The Velvet Family (the one I was born into, not the one I married) lost a very good friend of 40+ years last week. As neighbors, our family was intertwined with theirs. Their youngest son Zippy and my brother are best friends. Zippy’s wife is one of my best friends. Our parents were longstanding friends, doing favors for each other that signify a genuine friendship that is so rare these days. Our dear friends lost their father and husband.
The viewing and funeral resulted in my brother driving 800 miles and me driving 250, both like maniacs, to get to the viewing in time. What is typically a sad event was actually enjoyable because of all the old friends and old faces who got to see each other again. As X says, they only convene for weddings and funerals.
My parents and brothers went to the viewing as I was still stuck in the Bronx, trying to make it in time. We decided I would meet them there. When I arrived, I was instantly thrown into a hazy fog of recognizing people but not being able to remember their names. The funny thing about small towns is if you live there your whole life, you don’t forget anyone. I’ve lived in so many places that my brain is diluted. I know so many people that names just don’t come to me as fast as I want. The other funny thing about small towns, as I told Zippy when he rattled off a list of who had been there is, when you realize you dated everyone in town, it’s time to leave.
Goombah #1: I was just looking at the pictures of your mom and dad. Your mom was hot back in the day!
Zippy: Yeah, she’s available now, you want to ask her out?
Goombah #1: You’re not right. How’s your brother taking all this.
We looked over at Zippy’s older brother, pacing near the casket holding their father, and Zippy said, “We haven’t told him yet.”
At least he hasn’t lost his sense of humor.
My parents left earlier than I did. I stayed behind talking with a few people until I looked up and realized, yes, the balance of power tipped out of my favor. I said my goodbyes and went back to my parent’s house, where our childhood neighbor and my brother’s other bestie, Potato, was planted at our dinner table. What ensued between my parents, brothers, Potato and myself was probably the funniest and yet most comforting of conversations I’ve had in months. I went in and sat at the table.
Mom: Oh, you’re home.
Me: Yeah. After you guys left the last hour became a parade of my ex-boyfriends so I knew it was time to leave.
Potato: Who? I forgot some of these people!
Brother #2: We bumped into half her portfolio on the way out. [To me:] Hey. Get out of my chair.
I moved down a seat. He comes to dinner once a decade and it’s still his seat?
Potato: Hey, was that Tony Castinatta?
Me: THAT’S who that was. I couldn’t remember his name!
Potato: Okay, good, I thought I called him by the wrong name. After I said ‘Hi Tony’ I questioned myself and felt really bad for not remembering his name.
Me: That wouldn’t be the worst thing that’s happened to Tony Cas. The worst thing to happen to Tony Cas was when his wife started sleeping with her twin sister’s husband.
Me: How did you miss this? This was the scandal that rocked the entire eastern seaboard.
Brother #1: They’re twins?
Me: Yeah, identical. Weird, right.
Mom: I can’t believe you were one of the only ones who knew this all these years.
Me: Me either.
Potato: What ever happened to Jenny Simpson? She was so hot.
Brother #2: Time wasn’t so good to her. She peaked at 17 years old.
Mom: Her mother got a DUI, I read.
Potato: Yeah, she was leaving a country club, right? One of the ones in the back country. Oh, what’s the name…
At this point my father, mother, both brothers and I had a totally blank look on our faces as he tried to remember the name of said country club.
Me: Look around you. Who do you think you’re talking to? We’re not ‘in the know’ on country clubs. If you want to know where the nearest dumpster is, there’s your man [points at Dad] but naming a country club? Who do you think we are?
Dad: Good one Velv. [To Potato:] How’s your mother doing?
Potato: She’s broke again.
Dad: When she sold her house in the 90’s, your father told me to try to talk to her about her spending when I gave her the check for the proceeds.
Brother #1: Is that check still in your pocket?
Potato: That didn’t work. Though she does work for a consumer debt restructuring outfit, she still has no money and $40 grand in credit card debt.
Brother #1: Is she dating anyone?
Potato: Not since that guy who wrote me a letter telling me I was a loser.
Dad: I remember reading that letter!
Brother #1: Didn’t you have a fist fight with him?
Potato had to get back home to Jersey. But, he stood in our driveway for 20 minutes. He didn’t want to go. He kept looking over at his old house, directly across the street from my parent’s house, and wondering aloud what was going on in there.
When he left we went back inside and I said, “Tonight all five of us are sleeping in the house. Wow. It’s been a long time since it was all five of us, and just the five of us.”
Brother #1: At least 15 years.
Mom: At the rate the economy is going, all of you guys are going to be living back here. I’ll have to line you up on the living room floor.
Me: You would love that.
Mom: I would. It would be great to have all my babies back home.
And it would be great to be back. There’s no place like home.
It is such a rarity these days for families to be able to get together like that and have a good time, once the kids get older and their lives get in the way. It is a shame that it usually takes a funeral for it to happen, but when you have those moments, they are wonderful.
Condolences for your family friend. It’s weird how funerals can bring out the best in families and old friends. But wonderful when it works out like that, even under sad circumstances.
What a beautiful and heartwarming post. I think that a real sense of appreciation for all of the happy times somehow emerges during funerals and that tends to guide all conversations when people gather to honor a departed loved one.
Sorry for the loss of your family friend. But I’m glad you got to catch up with a lot of folks from back in the day. It’s nice to see you refer to your parents as Mom and Dad again, and not Gloom and Doom. There is nothing like a tight family.
Tyler – Thanks. That’s what we were all saying – that the weddings and funerals are what get people out.
Carrie – They did watch a sharp decline in his health the past couple weeks, and so last week when it became obvious he wasn’t going to pull through this time, his wife and three sons were there with him until the end. I think when they saw that decline in health, they were happy he went off to a better place. He was struggling for breath the last day, so they felt like anything was better than this.
Cyndy – Yes, it was a good couple days all in all. The family is in pretty good spirits, they were so happy that so many people came to the funeral.
Siryn – I’m sure they’ll be back to Gloom and Doom soon enough. They were on good behavior. But they are entrenched in this Hoarders-like project of cleaning out the garage…it’s guaranteed to turn the tide shortly.