I felt like I had lived through a “Weekend at Bernie’s.”
Do you remember that movie and Bernie?
Well, no one was stapling a hairpiece on a corpse and there was no corpse riding in a boat waving to the guests as he went by — but, it was pretty close.
Funerals bring families together. This was no exception. We saw friends and family we had not seen in thirty years. The funeral was for one of our nephews who was young and full of life. It was one of those deaths that didn’t need to happen.
The family grieved at the senselessness of it. In the midst of it, there was also the black sheep of the family to deal with.
I’ve heard every family has a black sheep. You can pinpoint him quickly and Al’s family is no exception.
In walks this dyed-golden-blond black sheep. He is a brilliant nut. He is still playing at life at 46 years old. Picture seedy Hollywood! At one time he had a modeling agency.
You’re getting the picture.
My Al was in Albuquerque taking care of business when the news came to him of the death. He stayed in Albuquerque and our plans were to meet him there. In the meantime, Poor Sweet Al was dealing with his other nephew, “Hollywood Gold,” and exasperated with the stunts he was pulling.
Al called me. “This kid is a nutcase and he is driving me crazy. You will never guess what he did.”
I can only imagine. Don’t be dramatic!
“My nephew went by the funeral home and was posing his older brother. He was taking pictures of his brother with his hands behind his head, waving and doing dumb stuff. He was showing the pictures around, even on Facebook. When his dad hears about this, he is going to come unglued.”
It was comical on one hand, but sad on the other. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for my Al. Next, his nephew was calling him, wanting to borrow money and wanting a ride.
Earlier that week, Al gave his nephew a ride. His nephew rolled down the window and broke the window on the passenger side. Short on time, Al tried to fix it, but couldn’t.
On the way to the funeral, Al kept apologizing about the car window being down and was concerned about my hair blowing. He had a cowboy’s straw hat in the back of the car and told me to put it on.
Definitely not. I’m fine. It is sweet that you are worrying about me, but I’m OK.
Al was so concerned about my hair, he put an old green bath towel in the car. He said, “shut it in the door and cover the window, it will keep the wind off your hair until we get to the funeral.”
I said, “Absolutely not. We are in Albuquerque. We can’t be driving with a bath towel in the window. I will be fine.”
“I’m just concerned about you. That nephew of mine is driving me crazy.”
At the funeral, Hollywood Gold showed up late and I showed up with my hair standing on ends. I should have listened to Al, I should have worn the cowboy hat.
Picture a dark comedy. The family was ready to deal with whatever this nephew might do. At the end of the funeral, he stood and came to the pulpit. My oldest nephew quietly went to the pulpit and led him away from the microphone. It was done so gently and firm, without a word. He sat back down.
After the funeral, my son-in-law said, “I would have liked to have heard what was on his mind and what he was going to say.”
“Me, too,” the rest of the family chimed in.
“Well, I guess we will never know.”
We all laughed at what could have been on his mind.
After the reception, the kids said, “Let’s get a family picture.” Our son had flown in from the Philippines and is rarely here for family portraits. We have photo-shopped him in, in the past.
As I looked through the pictures we took at the reception, I couldn’t believe it: our nephew had popped in behind us, holding his two fingers over my Sweet Al’s head. He was in all of our pictures. He was hugging me and standing between my son and me.
For the record, “He’s not mine.”
Well, I guess he is family.
Final brushstroke: You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family. Some day, I will humor you about my side of the family.
“It’s not what your are, it’s what you don’t become that hurts.” — Oscar Levant.
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