Today, the paternal side of the Blogger family buried one of our own. My cousin was not even 37. Family members spanning nearly a century — 4 generations — were present, as if to beam a harsh light on the tragedy that my cousin would never grow old.
BOB, who flew in from Texas for the funeral, thought that we should visit Mom’s brother, Uncle L., the last surviving uncle of blogger (ULOB), and that he should meet ULOB’s paramour (POULOB).
SIDEBAR: Why not make it the day a total beat-down? In for a little hearbreak, in for a trifecta. Like that penny and pound thing.
This was so last minute. And I didn’t want ULOB to think that BOB would come to town and not see him (even though that does happen from time to time). So, I call ULOB from the car on our way back from the funeral and tried to frame the narrative:
“Hi, Uncle, it’s [Blogger]. [BOB] just came into town at the last minute for a [paternal Blogger] family funeral. We didn’t want to call to early to wake you [ULOB sleeps until noon]. We would like to stop by and visit this afternoon.”
“Can I invite [POULOB]?”
“Of course. Does 4pm work?”
“See you then.”
Great. Death. Destruction. Tears. Lamentations. And a visit to the apartment that is gross by the slums-of-Calcutta standards. I guess I am not getting a nap today.
BOB and I walked [3 miles] to ULOB’s apartment. It was good to talk to BOB. I don’t think we have an hour to talk just the two of us in three decades.
But, we were running late. So I called ULOB’s apartment. No answer. Hmmmm. Odd.
We arrive at his building. He lives on the fourth floor of a five story walk-up in what is formerly known as Hell’s Kitchen. We buzz his intercom. No answer.
I call again his phone again. No answer. BOB leans his palm on ULOB’s buzzer. I go inside the first door (which is never locked) and start buzzing every apartment in the building until someone lets us in.
We walk up four flights to his apartment. There is a radio blasting. We go inside his apartment (don’t you mind the details), expecting to find a body. BOB says helpfully, “you know, bad things happen in threes, so this would be event no. 2.”
SIDEBAR: BOB needs a refresher in the Blogger family protocol, as in “unhelpful comments in scary, potentially life and death situations are punishable by a different kind of scary, life and death situation.” Rule No. 3, for those of you following in the handbook.
The place looks like it has been ransacked. BOB is a little rattled, but I remind him that that is usually what the place looks like. I am still calm. I start to look around for a body. The stench of 54 years of filter-less cigarettes would cover any smell of a decomposing body.
No body here. Thank G-d. But nobody here either, so he must be dead in the street.
BOB and I decide not to panic. Instead, we sit at an outdoor cafe doing our version a TV crime drama stake-out, only with cocktails. I watch his building while BOB looks for him along the street.
We leave countless more messages on ULOB’s message machine in case he shuffled in while traffic was stopped and a bus obscured my view.
ULOB doesn’t have a cell phone. We don’t have any contact information on POULOB except her address and her phone number is unlisted. (I tried.) This is the time when I wish I didn’t avoid information about her and just embraced her, regardless of their relationship’s beginnings. Sometimes, principles just bite you in the ass.
SOB knows POULOB’s phone number. Except, SOB is in London. My phone is running out of juice. And I am rattling off phone numbers to BOB as my phone dies.
BOB calls SOB, “Hey, [SOB], [ULOB] is a no-show at his house. But he isn’t dead IN his house. We need POULOB’s number. Oh, I love you, [BOB]by.”
We abandon our stake-out after 1.5 hours. Police work is not for me, unless lubricated with a nice cabernet. BOB goes to Dad’s to have dinner with him. I go home, preparing myself to call hospitals or go to POULOB’s house and knock on the door.
I get home. The doorman hands me a message from ULOB and POULOB. They were here, thinking the gathering was here. The message says they are at a nearby restaurant. I RUN there. We clear up the miscommunication. POULOB says ULOB told her we were having a gathering either at 2, 3 or 4. They opted for 4:15. Ok, I am not so devastated about missing them.
I say, “we were at a funeral, although I could understand the mix-up”. Wow, cabernet is the opposite of a truth serum. Because, who, in the world invites guests, who don’t know the deceased, to a post-funeral gathering?
We resolve the following things:
- ULOB needs a cell phone.
- POULOB needs all of our contact information and we, hers, because she is here to stay. And she does take really good care of ULOB.
- Nobody dies on my watch. And when I say nobody, I also mean no body on my watch.
I did remember to text SOB that we were really sorry we gave her a heart attack, especially when she would get care in the UK hospital system. I called Dad to tell him to tell BOB that all is well, but Dad already started cocktail hour, so at some point I ask him to pass the phone to his attendant, because I could not live another moment in loopy land.
This Abbott and Costello afternoon happened on the heels of the real tragedy — my young cousin’s untimely death. Today I experienced universal grief, elderly confusion and existential anxiety, some at both ends of the spectrum of life.
For now, I am grateful to be in the middle.