The Funeral

I went to the funeral of my cousin George this weekend.  I took a few days to spend with my aunt, doing my turn so the other cousins could get some rest.

It had been an arduous week for them, having only found out about George’s death the week before after not knowing where or how he was for a few years.  I know personally that every time I spoke with my aunt she would tell me how much she missed him and wondered where he was.

You might wonder what happened and I’d asked her all the usual questions, “Was there a disagreement between them or anyone else in the family?” “No,” she said, “nothing he just one day packed up and left.”

Let me explain. This is from the Hispanic side of my family and Hispanics in general are very close, but they can also be very proud. The men in general suffer from machismo more so than other cultures and George was ill.

He was a diabetic, but prior to that he had also been a very heavy drinker and who knows if there was even more than that in his past, I don’t know. But, he was a great guy! Loved his family and especially his mom. So what happened?

Well, he bought 10 acres east of LA county and held himself up for the last three years.

A neighbor of his was able to shed some light on the situation, the sum total being that he didn’t want his family see him suffer. George just didn’t want to see them see him going through his last days.

So, he died alone and among strangers.

My aunt, of course cried her heart out. In Spanish she kept asking “Porque mi hijo” “Porque queriste murir solo?” “Why my son? Why did you want to die alone?”

I was heartbroken. Yet there go I or any of my other relatives.

When I (we)don’t feel well, just leave me(us) alone and yet…

We all told my aunt how much good there was that came of this.  God had a plan and there was a lesson in it for us all. George may have thought he was doing us a favor but he didn’t and yet he did.

Family is there to help and they want to be there for us. To shut them out causes more pain.

THE FUNERAL

George had a Catholic funeral and I believe it is the only one I’ve ever been to other than my great uncles when I was about 5 and I can’t remember much of that.

When I was very young my family (my great aunts as well) was instrumental in helping my grandparents, aunt and uncle come to the states. Prior to that my great aunt had sponsored my mother at the age of 16.

My mom’s cousin or my great aunt’s son was an archbishop in the Catholic Church, though at the time he was just moving up the ranks.

My mom eventually met dad a “Gavacho” (white guy) and were married. She was 17 or 18, he was around 22. He was an old Alabama boy, who when he saw his first Hispanic woman, fell head over heels for her. She was beautiful and exotic looking.

Mom

I mention this because, as my aunt tells me, mother was never “Mexican” she was an American and thought of herself as only American. Mom spoke English in our home and so limited our contact with the Mexican side. She came to America to be an American and that was it. We spoke some Spanish but that was because Dad spoke it (he was fluent in both languages) and insisted we become bi-lingual though we were never fluent.

It wasn’t that I never saw my Mexican family, but I saw them less frequent after mom and dad were divorced. Probably more because they liked my dad so much and would bring him up in conversation all the time and she hated that. The fact that Dad embraced his new Mexican family endeared him to them and time spent after that diminished from what we did early on with them…

So, what I’m saying is, at this funeral I got reconnected. My other siblings weren’t there but I think they would have enjoyed it as well.

Having been the oldest of all the cousins and actually quite a bit older, I was the babysitter. I was not their peer, so they really never got to know me or me them as they did this time around.

I have to admit, I was never afraid of them despite my gavacho ex-husband saying once, when I took him up to introduce them, “they look like Mexican mafia,” followed by,  “even though they are very nice”.  It’s true.

Yes, they were a rough, carousing bunch, and no doubt belonged to a gang at one time, but I was exempt from that time period so exempt from details of what they may have been like, into or appeared to be like.  They are now older, settled and wiser.  All in various stages of life, they welcomed me and made me feel loved.

As many funerals have, they had a board up with family pictures. The kids in my family were not in any of them. It made me sad, because I could see that despite the rough edges, they were an awesome bunch and I could see they too wished we had been closer.

They are the first to admit with a mischievous grin that some had been of dubious character but that was then. Their sum total occupations (counting their children) range from an artist for Disney studios (now retired); teachers; electrical engineers, communications, masons, plumbers, hospital staff, other artists (one, who didn’t make it was working on a mural for an LA county freeway wall – Legally I might add.) Hey! What can I say? It’s in the blood! And, because it is a big family I did lose track of all their occupations.

The best thing is they thought I was amazing and I must admit I felt such affection for them as well. One cousin made sure he detailed my car for me and I don’t think it has looked that nice since I bought it.

My aunt’s house was like a revolving door of visitors and her kitchen open to anyone.  On the day of the funeral, we had not only the food my cousins had prepared, but food brought in.  There may have been 200 friends and family in this tiny house and ample yard. The only down side could have been the rain, but it didn’t dampen the event. The elderly were brought in and the young weathered the damp even though it didn’t last long.

Memories of George and our childhood were reminisced everywhere including the time my sister fell down this outhouse hole in Mexico. It was one in the process of being built, so there was nothing in it but none the less it was worth the retelling.

They asked me about my life in Alabama and the usual questions came up about racism. My answer being it’s really not that different than here. The only stereotypes are what we hear about.  They admitted that in certain areas of LA, various races don’t cross over. So we agreed that if stereotypes were not constantly perpetuated, we might actually be able to get along. We have to take people individually and go from there.

(It made me think about my writing. I know we are told that it’s the conflict that makes the story, but does it have to be racial?  Something to think about.)

In all, the event, though sad was of benefit in so many ways. Because of George we were brought together and those of us who hadn’t seen each other in years and/or didn’t recognize one another (especially me) went away vowing we would keep in touch.

Funny thing is they mean it.  I’ve been home one day and I’ve already heard from several.

cousins

Thank you George. Salut!

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