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Occupation: Girl

Please close the door and switch on the fun without fail.

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To start, we're okay. The tornadoes seem to have hit Mississippi the hardest. We had some scary-looking skies, strong winds, and hellacious rain, but that was it.

Second, the funeral for my great-aunt was on Thursday. (Wednesday was Pallas Cat Day on my Tumblr, because I needed a Pallas Cat Day, quite frankly.) It was held in a little churchyard cemetery up in north Alabama, not quite as far up as Decatur, but pretty close. It was the kind of place that had more cows than people and more churches than cows. I enjoyed the cows a lot. 

One of the things I love about Alabama is that there's undeveloped woodland everywhere, even in the cities, and it's all beautiful--so if you're out in the country, it's going to be really great.

The real problem with the drive (if you're my mother) or the ride (if you're me) was that it was two hours both ways. And that's if you don't get lost. Which we did, on the way back, and the Google Maps GPS did not seem to recognize our location as being anywhere near where it actually was, and then when we did find I-65, it was closed for a really ugly wreck right on the exit we needed to take.

It was also near the towns of Arab (AY-rab), Egypt, and Hog Jaw. Oh, Alabama.

Anyway. It was fairly informal, just a graveside service led by one of my aunts, and she and a couple of the other aunts spoke a bit, and then she opened the floor to anyone else who wanted to speak. And she'd asked me before they started if I wanted to, and at the time I'd said I wasn't sure if I could hold it together up there. And then I watched a couple of my cousins get up there and get very emotional about our great-aunt, and I thought, I lived with her for nearly twenty years. There was a point where she was somewhere between a grandmother and a third parent to me. If I didn't speak--and God only knew what I could think of to say on that kind of notice--I don't think I'd ever feel anything but regret afterwards. So when my aunt asked if anyone else wanted to say something, and there was a lull, I said "I will" (and then I had to change from my sunglasses to my regular glasses, which was super smooth, but okay), and went up to the little podium and started talking.

The thing is, I had been the only person who hadn't been crying at all through the entire event. Not a sniffle. And once the aunts started talking, for some reason--every time they said my great-aunt's name--her name wasn't Mary, but let's say, every time someone referred to her as "Aunt Mary" (and everyone, regardless of generation, did), it made me smile. And they told fun, sweet stories about her, and those made me smile even more, whereas everyone else was sobbing. The whole crowd must have thought I was insane. So I got up there and said, "I'm one of the children she helped to raise." And I only spoke for a minute or two, but the gist of it was, "I can't bring myself to cry, because all I have are happy memories of her." And of course, as soon as I said that, I got a bit teary. But only a bit.

It only occurred to me later that I probably should have been terrified of getting up there to speak. It just... honestly didn't occur to me. I was more concerned about saying something coherent on short notice than being nervous. Maybe I have the Made of Fail podcast to thank for this, I don't know.

I almost didn't want to mention this, wasn't sure I should, but--some of y'all have been reading here for so many years, and you'll understand the significance of what I'm about to tell you, that I kind of feel like I should. I don't want to go through it all over again, but the short version is, my father walked out when I was 19, and I hadn't seen or heard from him since. And I'm the only one who hadn't seen or heard from him, and I had very conflicted feelings about this--like, 55% relief that he's gone, and 45% fierce indignation that he's still gone. Like, I don't want to see him, but I'm insulted that he doesn't even want to make the effort. But I don't want him to make the effort! But I don't understand why he won't! My emotional baggage, let me show you it. And I knew that he would be at this funeral--it's his aunt, after all--and that I had to go, and he had to go, and because it's not about us, there would be no way around it. And I had been dreading this moment for twelve years--not because I thought he would do anything, but because (as previously mentioned) I have a severe Elinor Dashwood complex, and I was really afraid that whatever reaction I had been repressing but, finally, in this moment, expressed, I would not be able to control it. I might burst into tears, I might flee the scene, I might start screaming blue murder in the middle of the cemetery, I might trip over my own feet and fall over, I might punch him in the head. I really did not know which one it might be. And that's why I wore my sunglasses pretty much the whole time, so I could survey the scene without making actual eye contact. (Although it was, truly, so bright out that I got an actual sunburn--a little keyhole-neckline sunburn.) I saw him when I first walked into the cemetery, and--it was a strange feeling. I can't quite describe it. He looked more the way I remembered him than I had expected him to, but at the same time--the last time I'd seen him, I was 19. He looked very different to me there at my age of 31, the way that everything from your childhood looks smaller when you're grown-up. I didn't really feel anything else--not anything new, not anything uncontrollable.

A few minutes later, someone passed word to me that he wanted to talk to me. "Well, he's not gonna get to," I said pleasantly. And that was it. He circled the cemetery for the next hour, and almost every time I looked over to see where he was, he was looking at me. I don't know what he wanted to say to me, and I kind of don't care; I am no Pandora. I suspect it would have been some attempt at whitewashing the situation and ignoring everything that had happened, along the lines of, "So, how are you doing?" At which point, "I DON'T KNOW, DO YOU WANT ME TO START WITH 1998, OR A BIT LATER THAN THAT?" would have jumped out of my mouth, and it would have been bad. Whatever it was, it was not a conversation I wanted to have at a funeral.

And the next day, Friday, I woke up feeling really good. I just felt--really at peace with the whole day before, even if it had been tense and physically draining at the time. I don't know if I deserved to feel at peace, given that I hadn't seen my aunt very often since she had moved away, but I did. And this huge weight had also been lifted from me--twelve years of squirrelly anxiety that I might run into him, that someone might try to throw us together, what would I say, what would I do, what would he think, and--I don't have to worry about that anymore. It's over, and I got out of there with my dignity intact and no warrants out for my arrest, and while I still don't particularly want to see him, I don't feel that towering indignation anymore. It's like--I got some weird kind of closure, just by getting the opportunity to say no. Which I don't think I'd ever said to him before, in essence. I just--felt like a different, lighter person when I woke up the next day. I don't know.

Meanwhile, I have a ton of work to do, and I actually feel like doing it.  

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I find that when I'm at funerals I don't bother to try to show those "appropriate" feelings that other people do unless I actually feel them. Which says nothing whatsoever on how I feel about the person who died. I buried a friend recently, and I got a little teary at most during his funeral, but a day later when I was home with my husband I cried like nobody's business. You just feel what you feel when you feel it, and that's that.

Had I a glass of something, I would raise it in honor of your great-aunt and the amazing woman she helped raise.

Glad to know you're much better now.

Speaking about Pallas cats - I didn't see that one in your collection yet. Enjoy.


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I dont think anyone would be judging your for not crying.

When I get upset past the point of all endurance, I do some weird circle where instead of crying I start laughing hysterically at everything, the kind of back-away-from-the-crazy-person laugh. And that was my mother's funeral. So I'd say no-crying is fine.

That was kind of my mother's funeral too. Me and my dad and my husband on the front row trying not to giggle too much at how ridiculous it all was.

I'm glad some weight got taken off your shoulder. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to carry that around with you for twelve years.

May your great-aunt rest in peace.

I've been reading your blog for several years, and I must say I'm ecstatic that you seem to have gotten some bit of closure with your ex-father. I'm happy that you realize that you now have the power in that relationship (or lack thereof).

I'm terribly sorry about your Aunt's passing and I'm glad you take joy in all of the happy memories that you have with her. Absolutely DO NOT feel bad about not crying. Everyone grieves in their own way and NO ONE has the right to tell you how you should feel or how you should act in this situation. As long as you are genuine, you are right and it's right for you. Period. <3

Many bountiful blessings from deep in the heart of Texas!

I'm estranged from my entire immediate family (who estranged themselves from the rest of the family -- oh, the drama!) and feel exactly the same way. I want them to leave me alone, but then it sometimes irks me that they don't give a shit enough to call, but if they called, I'd probably not answer if I knew it was them because the last time they called, they phoned us in the middle of the night threatening to sue us because of something I wrote that they found on a website after much googling, so I don't want them to phone anyway, etc.

That sounds like a lovely speech. My condolences on your loss.
(I know what you mean about the not crying, though; I didn't cry at my father's funeral and we were quite close (I was in my early 20s when he died and still living at home). I used to feel bad about it but now it doesn't worry me, which is nice.)

Also, I saw your comment about your father being there above the cut and knew the significance, and I'm so glad that it turned out how it did and you feel better now.

Went through a similar situation of finding the power to say no to seeing a family member, and last weekend, after several years, finally got an endorsement of my choice and an apology for not believing what I was saying from the important members of my family. My sister asked me if I was happy about it, and no, I'm not happy that things have gotten so bad that now everyone can see what I was seeing, but I feel, I don't know, vindicated that my choice proved to be the right one, that my choice will be respected in the future, and (and this is slightly terrible of me) glad that certain people who didn't take it seriously felt bad enough to apologize.

I was forced to see the family member a few months ago, and I was berated for not being "friendly enough." (At the time I was also really sick, so I think my stuffy-nosed glaring and pathetic coughing should have helped my case, not made my extended and immediate family feel I was being purposefully rude.) In cases such a that, I think channeling Elinor Dashwood for a while is a great help, because when I detached myself from the situation at that time I was better able to make it through as best I could, to think out a good strategy as sensibly as possible, and then deal with my feelings in a more appropriate manner than, say, causing a huge scene and storming out of dinner (though apparently my not giving this person a big hug and goodbye when I finally got to leave was tantamount to the same thing. *eyeroll*). Miss Dashwood is coming in use again since now that everyone knows and believes the whole score I'm being asked for my advice and in-depth discussion, when I thought I had made it clear the whole point was to not be involved at all.

Sense and Sensibility - psychological armor for the ages, and still hilariously funny.

Thanks for sharing your story; hearing yours makes me feel less alone with mine, and I really appreciate it.

I'm so happy for you that you were able to get some closure from the situation. I think worrying about running into someone like that can produce more anxiety than when the event actually occurs. Good for you for standing your ground (and, also I suppose, not punching him in the head. Although no one would fault you for that.)

I love this line, and I'm saving it for when I inevitably have to have this sort of conversation with my father.

*hugs* I'm happy you were able to get up and speak at her funeral. It sounds as though you did a beautiful job of it.

And I think you handled the situation with your dad well. I haven't seen my dad since I was 16 and haven't spoken to him since I was 18. And I'm 31 now. So I kind of understand where you're coming from. Especially with the 'Why doesn't he contact me/I don't want him to contact me' bit.

I'm very glad you feel like you got a bit of closure on the whole subject. You deserve every bit of happiness you can find. :-)

Elinor Dashwood would have been proud of your conduct. I am so impressed: what a healthy, stable, appropriate way to have handled the funeral (in general) and the near-encounter with your biological father (in particular).