14 April 2011

An Unexpected Visit Home

April 4, 2011

My brain is fuddled with French cold medicine, which I took to try to help me sleep on the plane. I want to write well, but I’ve started this entry 5 times already, and a combination of not knowing what to say and this Humex or whatever it’s called are thwarting my writing efforts. And, because I’m tired, the business asshole surrounding me are annoying me, and thus my writing is even worse. I’m too tired even to cry to relieve the frustration.

I know it’s whining, but I am trapped here. The Spanish man in front of me is leaning his airplane chair way too far back in my face, which pushes my computer off the tray table, and thus when I’m typing, my left elbow is jammed into the wall, and my right elbow is jammed into the left elbow of the asshole who won’t move his compuer to the other side to give me a little bit of space. He has spent the whole flight shifting around, either elbowing me in the side while turning the pages of his newspaper that he took an hour and a half to read, or kneeing me in my left knee that I just injured by falling down some stairs on Friday. Plus, he takes up more space now that he’s typing because he never learned how to type and has to type with his two pointer fingers.

Okay, vent over. I’m going home for my grandfather’s funeral. I’ve been to funerals before, and people in my family have died before, but this one is so different. We’ve been expecting him to die for the past month or two at least, and he’s been sick for 7 years from a spinal cord injury and lymphoma. Although he lived a long healthy life before that, it takes a lot of work for me to remember the times when he was all there, especially because I have been away from the Midwest for most of that time.

Scenes from movies about funerals and death keep poppoing into my head, instead of images of previous funerals I’ve actually atteneded. Movies like Elizabethtown and P.S. I Love You and the Big Chill flash scenes in my imagination, and I wonder how much what I will see and experience will resemble these images.

Walking through the airport in Madrid this morning (I spent the night in Madrid with my boss in order to get a good flight out), the soundtrack on my iPod was accompanying the part of the movie where everyone - well, just my sister and I - who are little dots on a map, come together at the center dot, which in this case in Minneapolis. I would look at my reflection in the windows, and see myself as the camera might see me. I wondered what my sister would look like in her walk through the airport.

Now on the plane they are showing an episode from the first season of Mad Men. It’s a reminder of that generation, but yet, none of these characters remind me of my grandparents. Well, they remind me of my paternal grandparents, even though they are younger and the same age as my maternal grandparents. I know both of them smoked, but I don’t picture them as smokers like on Mad Men because they quit before I was born. And maybe they drank, but because their parents were alcoholics, they never drank as hard as people did on this show. Living in the suburbs of New York in the early 60s was just not the same life that they lived in a house they built with their own hands on a small lake on the outskirts of Minneapolis. So I wonder what my grandfather would have said about Mad Men, and about the way the characters lived their rich, soap opratic lives.

Going to this funeral, I think, will give me a glimpse into their lives, as much as I can get from hearing stories about someone who is already dead. I’m excited to see my family, because, as I’ve mentioned, living in Morocco where family is everything makes you realize how important it is to keep those relationships strong. On the other hand, I don’t know how I’ll be able to look my grandmother in the eye. I want to do what I can to support her, but what does a 26-year-old girl with a handful of failed relationships say to a woman who has just lost her high school sweetheart and husband of 61 years. I would feel lucky if I could make her smile.

We shall see, we shall see.

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