Fond Farewells

Fond Farewells

This month started off a little macabre, what with having two funerals less than a week apart. One was for my best friend’s dad, and the other was for my other best friend’s mom. They were two secondary parents that helped raise me as I grew up in Wyoming. Needless to say it was an emotional way to start the month.

I’m of the disposition that things don’t happen for a reason, there is such a thing and coincidence, and the only ones that know what happens when we die are the dead and they’re keeping pretty hush-hush about the whole thing. It’s all a matter of perspective really and it was my perspective that left me walking away from each funeral with a smirk on my face.

The first funeral was for Don, a school teacher and a motivator for the poetically unaware. He had a way of encouraging the poet in all of us to surface, and start writing. Plus, he introduced me to Opus and Bloom County. He loved to teach about the hero’s journey from Greek literature, and then explained that all of us will, in our life, have our own hero’s journey. The key is not to be surprised or disappointed if things don’t always go as planned.

This brings me back to the end of Don’s funeral. I had given my friend (Don’s son) a lift to the funeral, and expected to go to the cemetery with the family to finish the burial proceedings. After my friend helped carry the coffin to the hearse he came back to me and said, “My mom is going to drive in the hearse so I needed to take her car to the cemetery. You’ll be driving there alone, but just follow everyone else.”

So I did . . . well, I tried. I was near the end of the line, but at least I had plenty of people to follow. The problem was that the route the hearse took to the cemetery seemed to include a goal of going though as many traffic light intersections as possible. I kept up with traffic through the first light. The second light turned yellow, but I was sure I would be fine since there were three cars in front of me and at least one of them had to know where they were going.

Not the case. The three cars quickly turned into two cars as the first one kept going through the light. The remaining two almost instantly became one as the second car ran through the red light. A second or two later there were no cars in front of me as the remaining car inched out into the intersection and ran the light just as the cross cars started moving. I was instantly cut off by the cross traffic. I tried to keep an eye on were the cars had gone, but they were long gone by the time the light turned green.

I tried to catch up to the next lit intersection in hopes I might recognize one of the cars, but by the time I got to the next intersection, which was also a red light. It was official, I was lost. So I pulled over and called my friend to see if he could give me directions. Guess whose phone was turned off because he was at his father’s funeral? I did drive around for about ten minutes and happened across a friendly older crosswalk guard, who was happy to give me directions to the nearest cemetery.

As I drove up to the entrance of the cemetery, I saw some cars pulling in ahead of me. This was a good sign; things were starting to look up. When I saw the coffin on display above its plot, I was relieved.

I got out of my car and started walking toward the coffin. An SUV pull up and a bunch of teenagers got out holding bunches of balloons. I stopped mid-step in the middle of the road and started looking much closer at the faces in the crowd. I didn’t recognize a single face . . . I was at the wrong funeral.

When I got back into my car, I started smiling and headed to a local brewpub to get a drink and some fish and chips, because when you are on a journey things don’t always go as planned. While at the pub, I got a call from my friend telling me he had gotten lost too, and that he had just arrived there. He then told me to just go home and that he’d get someone to drop him off there later so he could pick up his car. I think Don would have appreciated people getting lost on the way to his grave site. It’s the kind of thing that inspires people to write poetry.

The second funeral was for Helen, a tiny lady (4’ 11”) that had a way of filling any room she walked into. Every time I saw her, she was genuinely filled with joy at seeing me. That was how she treated everyone, and the second I set foot in her house, I was family.

The last time I saw Helen was in August, my wife and I stayed at her home for two nights for during my 20 year high school reunion weekend. Apart from all the reminiscent sightseeing, Helen invited us to the new CallAir Museum that she was working at part time. She was 70 and needed something to keep her busy, and loved giving people tours.

With the weekend being so busy, we never had the chance to make it to the Civic Center, which is where the museum was located, to have her give us a tour. Her invitation to me to go to the museum was one of the last things she ever talked to me about, so when I arrived at the Civic Center for her funeral a smile made its way to my lips.

After the services, the museum was opened up for a short while and I was able to take Helen up on that invitation to see the museum. As I wandered around looking at the exhibits I couldn’t help but think about the coincidence of how I was able to accept her final request to visit the museum with her. Subtle, sure, but it helped with saying goodbye.

To both Helen and Don, thank you for the love, the insights, the lessons taught, and the understanding. You are loved and always fondly remembered.

Image Sources:
Google Images, keywords: funeral, Opus, school crosswalk guard, fish and chips and beer, and CallAir Museum.

Copyright © 2012 Richard Timothy

A Cause to Pause – Department Store Cameras

A Cause to Pause – Department Store Cameras

Have you ever been going through your daily cycle, minding your own business, keeping to yourself and all of the sudden you find yourself either in a situation or watching a situation that compels you to stop dead in your tracks and pause so that you can fully take in that moment and experience. Then walk away from that moment in either a fit of giggles or a retrospect of bewilderment. I think everyone has these moments. In fact, I think simply by leaving the house you can’t help but have them.

The moment that caused me to pause this past week, begging me to highlight it in this week’s Smirk has to do with department store cameras. The cameras I am referring to are the ones that are positioned just inside the door of the store you are walking into, recording every entrance and exit. In this particular case the store involved has chosen direct the camera feed to a television which is bolted to the ceiling right inside the store. The television is positioned toward the doors, allowing everyone who enters the store to watch themselves walk into the building.

I’m not sure of the motivation for this practice. Is it a type of subtle mind game for would-be shoplifters? Does watching yourself walk into a store imprint on you that if you can see you then obviously while you are in the store it is watching your every move? It’s a little Orwellian and paranoia inducing if you think about it. Actually you better not. I imagine if you think about it too much, it will only add to the paranoia.

Then again it could be a device used to invoke a desire to purchase items you had no intention on purchasing in the first place, specifically clothing related. While watching yourself walk into the store do some people look up and think, “Wow, these jeans really do make my butt look big,” or “This top and this bottom just do not go well together, I better get something that matches.” Perhaps in a man’s case it could be a reminder such as, “Damn, I’ve worn this same shirt for a week now, I should probably get a second shirt,” or it could simply serve as a reminder to buy some laundry detergent.

Usually when I walk into this store and see myself my first impulse is to wave, because “Hey, I know that guy!” Growing up in a small town, it was engrained in me to offer a friendly wave to people I know, which at the time was everyone I saw. Once I moved to the city, there are just so many people that I don’t know that it has become common practice to keep to myself when wandering around in public. However, this also means that when I see someone I know in public I wave vigorously until I’m noticed. The down to this is that if the person I am waving to has kids, they instantly think I’m a freak and an embarrassment to the human race. To help repair this unfair youthful judgment, I usually make it up to them by buying a bag of ring pops and walking around the store with the kids while we suck on the giant ring suckers wrapped around our fingers and sticking out our tongues at each other to see if they have changed color yet.

On this particular day (the one the held my latest cause to pause moment) I had just walked in front of the sensor that instructs the electric doors to “get out of the way,” but before I stepping into camera range and onto the television screen I saw standing about twenty feet in front of me a young kid, maybe seven or eight standing all alone staring up at the television screen. He was intently watching his every move. He slowly lifted and lowered his left arm. Then he lifted up both arms and mimicked in the movements of a bird flapping its wings, while lifting one foot off the ground, the entire time his eyes refused to leave the same time footage of him flapping away on the television screen.

He calmly placed his foot back on the group and dropped both flapping arms to his side and then is a sudden surprise movement he jumped into the air and spun around so that his back was now facing the camera, still keeping his gaze fixed to the television screen the whole time. Then, with his head still twisted around and looking up toward the screen he slow leaned forward, raised one hand into the air and started to repeatedly slap himself on the ass. Then, in an instant almost as randomly as it had begun the boy stopped. This whole scene had lasted maybe ten seconds.

After stopping, but still in his slightly leaning over pose, the kid started to look around to see if anyone had noticed what had just transpired. When he spotted me standing in the store’s doorway looking at him with my head half tilted and a confused “What the hell?” look on my face, he stood up straight, spun around and sprinted off towards a grocery cart a few yards away with what was surrounded by what I can only assume were his family.

It was as I took that first step into the store and onto the screen that had just witnessed a boy spanking himself for failing to fly that I started to laugh. It took me ten minutes to remember what I had walked in there to buy in the first place. It was definitely a worthwhile cause to pause.

Image Sources:
Google Images, keywords: confused kid, waving at friends, and confused look.

© Richard Timothy 2010