- Ward Cleaver's Prozac Fever

bagging grandma

Granny had wheezed her last.

The ICU nurse, marching officiously

about the room clicking off this

respirator and that life-support

contraption, was on this dad's dad

and his pack of hillbilly kin to quick

make some funerary decisions and get

granmaw's flippin' carcass the hell

out of ICU to make way for the

next (mostly) living, paying customer.

It was a touching Walton sort-of

moment. One I have passed on

to my own spawn, my gramma's great-

grandchildren, if you are lineage-minded.

It was a moment I am sure I will

share again and again well

into the next millennium should

I have the luck to graduate

(at some future time and on some

cockamamie yet-to-be-invented

future browser), to ""

The telling of this bizarre, yet

absolutely true tale, comes with

some critically important baggage.

First off, my long-suffering wife,

who has been force-fed each

pulse-pounding edition (?) of, exhorted me to torpedo

the piece --- that

the story is just "too sick."

Secondly, my brother, with whom

I have shaken the ancient

Hungarian/Bohemian/Hillbilly family tree,

freeing dozens of scoundrels and

closeted dirty-dealing gypsy

skeletons, was not only insistent

on having input into the retelling

of the story, but in one genealogical

delirium lobbied aggressively to guest-author

this particular edition of

I apologized to my bride, assuring

her I would deal with the topic

(as you readers all can attest, having

perused past dads), with the utmost taste

and élan. I set off to conduct a

number of in-depth interviews

with my only sib to recount the tragic,

tragic demise and the subsequent

cost-conscious disposal of the

earthly remains of our dearly-departed kin.

Grandmother was dead, to begin with,

there is no doubt whatever about that.

But her long-feuding sons, unable to

articulate their common desire to plant

mama on the cheap in the

face of their faux agony and histrionic

hillbilly grief, opted to do the only

thing they could to rationalize

their dignity forever and ever amen

--- they abdicated.

That's how my brother (himself a dad,

of course), and I wound up ejecting

our dead granny's feuding

progeny from the ICU cubicle, and

unwittingly planning her transition

to the next world with only the

assistance of the good book, the common

thread of mankind,

the Yellow Pages.

I touched her forehead and she was still

warmish. My brother grimaced

from across the room as we breathed in

the claustrophobic, uncirculated air

of the dead into which she had

exhaled her last. It seemed like there

was some sickish familial closure there.

We waited to see if her fingernails

or her hair would blossom forth in

Howard Hughes or Rapunzel-like abundance.

They did not.

She was just sort of

ruined, just sort of blue and old,

and really sort of dead.

We had had only the most superficial

of brushes with death before. In our

teeny-weeny home as pups,

during an Adam West "Batman" in which

Frank Gorshin was about to get his

again, we witnessed

through the living room window,

our neighbor getting his instead.

He came stumbling all purply into his

bedroom, clutching at his chest and

trashing all the bric-a-brac on top

of his bureau (searching for his nitro, no

doubt). He went down hard and never

came back up.

The Riddler, however,

was back next week,

same bat-time, same bat-channel.

Some guys my brother rustled up

from the 'pages were only too glad

to come on out to the ICU, mitigate

our grief and sell us an absolutely

splendiferous package with which

we'd send Granny off into the brilliant

light of the nether world.

Gramma was getting pretty cold and

pretty darn blue by the time the

gruesome twosome arrived. One was

the sort-of Igor guy, who nodded

and blinked and went "uh-huh, uh-huh"

when prompted by his Charon-

like comrade. The Charon one,

the Brains of the duo, may just as

well have been selling us a rusty

Plymouth Duster with which he'd ferry

our good dead granny across the

river Styx, for my brother and I

knew, judging from her life's parade

of despicable deeds, that that

was surely her destination.

"If you wanna good box, we're talkin'

over 5K," he proffered, munching on

a cigar unlit in deference to

the presence of pure oxygen on the ward.

We hovered over her hospital bier,

looming over her chilling, hardening

flesh as the deal emerged.

"We don't have that kind of capital

behind us," my brother shot back,

leaning on granny's left bed-side

with his full weight, and poking his

face toward The Brains for

heightened bargaining effect.

"No insurance? Dere's gotta be dat.

Hey, doncha all love her or what?"

and he gazed lovingly toward our

progenitor's dead eyes.

"Yeah, yeah yeah," my brother waved

him off and paced. He stopped just

north of her whitened hair,

which still had not grown a whit.

"Cremation --- bottom line ---

"out the door --- how much?"

"Well, dere you're talkin' removal

here, a receptacle for the deceased

durin' de process, uh...ya know, a

service or sumptin, you know, to be

decent an' everyt'ing. Den, what's

it gonna be, where do ya want the

cremains, in an urn or what?

Burial or what? Hey it's up to you."

He took a step back and hung his head,

shaking it in a reverent silence.

Igor followed his lead, also paying

his clumsy and spurious respects.

"Cremains?" I puzzled, thinking Cremora

for some inexplicable reason.

"Yeah. Cremains.

De cremated remains of de deceased."

"What kind of receptacle' are we

talkin' for the actual cremation here?"

my brother sat cross-legged in an

industrial looking chair due south

of our ancestor, tapping his foot as

cute but hardened-looking ICU

nurses whizzed by behind the

sliding glass door.

"Could be cardboard."

"And a brass urn?"

"Brass --- starts at 4-fifty.

Best I can do you."

"Nothing cheaper?"

"Sure! More cardboard. A buck,"

The Brains spat, humiliating us

in front of our even deader grandma.

"Come on," I pleaded, getting into

the whole spirit of the moment,

"there MUST be something less than

"the urn, but better than a

"freakin' cardboard BOX, for godsakes."

"Well, dere IS a polypropylene box.

"Black. Weather proof.

"Very popular item."

A terse moment passed. As I

held my breath I thought I saw gramma

exhale again. I shook my head.

"You mean like Tupperware?"

The Brains and Igor raised their

eyebrows in tandem.

"Well, you could call it dat, yeah.

"Sixty bucks."

The image of burping the black box

has never really left me. I have a

graveside photo of it, there on the

icy Astroturf, about to be interred

with her own mom and dad.

My kids have similar polymer boxes.

They keep Ghostbusters and such in

them for posterity.

Our marching orders were to keep the

whole mess under two-thousand dollars,

and it looked like we were

there. The four of us sealed the deal

and exchanged handshakes over the

corpse, (soon to be "cremains"),

and my brother and I figured we'd

be granted a moment alone with

her now to reflect, or pray,

or something.

But no.

"Canya grab a corner of de sheet?"

It was a moment too existential to contest.

Shooting each other a furtive glance,

we each grabbed onto a

corner of the sheet below the bod,

and with the grunt and strain of

dead weight, hoisted her onto their

gurney. She was square in the middle

of a black body bag replete with

a 7-foot zipper.

Igor ran it up the length,


and she was gone.

"Pleasure doon bizness wich ya,"

and The Brains and Igor, sporting

appropriately dour expressions

wheeled granny onto the service

elevator, and into the hereafter.

The family were all still feuding

at the stripped-down ceremony.

My brother and I sort of unofficially

officiated. To bring it all in

under budget, we rented an exquisite

brass urn for the funeral home service,

and used one of my own "nothing books"

for the register.

We just couldn't

bring ourselves to bring our kids.

We also couldn't bring ourselves to

reveal that the only person who was

not at gramma's lo-budget burial

service was gramma herself. It

would've cost extra to have the

"cremains" transported to the home

and shoehorned into the rental urn.

The wailing and weeping kin knelt

and unknowingly prayed in front of an empty rental

vessel instead. Gramma reposed tranquilly,

eternally, in black Tupperware

guaranteed impervious to the weather,

miles and miles away.

We had her name chipped into the

margin of her own mom and dad's

shared red granite headstone in the

old Hungarian cemetery, we did.

And as gramma's extended and

endlessly-warring family secretly

recoiled at the uncouth and yet

highly economical black box about

to be interred over her own mother's

ancient breast, I turned my dadly head

into the bitter March wind,

and thought about all the far-flung

chance and clandestine meetings of

my ancestors, which,

beating astronomical odds, somehow

allowed me to stand living and breathing,

in that solemn place of the dead.

Last "dads"
Past "dads"

©2003 Arhythmiacs
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