a Cheap Holiday

Cheap Holiday

Welcome to a cheap holiday in my life. At least you get to go home at the end of the day!

Sunday, December 30, 2001

I was all set to begin my post-holiday starvation routine in ernest today, but when my stepmom is cooking things like chicken breasts baked with Italian dressing, green bean casserole with French-fried onion topping, cornbread, and white rice with pork gravy, well fuggit. I guess I'll just have to skip dinner and give up noshing on the butterscotch haystacks she made. Remember those things? Butterscotch chips melted and mixed with Chinese chow mein noodles? Damn, but white-trash cooking is tasty stuff and in my world of unagi nigiri and wasabi-mashed potatoes, the only time I indulge in it is when I visit relatives. So now I'm carrying around five extra pounds of green bean casserole weight. I feel like a happy, well-fed, Southern-drawling whale.

What has been a restful, no-exertion day for me has ended up being a workday for my Dad and stepmom. A few years after my father formerly retired, a new funeral home opened up on his block and he's held a part-time job there in logistics (i.e., driving the hearse and other necessary arrangements) ever since. Last year, he got my stepmom into hostessing for the viewings. Since death never takes a holiday, they ended up having a viewing to work tonight.

Some of my friends think it's morbid that I find my father's post-retirement vocation to be so cool. I'm not a death-obsessed Gawth chick, I swear. I think in any other community, or with any other upbringing, I would be less thrilled by it. But the reality of the situation is that it fulfills many basic needs in his life. First off, the wage supplements his retirement income, which is always a good thing. Secondly, he's prearranged and paid in full his own funeral plan. I know for a fact that when my father passes on, I'll be too much of a mental case to be able to make any immediate decisions, so I appreciate that he's taken care of this in advance. He even showed me the casket he picked out (and people call me a freak; I come by it honest!). But primarily, in small Southern towns, funerals are a major social event, so he constantly gets to see his friends. Given that I have friends whose elderly parents have just given up on building social contacts, I am not ungrateful for this benefit in his and my stepmom's life.

Plus, he lets me in on some of the arcana of the funerary industry. I asked him today - while we were eating lunch, of course - at what point the funeral director informed him that a job was coming up. When the hospital contacts the funeral home to arrange delivery of the body? When the family sets the date for the viewing? Dad said it varied, it was more about opportunity to communicate, than a specific system. However, he did inform me that the funeral home had a nifty Paul Revere-type signal set up: if the lamps in the windows flanking the front door of the funeral home were lit, it meant that there was a new body in residence. Since my Dad and stepmom have to drive past the funeral home to get to their house, this makes for an efficient and elegant communications device. Now, where the hell else are you going to get that kind of juicy tidbit except from an industry insider, I ask you? Lawd, I do feel about like Carson McCullers nowadays.


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