 40+ Italians, most of them fat as Dom DeLouise in Fatso squeezed into one kitchen trying to get at the food. And please, if you will, picture me and Mom sitting at the kitchen table munching on some fresh veggies and dip. Now all of us Seinfeld fans know about the whole "double dip" thing, right? Well, apparently Mom never watched Seinfeld and has the manners of one who was raised in a barn. As I sit there talking, Mom picks up a big hunk of cauliflower and starts taking bites out of it. It's only after she takes these bites that she decides she'd like some dip on it. So there I sat, watching as if in slow motion as, her saliva- and lipstick-coated piece of cauliflower swoops down on the dip. EEKS!!!!!! So, me, being nothing if not subtle choke, scolds through my teeth, "You can't DO that!!!!" Mom, of course, looks at me as if I'm nuts. As if to say, "What? What did I do?" That's right. The woman is completely clueless as to dipping etiquette. I stood up from the table, and slunk away shame-faced, thinking to myself that I'd taught her better than this.

So the gluttony is in full swing, jokes and old family stories are told at very high decibels (and yes, I was probably the loudest), old ladies in the family room, the cool, hip, young crowd (me!!!) out on the back patio, the NYers down for the funeral sunning themselves beside the pool, because hey, it's November and it's 80 zillion frickin' degrees. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, we're all NEW YORK Italians. If you didn't already know, that makes us much worse because we can curse in Italian, but with a NY accent. Scary shit, I'm telling you.

So, one of the zillion cousins goes out back to sit on the end of a lounge chair. All you hear is CRACK and a thump. Yep, Trish is on her ass! Does anyone say, "Are you okay? Can I help you up?" NO! Everyone instead laughs and points at her. Jeff forgot to mention that he'd repaired his old resin chairs with a glue gun. Oh God, I love this friggin' family.

So, a couple hours goes by, and another cousin, Ni... Oh wait, I guess I shouldn't give out his name in case he wants his privacy. Let's just say his name starts with an N and sounds like Dicky. But come to think of it, Dicky is a very apropos name for him, so let's just call him that. Dicky is the jokester of the family and likes nothing better than others' humiliation. So it was great when he was in the middle of a conversation saying something to the effect of, "Ya know, that really burns my ass!", just as he was taking a seat in one of Jeff's rigged lounge chairs. CRACK!!!!!!! THUMP!!!!!!!! Yep, another broken chair and Dicky sitting there folded in half. But because it was Dicky this time, not only did the entire clan point and laugh hysterically, but several of them ran with cell phones extended in camera mode to capture his humiliation.

How does your burning ass feel now, Dicky?

Ah, there's nothing like uncontrollable laughter to ease the sorrow of losing a loved one. I know Mary was up in Heaven rolling her eyes at all of us crazy Italians, doing what we do when you get a bunch of us all in one place to grieve together.

41 "Sister" Lovin' Friends Said:

  • squawmama

    It's crazy how such a sad situation turns into a HUGE family reunion... this is the only time I see half of my family... Sorry for your loss but boy oh boy... the after party left me wanting Italian food... A special thought for you & your family... Bless you all... Love Ya...


  • nikkicrumpet

    I think that's the best way to honor her....get together as a family...and be who you are. She wasn't just rolling her eyes...she was shaking her head..smiling...and saying to everyone else up there.."ya see what I put up with" And then sending you all a big heaven hug!!! I loved this story of your warmed my heart and Yeah I laughed at Dicky too!

  • Buffie

    I am so sorry for your family's loss! But I agree, I think Mary would be smiling looking down on such happiness in the mist of such saddness...that's what families do, at least where I'm from too....ease each others pain.

    It's really the very same at Cajun funerals...OMG, the food is to die for!!! Oops, I didn't mean it that way!

    Buffie :)

  • Jill

    Justine I almost pissed myself. Wait... I did a bit! LOL good thing it's my time of the month and protection was in place already! Poor Dicky!!! I can't wait till he reads this!

  • Anonymous

    So sorry for your loss. I don't know how you do it, but after a funeral you still had me crying with laughter.But,now I know why I love ya, A N.Y. don't get no better than that....


  • Anonymous

    Gotta love a crazy family...especially a crazy eye-talian family.

    I'm sorry about Grandma Mary, Justine.

  • Shelia

    Justiney, you crazy gal! I'm so sorry for the loss of Mary, but am so happy your family is a hoot! I'm sure she would have loved knowing you all were celebrating - even cousin Dicky!
    Now about my music - I love the songs of Billie Holliday and lots of old stuff! You know I'm just a silly.
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  • Ma'dame French

    Only you could make me laugh at a frigging funeral scene~~~Drawer?? OMG and your poor mom double dipping (tsk tsk) At least something sad eventually brought some joy to everyone;) Hugs to you and the family! French;)

  • Anonymous

    Justine, I am so sorry for your loss.

    Only Justine can fine humor in anything!!! (LOL)

    Donna Bo Donna Marie

  • imjacobsmom

    OMG, I can just picture it - I'm not Italian but our family is just the same - a Dicky and all. Sending my condolences to you and your family. ~ Robyn

  • Anna Lefler

    Oh, what a great post. I'm so sorry for your loss...and so happy that you have so much love around you to temper it.

    Take care and I hope you have a smooth rest of the weekend to sort through all the emotions...

    :^) Anna

  • Anonymous

    I bet Grandma Mary was rolling in her drawer at you lot!

    Mick's mum started to lick the serving spoon between servings when she was dishing out pudding. (She has altzeimers) so she won't be doing THAT job again at dinner!

  • Life on Bonnie Lane

    I love humor like this! After the sadness of the funeral, what a hysterical turn of events! I would have peed my pants watching those chairs breaking! Even more funny that it happened not once, but TWICE!


  • Raxx - A day in the life

    Your family reminds me of movies that I love featuring loud italians and funny scenes!

    I see Dicky smiled through his humiliation! How are your girls now? Do they feel better?

  • Alex

    Justine...I'm sorry to hear of your loss. ((hugs))

  • Happy To Be

    Justine I am sorry for your family lost girl..but only you could make a funeral the chairs look like something my Len repaired..only he would have used Duck tape haha!! he thinks its a fix for everything around here..Hey thanks for coming by my think PINK saturday girl...hugs and smiles Gloria

  • Sue

    Hi Justiney!! Remember me? we emailed a couple times, anyway I'm here in blogland and came by to see you! You're cwaaaaazy woman you know that! LOL! I'm sorry about gramma Mary, you are just like me, I tell myself at a funeral I'm not gonna cry, but all I need to do is hear someone else cry and I'm uncontrolably crying the whole time!! I love your family stories, gotta love a family who can have a blast after a funeral LOL! TTYL!! xo Sue

  • Rhea

    I'm glad y'all had some laughs to ease the sorrow a bit. I love family gatherings, even if it was a sad occasion.

    Your family sounds loud and hilarious.

    I can't believe your mom doesn't know about double-dipping!!

  • tam

    Awww thanks for the laugh! Great story-isn't life just grand? There is nothin like these kinds of family situations. I'm sorry for your loss, but I did enjoy how you could find humor at a time like that. LoL-you must look forward to family gatherings? Mary must be smiling down on you all!

  • santamaker

    Thanks for sharing, Justine. It's easy to see why a little (or alot) of italian food can ease a broken heart and can begin the healing...
    sorry for your loss. Your family looks like a hoot!

  • Nikki via The Scarlett Rose Garden

    Aw, I'm sorry about your SIL's mom.
    I enjoyed your tale tho. Especially about your mom and the dip, ROFL!!

    Those must have been some cheap ass chairs to begin with, ha!

  • Mama

    Hi Justine, I am so sorry to hear about Nonna Mary, but this was such a touching post, I really felt as if I was there watching all the tears and the laughter and your mama's double dipping!!! and I too was laughing at Dicky, you really are a talented writer girl.

    Only another week in London with all my family we may not be NY Italians but we have our moments, have a lovely week, hugs, ciao for now, Kathy

  • Picket

    Justine I am so sorry about your family's loss....glad you all could get together as a family and laugh and ease the grief...take care and have a great week girl!

  • Naz

    Family is everything. :-)

  • Rachelle

    I am so sorry for your loss ~ my thoughts and prayers go out to you and your entire family. They sound like great people ~ love the pic of Dicky in the broken chair! What a great celebration of Mary's life ~ while she was watching you guys from heaven, I'm sure she enjoyed every minute.

  • onlymehere

    So sorry for your loss. Isn't it funny how a little laughter can help start the process of healing? Thanks for stopping by and seeing me.

  • SchmeckyGirl

    OMG! Only you could have me cracking up reading about a funeral and a burial. The whole claustrophobic thing cracked me up.

    And I love the get together stories afterward. I can't believe she double dipped! I watched a Food Myths show and they showed the millions of germs in food after just one double dipping! Yikes!

  • jill jill bo bill

    We are EXACTLY alike in that funeral thing. That's the way our loved ones would want us to be: happy and full. Sorry about your loss. Glad the get together was good.

  • Shelia

    Evening, Justiney! I've been out all day and am just getting around to my visits! Now honey, here I am telling a story about Sunday School and you go and use a bad word!! lol
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia :)

  • Bridget

    You need to change your name too. No froggys here!

  • Alex

    Hi Justine!! I LOVE your new look...sweet! :) How is your week going? Thinking of you lots!


    PS I posted a new (better quality) short video of me singing. =O

  • Bridget

    What a pretty, happy, sparkly Christmas place this is. But, don't ya know you are supposed to wait until after Thanksgiving to put up your Christmas decorations? ROFL

  • Bridget

    Hey Missy, you'd better take a good look and figure out who all the babies are and win that hair towel. I can't hold this contest open forever when you are busy redecorating. What's more important, my blog or yours? LOL

  • Bridget

    Step away from the blog!!!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Hey ... just popping in to day hello and lookie here!!!!!!!! I am loving the new festive look!


  • SchmeckyGirl

    MERRY XMAS?!?!! It's not even Thanksgiving yet!

    Bigeee says you didn't give the baby contest guesses in yet. I thought you did! If you haven't, go do it now! We are all waiting on you!!!

  • Anonymous

    I'm sorry for your loss! But I have to say, I laughed my butt off at the after party;)

  • Tootsie

    girl I have finally gotten your blog to load! I was worried.
    sorry for your loss...I am glad your family entertained you so are very lucky!

  • Alex

    Hey chickie!! :) Your CHristmas blog layout is coming along quite darling! And I so LOVE the title you gave it. I hope you're doing well. *hugs*

  • Bridget

    Very cute but it might get a little hard on the eyes after a while. : )
    I'm going to tally up the answers to the Baby contest now.

  • NurseChessie

    hey couz,
    Thanks for making me ball my eyes out. *sigh* I was fine until you typed in that bit about them carrying the casket. poor boys. so awful about mary. Wish I could have been at the service.
    love ya