The Happy Homemaker: "Uncle Rob" and "The Wake"

posted Dec 21, 2013, 6:26 AM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Dec 21, 2013, 6:26 AM ]

I inadvertently started a new story series on my blog that began with a rather amusing but improbable imagining of me as a husband and father. So I’ve decided to start posting them here three (or in this case, two) at a time…


“Uncle Rob”

Have you ever tried to explain death to an 8-year-old who, up until now, had the good fortune of never having to deal with it before?

I did and I'm still not sure if mine was actually able to understand it or not.

Bradley's Great-Uncle Rob passed away over the weekend. He was one of Bradley's favorite family members. He was among the first to show support to Bradley when he came out at the age of 20. He was among the first to embrace me when I entered the family picture. And while he didn't fully understand our need/desire to adopt a child (not because he didn't think it was right for two gay men to have children, it was just that he and his late wife had five of their own and after the first one, he yearned for his days as, what he called, a bachelor with a wife -- a designation neither Bradley nor I sought any further explanation of), Uncle Rob took to Pierpont as if he were one of his own grandchildren.

And Pierpont took to him like they were best friends on the playground at school.

Being Uncle Rob's Power of Attorney, Bradley had to rush off to Tucson to handle the arrangements. It was a responsibility his children felt belonged with members of the immediate family as opposed to extended family -- which is exactly, as Uncle Rob told us, why he selected Bradley to serve as such.

But this left me with the task of breaking the news to Pierpont. Ordinarily, I would have been upset at Bradley for dumping this task into my lap, but how could I get mad at a man who is going to all but fall apart when all this is said and done? (I don't. I'm going to wait a few months and then tell him he is going to be the one to explain the facts of life to the aforementioned 8-year-old should he ever ask. Then I'll put the agreement in writing and have it notarized.)

But Bradley made an already difficult task even more difficult for me. He only went as far as telling Pierpont that he had to leave right away to go take care of Uncle Rob. Of course, Pierpont wanted to go. But the more Bradley explained to Pierpont why he couldn't go just yet, the more upset Pierpont became. So not only did I have to explain death to an 8-year-old, I had to calm him down in order to do it.

"At least he's already crying," Bradley joked [badly] as he kissed me good-bye, mouthed an apology and rushed out the front door.

I walked into the living room where Pierpont had run into and, based on how he was sprawled out on it, thrown himself onto the couch. I sat down on the section that wasn't becoming drenched in tears and patted him on the leg.

"Come here, little man," I said.

Pierpont lifted up his head. "I want to go see Uncle Joe with Daddy," he whined through tears and then dropped his head back down into his folded arms.

"I know you do, but you can't. And don't whine."

"Why not?" he asked into his folded arms, his voice muffled.

"Because you're eight years old."

Pierpont shot me a quizzical look. I admittedly answered the wrong question on purpose to be a smart ass. "Why can't I go see Uncle Joe with Daddy?" he asked again.

"Because Uncle Joe has passed away."

Pierpont turned his entire body around. "What does that mean?"

"It means he...is...dead." (I figured the direct approach was best).

Pierpont sat himself up on the couch. "Dead?"

"Yes, as in no longer with us -- on this earth."

"Where did he go?"

Bradley was adamant against us imposing any sort of religion onto Pierpont -- opting instead to let him find some semblance of it on his own. So saying "heaven" or "hell" was out of the question.

"Well, his spirit is still with us, but it is separated from his body -- which was taken to a place to be prepared for what we call the viewing."

I could see this play out on Pierpont's face as he tried to figure out what I was saying. "Who took it?" he asked.

"Who took what?"

"Who took his spirit?"

Again I was constrained by Bradley's adamance. "No one took his spirit, Uncle Joe's body just couldn't handle it anymore."

"Why?"

"Because Uncle Joe was 85 and sometimes you get to be a certain age and bodies have to rest for a long, long time. So it releases the spirit to roam free."

Pierpont looks around the room. "Is Uncle Joe's spirit in here?"

"In a sense, yes. So you can still talk to him at any time and ask him questions. If you listen carefully, you'll hear his response in the trees, in the air and as you sleep."

"Like a ghost?"

"Kinda, but not the scary kind -- the kind that helps us and guides us and comforts us."

"So we'll see Uncle Joe in a couple of days?"

"Yes."

Pierpont looks around the living room again. "But he's here now?"

"His spirit is, yes."

"So why are we going to go see him if he's already here?"

"Well, we are going to see his body so we can mourn his passing away."

"Why?"

"Because a lot of Uncle Joe's family and friends are sad that he is no longer here."

Pierpont crawled over to me and sat on my lap. "Do they know about his ghost spirit?"

I smiled at Pierpont. "I don't know what they know, but I do know that they would prefer Uncle Joe to still be here to talk to and visit and hug."

"Is Daddy sad?"

"Yes he is."

"I'll talk to him first. Are you sad?"

I gave Pierpont a hug. "I am sad, but it's a different sad than Daddy's sad and everyone else's sad."

"I'll make them all feel better," Pierpont said as he rolled off the couch and headed upstairs.

"Where are you going?" I asked.

"To Arizona to tell everyone about Uncle Joe's ghost spirit."

"But we aren't leaving until Friday morning."

Pierpont did an about-face and walked into the kitchen. "Okay then, what's for dinner?"

 

“The Wake” 

"So which one of your relatives is the most likely to casket-jump?" I whisper to Bradley as we stood on the front porch of his Uncle Rob's house. Bradley's Uncle Rob had recently died and Bradley was both the Power of Attorney and Executor of the Estate, so he had already been in Tucson a few days prior to Pierpont and I joining him for the wake and funeral.

"If Aunt Theodosia's funeral is any indication, it'll be Aunt Jean," he whispered back.

"What did she do?

"Aunt Jean asked to be escorted to the casket, where she broke down and had to be escorted back to her seat. It happened at both the wake and the funeral..."

Bradley paused to greet a fellow mourner, who offered him their condolences. I pretended to wave at a relative across the room to avoid the awkwardness of a sympathetic conversation with someone I don't know and probably won't see again.

The mourner walked away and Bradley continued. "...at the cemetery, she collapsed onto the casket and wouldn't allow herself to be lifted up until it was being lowered into the plot..."

Bradley then paused again to greet the next condolence-offering mourner. I bent down to tie a shoe that wasn't even untied to begin with.

As soon as they left, I rose back up and Bradley continued. "...she must have gotten over it by the repass because she made three trips to her car -- each with two plates of food. And a box of leftover programs. To this day, I have no idea what she needed with them or what she did with them."

"Is Aunt Jean a relatively tall, slender woman with graying hair pulled back in a bun?"

"As of the last funeral, yes. Why?"

"Because she's headed this way."

A teary-eyed woman of more than a certain age walks towards us with arms wide open. "Bradley dear, it's so good to see you."

Bradley embraces her. "How are you, Aunt Jean?" he asks.

"I guess I'm holding up. But I'm going to need your strength. Hello, um...Terrence. It's good to see you again. We've missed you at the last couple family reunions. Just because your union has caused some controversy in this family doesn't mean that we don't still put family first," Aunt Jean said as she placed a gentle hand on my face. "We love you just as much as we would if you were a woman."

I placed a gentle hand on hers. "Thank you, Aunt Jean. I might just do that."

Not exactly sure how to respond, Aunt Jean just embraced me and then turned to a stunning piece of man flesh behind her. I could only presume he was one of Bradley's cousins, so let me rephrase "stunning piece of man" and describe him as "don't do this at a wake".

"Do you know if there is an easel around here?" Aunt Jean asked. "I made a collage and I want to put it at the front of the chapel next to the casket."

She showed us her contribution to the um...festivities. And it answered the question as to what was done with those programs from Aunt Theodosia's funeral.

"I'll go look," I said as I quickly walked away. It wasn't necessarily out of a need or desire to help her find an easel as much as I needed to remove myself from the situation before I started laughing. Out loud. At yet another wake. I don't know how Bradley was going to keep a straight face.

As I walked by the casket, I saw Pierpont standing in front of it with two relatives of Bradley's I had never met.

"He was my dear old Uncle Rob," I overheard Pierpont saying to the relative strangers. "I just loved him so much. I miss him already."

"Hi, I'm Terrence. This is my son Pierpont," I interjected with an extended hand. "I hope he's not bothering you."

"He's fine, Terrence. He's just adorable," the relative strangers replied. "We're Denise and Theo, Uncle Rob's youngest son's second wife's kids from her first marriage."

I was taken aback by the connection. "Welcome to the family. Let's see if I can do this: I'm Uncle Joe's favorite nephew's first and hopefully only husband."

Denise and Theo laugh. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

"Likewise."

"Dad...."

"Yes, Pierpont."

"Uncle Rob just moved."

For some reason, Denise, Theo and I looked over at the Uncle Rob's dead body. I kneeled down next to Pierpont. "Pierpont, Uncle Joe is dead. He shouldn't be moving."

"Then why is he?"

"Pierpont, Uncle Rob is not moving. But if he is, he doesn't mean to."

Pierpont suddenly let out a loud, high-pitched, ear-piercing scream. I quickly muffled it, excused myself from Denise and Theo and ran out of the chapel to the nearest room with a door. I removed my hand as Pierpont finished screaming and grabbed him by the shoulders.

"You know better than the scream like that in public."

"I know, Dad, but I saw Uncle Rob move."

"Fine. But even if you did, you don't scream like that. Now, are you ready to go back in?"

Pierpont shook his head.

"Do you want to leave?"

Pierpont shook his head.

"What do you want to do?"

Pierpont burst into tears. I gave him a hug, picked him up and sat down in the nearest chair just as Bradley rushed in.

"I heard a scream and they told me you two were in here. What happened?"

"He saw Uncle Rob move."

"Is he okay?"

"Yeah, he'll be fine. I guess. But it might be best if he skips the funeral."

"Aunt Jean has been banned from family funerals. I'll ask her he can stay here with her. It just so happens that she volunteered to let the caterers in when they deliver the food this afternoon."

I smiled at Bradley. "I hope you ordered enough for her to sneak into the trunk of her car."

Bradley smiled back. "Yes I did. And they'll be in good company with the extra box of programs Uncle Rob pre-ordered for her."