Monday, August 2, 2010

In which I go to another darn funeral

Dr J, my mother's gentleman caller, died suddenly and unexpectedly last week. He fell down the stairs ten days ago, hit his head, went into a coma, and had a stroke. He died five days later without regaining consciousness.

I am getting tired of the nice people dying and the mean people hanging on. Now I know where the phrase, "Too mean to die" comes from. Although my mom pointed out that if I were God, who would I want with me? The mean people or the nice ones? I think there is a solution for that - send the mean people to H-E- double hockey sticks, but I bit my tongue on that one because that really is a horrible thing to wish for someone.

We are devastated. Dr J was the sweetest, most gracious man. We all loved him. He and my mom live two days driving apart. He would call her and visit her and send her flowers. When he was home, he would visit my grandmother in her nursing home, which was about 50 miles from his house.

We have known Dr J since I was five and he and his family lived in the same apartment building as my mother, my brother, my sister and I. My dad was in Vietnam. Dr J lived down the hall from us.

My first memory of him was when he gave me rabies shots. Fourteen of them. In my stomach. I had played with a mouse in the window well after my mother had told me to stay away from it. When it bit me, I wrapped my finger in kleenex, thinking she wouldn't noticed a bloody tissue on my finger and put two and two together.

She did. Moms figure out everything.

She took me to the hospital for my first shot, but then Dr J came over every evening for the next two weeks to give me the remainder.

Have you ever had a shot in your stomach?

It hurts like heck.

He and my mom had to pull me out from under the bed, where I was grabbing the bedposts. Then my mom would sit on my arms and he would sit on my legs. All that muscle tensing did not make the shot any more pleasant.

I think I have since learned that the old rabies series was ineffective anyhow.

My mother stayed friends with Dr J and his wife. Four years ago, Mrs J died. Dr J and my mother began writing and phone calling. A long-distance courtship. He asked her to marry him, she said yes. She later decided that she treasured her independence too much to re-marry, but she and Dr J maintained their relationship.

He was the only non-family member at our wedding. His wedding gift to me, although he might not have known this was his gift, was to sit with Primo's parents, Sly and Doris, during our wedding supper and keep them distracted from Primo and me, who wanted to actually enjoy our meal instead of listening to his parents' whining. If you don't know why this is such a big deal, you need to read the archives of this blog, starting at the very beginning.

At first I felt guilty about trying to avoid Sly and Doris, but then I thought, "It's my darn wedding celebration and I should not have to play hostess to jerks."

Dr J was a modest man, but he passed Sly's snob/intellect meter because he was a doctor. Little did Sly know that Dr J's religious and political beliefs were 180 degrees from Sly's. Dr J did not need to inject politics into every conversation and could avoid being drawn into a political argument, even when the other side said something inflammatory. If Sly had known about Dr J's beliefs, his head would have been spinning as he tried to figure out the, "My sister! My daughter!" dilemma of, "Smart! But those beliefs! Nobody smart can believe those things!"

My mother was going to drive to the funeral, but Primo and I convinced her that jumping into the car for a two-day trek was insanity. We got her a ticket here with Primo's frequent flyer miles. She arrives today, then she and I will drive the four hours north to the visitation and funeral tomorrow. She will leave on Saturday.

Dr J is the third boyfriend my mother has buried since my dad died 14 years ago. The other two, whom I didn't know, died of cancer. Dr J, I knew well. He visited Primo and me when he was in town, taking us out to dinner at one of the nicest restaurants here. Primo drove Dr J's brand new car into town. I opened my door before Primo had stopped and gouged the door against the grillwork in front of the restaurant. Primo and I were horrified and told Dr J we would of course pay for the repairs, but he tossed it off, saying he would have the dealer touch it up.

I stopped to see him when I drove north to see my relatives. He and I sat together at my grandmother's funeral last summer and snuck out before the burial to get a diet Coke at the corner store. He was always sending wine ideas to Primo and sent us flowers and three bottles of very, very, very nice wine for a wedding present.

He was a lovely, lovely man and we didn't even get the chance to say goodbye.