"hey bastard, long time no see. sorry about your grandfather."
"it's okay tony, it wasn't your fault" the bastard quips back with one of his many sordid coping devices, "actually, i'm just glad he's out of pain. how have you been?"
"not bad. the kids are really growing up. patty is doing a great job with them"
"that's great. it's been such a long time"
"i know. it's kind of sad", piped tony. "it seems as you get older, you see your relatives less and less."
"yeah i know. and even if you try, you can never keep up"
"i know. it seems like the only time you get to see your family is at weddings and funerals"
yeah. weddings and funerals. i had this conversation with tony in june of 2000 at my grandfather's funeral. tony and his wife, my second cousin used to babysit me when we were young. when the mofo was still in diapers. we'd go out to my great aunt's house and marvel at the plymouth duster she owned and hang out in her pool and the three of us would skewer tony and he would take it because, he loved my cousin and hell, how bad could three kids skewer a man.
the bastard remembers this conversation because, tony died this week from lymphoma. i'm going to his wake tonight. i'm embarassed to say that i never knew he was sick. i'm embarrassed that the last time i saw him was at my great aunt's funeral. and before that my grandfather's funeral (his sister in law came to grandma's instead. family schism. long story. another time perhaps). and before that, my wedding. that was over 10 years ago mind you.
there was truth to his words back then. and it sticks today. i'll see these people tonight. and i haven't seen them since the last joy/tragedy. all i know is tony and i won't ever be able to have that conversation again but, i'll always remember wanting to get the hell out of the conversation to go have a cigarette that day. maybe that's why i feel embarrassed. because i'll never be able to wash that feeling off.
i hate funerals. my mom's family is dying and they constantly come together and try to keep it together. i guess that when the wagons are being circled is when you feel like locking arms, because you know the end is coming.