Thursday, December 30, 2004

Uncle Tom's Funeral.

Calling hours last night and funeral today. They went okay. It's hard to say that these things go either well or poorly. How can a funeral go well? And, for that matter, it seems like a funeral could always go more poorly than they do. Nobody shot anybody in a drunken rage. No bodies fell out of their coffins without notice or anything.

It's a funny thing belonging to a family that you don't see much. On the one hand, you feel almost singularly left out. They all know each other, and talk and play and fight with one another, and you're just not like them. You're not one of them. On the other hand, you're standing smack dab in the midst of people who are freakishly just like you in all the weirdest of ways.

For example, my cousin Joey was giving his dad's eulogy today. He was talking about how he was never the kind of son that his dad would have chosen, given his druthers that is, but that his dad had always favored him anyway. He told a story about how his sister had been picking on him one day, and he threw a toy at her. She ducked, it missed and the toy shattered the window. My Uncle Tom knew that Julie had been antagonizing Joe, so he punished her. For ducking.

The reason that's so funny to me is that I've been hearing that story all my life, with a little different twist. Namely, when my father was a boy, his older brother Tommy had been picking on him. Dad threw a block at him, which Tom successfully ducked, and the block went through the glass-cabinet holding all of the family china. When my grandfather was getting ready to punish dad, dad said: "It was Tommy's fault! He ducked!" Grandpa figured out that Uncle Tom had been antagonizing my dad; and apparently worse than usual since my dad then, as now, was the most laid back character on Earth. So Grandpa punished Tom instead. For ducking.

I don't know my cousins all that well, but somehow we share these things. I've told that story to people before and nobody really gets it the way we do. "Why didn't they just punish both boys?" My cousins and I know why instinctually and it would never occur to us to ask that question ourselves.

We're family, all right. It can't be helped. It feels good to know that these family stories, living examples of our ancestral eccentricities, will carry on into future generations. Even if I'm not around enough to see it.