This is our summer of profound discontent. Ma passes. For the first time in ten years, we are together, staring at our Ma in disbelief while the cremators reel her out. Some scream out “Mama, Oh Mama, please don’t go!” This strikes me as odd because no one in our family has ever called our Ma, “Mama.” However, every one of us looks grief-stricken and horribly confused. It’s all happening too fast but in slow motion.

We hold her wake the next day at “Mary Star of the Sea” church in La Jolla. Since there are too many of us and time is of the essence, only a few of my family get up to read. My brother, Joe, the only boy in a family of seven siblings, schlepps up to microphone looking like he came straight out of the cast “Hang over II.” He’s disheveled with part of his shirt un-tucked. He’s carrying a raggedy bag/briefcase that he plops on the podium, then proceeds to noisily fish through crumpled papers until he finds his speech.

It’s a speech about fond memories he had with ma. He ends it with: “Her final words to me on her death bed were: ‘Son, tuck your shirt in, blow your nose, and go upstairs and wash your face.’” We all laugh remembering how meticulous ma was. . .

The next day the will is read. Ma basically just rewarded the people that financially helped her, and consequently, they get the mother lode (no pun intended).

But, we begin arguing about who should have got what. Incendiary accusations are hurled. . . Copious amounts of alcohol consumed bring venomous resentments to a boil. There’s lots of screaming and red faces until everyone tires themselves out, retreating back to their rooms of quiet despair.

Our family has serious money issues. Something, I can’t remember exactly what, had forced my father to close his small investment firm in La Jolla, leaving us practically penniless.

Growing up poor in La Jolla had bonded us in paradoxical ways: it galvanized us in crisis while simultaneously engendering an "every man/woman/child out for themselves” mentality.

One night, to break up the negativity a bit Sis, Claire, boldly and enthusiastically suggests: “Hey, ya wanna all go back to my place? We can order a pizza and dance!”

We get home and eat. Joe, looking like a Santa Claus without the outfit, gets up to entertain. Red-faced and portly, he stomps his one good foot deafeningly into the floor as he sings bellicosely to Adele’s, “Into the Deep.” It sends us into wallops of laughter—baby sis, Sarah, vows to post it on FB—we know our friends will get a terrific kick out of it.

We end the evening in a big fat collective hug, laughing and crying at the same time. We let each other know at that moment that we love each other and stuff is just stuff, but family prevails.

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