Monday, March 25, 2013

Funeral Suits

I remember when I decided on this Flusser suit. Navy blue might not be the most flattering color on me but like white dress shirts, every guy’s wardrobe has some of  it; flattering or not. 
This one is a lightweight, Super Damn One Hundred-Something…I wear it year round but rarely. Rarely because there just aren’t that many dressy occasions that require it these days and I’ve never been good at the two-piece suit with no tie routine.

I remember wearing it to the Old Presbyterian Meeting House one Sunday with my soon to be fiancĂ© and her parents. I had coffee with her father the morning before. He and I played golf and I asked him for his daughter’s hand. Wonder if LFG’s future husband will do the same. Shit, I wonder if I’ll be here for the asking. I stopped going to the Old Presbyterian Meeting House when I got divorced. I don’t miss it.
 Sleeve cuffs. I first saw them on Richard Merkin’s seersucker rig in that epic GQ article that he wrote about his closet. And I wanted sleeve cuffs. Flusser and Rykken obliged.
And of course I fuzzied it up further with English Split Back Fishtail trousers. Look at that tail.
 This is my dressiest suit…even with its Duke of Windsor-esque windowpane casual insouciance. It hasn’t seen many weddings but it has become my funeral suit. Navy blue is appropriately sombre and the windowpane’s jauntiness says that even though this is a funeral, we ain’t gotta forgo sprezzatura completely.
 My uncle, a lobbyist for the rural electric cooperatives, gave me a Willie Wiredhand lapel pin when I was about four years old. I thought that little guy was the bomb and even though I had no lapel to pin it on, my mom would pin it right smack dab in the middle of my shirt. When I was a pallbearer at my uncle’s funeral about four years ago, I wore my navy blue windowpane suit…with Willie Wiredhand pinned to my lapel. And for you city slickers who know nothing about the rural electrification effort, here's the skinny on Willie...“Willie Wiredhand was created for use by rural electric cooperatives and public utility districts. Willy was a stick figure, with a lamp socket for a head, an electric plug for legs and feet, and wore gloves similar to those worn by farmers.”
 The cool, kinda hippie guy who preached my aunt Kat’s funeral stopped me at the graveside after the other pallbearers and I had placed our lapel flowers on her casket. He wanted to know who made my windowpane suit. It was totally appropriate for him to ask about such temporal things. Even though I was still crying over the loss of my Aunt Kat, my tears were joyful. She’d had a great run. We shot the shit about clothes for a while and when he saw me walk towards my little British Racing Green Mini Cooper convertible, he just shook his head. “Cool car to go with your suit” he said. The graveyard in Timmonsville South Carolina doesn’t see much of the city-slicker type too often.
 And when my stepfather so beautifully exited this world one morning, sitting in his chair…not one bit of struggle involved, I pulled my trusty windowpane suit from the closet and headed to Florence for his funeral-celebration. He was one of the most decent people to ever tread this world. There was more joy than pain associated with donning my windowpane crepe for his sign-off. 
 But here’s the deal. There was never any ambiguity when I pulled my trusty suit from the closet for my stepfather, aunt Kat and my uncle. They were gone. But Wednesday before last I pulled it from the closet, chose a white dress shirt and a solid silver tie to accompany it, and placed it in the travel bag. It would have been foolish to head back to South Carolina without it. My sibs and I were removing my mom from her respirator two days later. And by all counts, given that we had a very emphatic DNR order in place, the chances of needing the suit were high. But there’s something just four-plus f_cked up about readying your funeral kit for someone who’s still alive—technically alive.
I returned home to Alexandria last Thursday afternoon with my funeral kit still in the bag. I do not wish this moment upon anyone even though I suspect that it’s a rather common duty amongst middle-aged folks with aging parents. I’m not a puker but there’s been a time or two over the last twenty days where if I coulda, I believe I’d have felt better. We removed my mother from life support and she decided that she wasn’t finished living. Shit. I was already out of the Kubler-Ross starting blocks. My bereavement launch had to be scratched when the countdown was at the two second mark. I love my mama but this is some cruel, wicked shit bar none.

I leave again this Wednesday to head back down into the belly of this “what do we do with mama now”, beast. Happy? Optimistic? I don’t know yet. And that damned Kubler-Ross didn’t write anything about a bipolar hopscotch game of jumping in and out of various realities. I wrote an update email a moment ago to a good friend. There’s enough news in it to capture some of my additional sentiments. And for now, the navy blue Super Damn One-Hundred whatever is back in the closet.

 “Hey P.W. …

This remains an all-consuming wild ride. And in some ways, I think it's kind of a bad joke that the fates is playing on me and my sibs. I packed my funeral suit when I headed back down to SC. It woulda been foolish not to but I did feel really odd reaching for my navy blue windowpane suit while my mama was still alive. This entire ordeal has been trippy that way.

My mother can't move her arms or legs. But her mind is back...99% and with a vengeance. It took me several hours after she came off the respirator to explain what had happened. She asked to see her surgical site on her abdomen. I showed her and she processed what had happened and how close to death she was. I told her about her heart and kidneys and brain function and how she had been essentially dead to the world for ten days. I was trying to be upbeat and happy and speak slowly since I could tell that she was still confused. Then, after realizing that she'd been out for almost two weeks, she expressed in her wobbly, respirator tube compromised voice, frustration about missing two episodes of a show called The Walking Dead. Poleaxed is an understatement.

So we've all had to shift gears from grieving and prepping and letting go to the high stress processes of what we shall do with/for her next. I am not optimistic about her quality of life but this And her rally, her decision to not yet leave us, has been a primal one. One not augmented by medical interventions that we did not want. The Do Not Resuscitate order was and is in full force. But she just decided that it wasn't her time.

I'm home with LFG....for four days and I can't begin to tell you how restorative it has been to reconnect with her. And she's been the sweetest to me. I've now got to re-engage in work stuff or my already slow business is gonna evaporate further. I'm not an Ativan guy but Xanax has been my trusted friend throughout this journey. And I'll resume it on Wednesday when I head back down to help out.

Stay tuned and stay warm. And send me my Mercedes and some squirrel money to go with it when your lottery money rolls in.





The Leopard said...

ADG, First of all I'm praying for your mother. All of us who have been through the middle age parent/child karma experience (they take care of us then we take care of them)feel for you. Went through this dance with my father 10 years ago and I remember every second of it until the end. All I can say to you is rejoice in the love of those around you, remember the good times and that as your mother has already proved miracles happen. Godspeed my friend.

Scale Worm said...

Dearest D.
I wish you and your siblings, LFG, and of course your dear mother nothing but the best in whatever the future leads you all to.
You are a genius at writing, and by your sharing with us all your life observations and feelings is a token that I treasure so very much.
I wish you well Brother, I truly do.
Much Love to you and yours.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing. I'm a little older Southern, Weejun, Gant, Tams USC grad and law school guy and we did surf the wave of the best parents, uncles,aunts ever.

CeceliaMc said...

Suits? quality of life?

Get your goddamn ass in gear and get her a way to catch up on her tv show!

CeceliaMc said...

Amazon serves up episodes of The Walking Dead for March 2013 at two bucks an episode.

She could watch them on a mobile device using the hospital's wi-fi.

ADG said...

CeMac...thanks. My baby brother has it covered. They watched the two episodes together. My mother--and her damn priorities.

AnonWeejunGant...I heartily agree.

ScaleWorm...many thanks. But I ain't no genius anything.

Leopard...thanks, man. As I've said a hundred times in the last two weeks, this episode isn't unique but it's damn sure profound.