Unfit Father

Published on July 6th, 2017 | by Richard Black


Happy Endings

My wife’s uncle passed away a few months ago which wasn’t entirely unexpected. Any time anyone over the age of fifty kicks it I’m not entirely surprised. Don’t get me wrong. I find it incredibly upsetting when someone dies particularly when it’s a family member. The event is even more upsetting as the older I get I’m slowly closing the gap between the mourner and the participant.

Despite all of the doom and gloom surrounding the passing of someone’s life I thoroughly enjoyed Uncle Shamus’s memorial. Other than weddings there’s nothing like a death to bring the family together, have a nice meal, and then understand why so many of them live so far apart from each other.

I didn’t know Uncle Shamus well but I loved him and not just because he bought my wife and I an entire set of knives as a wedding gift. I’m also pretty sure he did a lot for charity. He also smoked during family functions as did his partner which I always welcomed. There’s nothing more heartening than seeing men three decades older than yourself engaging in a habit that pretty much guarantees an unpleasant ending.

Then again most endings are unpleasant.

Dan, Shamus’s partner, threw a great bash. Children from the charity they both patronized sang and played for those in attendance. Family members stepped up to the mic and told a story or two about the man. We all ate dessert first as Shamus would have wanted. I couldn’t think of a better send off for my wife’s uncle.

For my part however I think I’d like something a bit less shortsighted. After all if my life were going to be celebrated wouldn’t I want to be around for the party instead of just an urn on a table surrounded by a bunch of overpriced flowers? The answer is “no” but I had to do a lot of thinking before I came to the conclusion.

Twenty years ago my mother subjected my grandfather to an event celebrating his life and I really couldn’t imagine anything more horrible for the man. Being a gruff Teutonic sort he shouldered his way through the event in the same way he plowed through the Great Depression,WWII and pretty much the next fifty years.

Three years later he died. People say it was prostate cancer but my guess is that it was probably embarrassment from all of the attention and, given his nature, I imagine it just took him three years to be certain. Grandpa Joe was always reserved in that sort of way.

I understand that funerals and memorials these days are more for the living than the deceased. Death is, after all, kind of a bummer. It’s easier to focus on the parts of someone’s life we’d rather remember than the fact that they’ve passed into the great unknown and left us with a bunch of old clothes that even Goodwill wouldn’t want.

I imagine that on my passing my wife will be so stricken by grief that she will turn to stone.

A celebration of life is all well and good but it’s not for me. I’m not sure what happens when we pass on but I want everyone I love to be miserable when it happens. Perhaps it’s just because I’m an asshole but when I go to my great reward I want a lot of weeping and sorrow when they plant me in the ground. I’d also be up for an annual day of mourning on my behalf or even just a parade as long as it was tasteful.

If there happens to be something after we pass on then I suppose I’ll feel poorly about my approach to my inevitable end. If I’m wrong then at least I’ll have the thought that my passing will have devastated my friends and family to console me in my final moments.

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