My aunt died last night. It was expected; she’s been fighting various forms of cancer for years now. They say she went peacefully, and wasn’t in pain. My uncle passed away just a few months ago, also from cancer.
I worry for my cousin. Not only are his parents now gone, but his only brother was killed in an accident many years ago, and he has no relatives on his father’s side of the family (his father was the only child of an only child). My cousin has to be feeling very alone right now. He lives thousands of miles away from the small town in central Iowa his parents lived in — his plane probably landed in Des Moines just a few hours ago. My parents left town early this morning so they could meet him. “He doesn’t need to face that empty house by himself,” my mother told me last night.
People approach death in different ways.
I’m a little jealous of people who can let loose at funerals, who can cry and wail and touch the casket. I tend to sit stiffly upright, eyes locked straight ahead, afraid to show much emotion in public, but at the same time wondering if people think I’m being callous for not showing enough emotion. I don’t know quite how to act. I don’t know what’s acceptable, what’s expected. That makes me self-conscious.
Some people will go up to the casket, peer in, and say things like, “she looks so young,” or “how peaceful she looks.” I have a hard time with that. Not that I mind other people doing that — that’s fine. It’s just that I can’t. I’m like a small child; I tiptoe up to the casket during visitation, getting just close enough to peek in, then I need to run away. Does this mean I don’t want to face death? Maybe. I don’t know. But it’s hard for me to see a loved one’s body in a casket. There’s no comfort there for me. Maybe I simply want to remember the person as they were, vibrant and happy.
I’m going to miss my aunt. I miss my uncle. We weren’t particularly close; they lived a little over four hours away, so I didn’t see them more than once or twice a year when I was a child. They would drive up for holidays and to visit my grandparents. Once my grandparents passed away I didn’t see my aunt and uncle quite so often. But I have good memories of them nonetheless…
My uncle was the kind of man who managed to poke fun of himself whilst always maintaining an air of impenetrable self-confidence and utter sophistication. He chained smoked Winstons and drank whiskey. He was a minister, a bus driver, and a carpet cleaner. He could tell stories… And he took an honest interest in everyone around him. I gather he asked his congregations rather hard questions from time to time.
My aunt was a warm person, and gentle. She always smiled, even when it was raining. She was one of those rare people who talks to everyone in exactly the same way — she never treated children like children, and that made me feel good. She respected people. She always knew what everyone in the family was doing. Who was working where, and who’s children were doing well in school… My last memories of her are of my uncle’s funeral, just a few months ago. I hadn’t seen my aunt in a number of years, but she knew exactly what I had been doing in that time. She was dignified and had a quiet calm about her, even in a wheelchair at her husband’s funeral. Class, personified. Elegant.
So, sometime in the next day or two I’ll find myself driving to that particular house in that particular small town. This will be the fourth time in my life I’ve been to that house — one high-school graduation and three funerals. In spite of that rather dubious record, I’ve always considered my aunt and uncle’s house to be a happy place, full of contentment. I don’t know why, exactly, but that’s the impression the home always gives me. I’ll be sad never to visit there again.
You know, when you don’t cry when you’re sad, it makes your head hurt in a funny way.
I’ve noticed a strange trend in my dreams lately. Starting a while back, maybe a year ago, maybe longer, I started having dreams where I didn’t have arms. People would beat me up and threaten my family and such, and I couldn’t defend myself. I had no arms!
Then a little later, my dreams changed. People would beat me up and chase me around. I had arms now, but no hands, so I couldn’t defend myself.
After a few months, I had arms and hands, but they’d be tied. People were still beating me up and being cruel to me, and I still couldn’t defend myself. All I could do was run.
Two nights ago my dreams took the most disturbing twist yet. In my dream, men broke into my house. One man simply told me not to move my arms. “You can’t hit me,” he said. “All you can do is stand there.” So all I did was stand there, obediently, as this rather small man beat me. I simply let him beat me. I didn’t even try to defend myself. I didn’t even think of taking control of the situation.
This bothers me quite a bit. I certainly feel trapped and ineffective at work, but I loathe the thought that my subconscious is starting to accept my fate, that of being berated and taken for granted by my “superiors.” It’s time to fight back. It’s time for me to make some changes. I need to do something new.
I’ve been feeling isolated lately. As an experiment, I’m going to keep track of how many people I speak with today. This is NOT made up or exaggerated.
- 6:10 to 7:30 a.m. — General conversation with beloved wife.
- 7:59 a.m. — Brief conversation with Fruitloop (cat extraordinaire) about the benefits of coming inside.
- 8:10 a.m. — Co-worker A says “hello.” I smile and wave back.
- 8:11 a.m. — Brief conversation with Office Lady A. In toto: “Here.” “Thanks.”
- 8:30 a.m. — Office Lady A calls. “Where’s Mr. X?” “I dunno.”
- 8:35 a.m. — Customer A calls in a correction on a newsletter.
- 8:49 a.m. — Boss A to me (as he hands over a stack of papers): “These need to be designed, proofed, printed, and delivered by three. Do it now.” Me to boss: “Sure, okay.”
- 8:54 a.m. — Boss to me: “Do you have those done yet?” Me to boss: “No.”
- 9:17 a.m. — Co-worker B to me: “Good morning.” Me: “Morning.”
- 9:32 a.m. — Co-worker C, handing me a CD: “Can you copy this to my drive?”
- 10:02 a.m. — Twenty second “sorry to hear about your aunt dying” conversation with Co-worker C, cut short by dirty look from Boss A.
- 10:12 a.m. — Co-worker C to me: “How do you import a white logo in InDesign? All I get is a white box.” Me: “Make sure the image background is set to transparent.”
- 10:32 a.m. — Boss A to me: “Are these the plates for that rush job?” I nod. “They’re not going to work. You might have to do them again.”
- 10:51 a.m. — Boss A to me: “Sorry to hear about your aunt’s passing. Is that my phone ringing?”
- 11:02 a.m. — Short conversation with Customer B about the possibility of me doing a bunch of design work for free and whether I would consider maybe trying to talk the boss into printing a bunch of stuff for free.
- 11:25 a.m. — Co-worker B (inexplicably speaking in a Marlin Brando voice): “Did Co-worker C go to lunch?”
- 11:26 a.m. — A neat three-minute phone conversation with beloved wife.
- 11:31 a.m. — Co-worker Peckerhead to me: “Hey, they’re painting lines on the parking lot. You should have them make you a tiny little spot for your bike, ha ha. Boy, that’d be funny, ha ha.” Me: “Yeah. Ha ha.”
- 1:12 p.m. — Customer A calls in yet another correction on her newsletter.
- 1:35 p.m. — Customer A calls in yet another correction on her newsletter.
- 2:06 p.m. — My beloved wife called.
- 2:21 p.m. — Customer A calls in yet another correction on her newsletter.
- 2:50 p.m. — Boss B to me: “Has ‘Customer X’ talked to you about that perfect-bound book yet?” Me to Boss B: “Who is Customer X, and what book are you talking about?” Boss B turns and walks away.
It’s nearly four. I’m going to quit counting words now. So, to analyze this data…
Six people here at work spoke to me today. One person said one word to me. Another spoke four words. Another said five words to me all day. The fourth co-worker actually said a few sentences, but they were only to mock me. Boss B walked past me five million times today (the boss’ office is right next to mine) yet never said anything to me until nearly three in the afternoon, and then had me confused with someone else anyway (there’s a whole 12 people in the shop you know). Boss A spoke to me several times, but nothing positive, nor of significance.
I spoke to one customer on the phone several times throughout the day. She’s a very nice lady, but somehow I always get the impression that she thinks I made the mistakes on the newsletter she typed. It gets to be depressing after a while.
Not counting the phone conversations with the customer and my wife, less than 150 words were directed to me between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. (well, nearly 4 p.m.). I’d be curious if that’s normal.
My boss knew all day today that I’m going to be out of town Monday and Tuesday for my aunt’s funeral. Why did he have to wait until after four o’clock on Friday to tell me that he needs to have the imposition done and plates made on a 75-page book by Monday morning? The customer approved the book three weeks ago, but no one said a damned word to me about it until now. Now I have to work most of the weekend to get it done on time…