Monday, June 14, 2004

So the family torture weekend never became torture. I actually had a good time. It's true. I made it up to the New Hampshire house around 9:30 on Friday night, and dinner hadn't even been served yet. It turns out that my father's-father's side of the family are a bunch of fun drunks. Well, they aren't loud and crazy, but they enjoy the wine. At the house were my grand-uncle's children (four daughters) and several of the daughters' spouses and young-adult children. Their newly-widowed mother was also there. I really like her; she seems to be more optimistic and open than my grandmother, who has always seemed unhappy and disappointed (at least since I was a baby). Anyway, dinner was nice. I was under some questioning that put me on the spot, which I don't like, but I had decided before I arrived to enjoy myself as much as I could, so when I had the floor I was joking around a little, going with the flow. By the end of the night I was feeling like I was fitting in. The nonstop wine pouring might have had something to do with that.

The next day we drove up north to Sabbaday Falls (the name is from the early-settlers' slurring of Sabbath Day) and we met up with my parents and my grandmother. It was a perfect weather day. It's the very start of motorcycle week, and there were Harleys everywhere, lots of people riding on the curvy roads of the White Mts. National Park without helmets (Live Free or Die!). I was concerned that the "Impeach Bush" bumper sticker on my car was going to get me a punch in the face, but it never materialized. One motorcycle's licence plate frame said "MY OTHER TOY HAS TITS." You kind of have to admire these guys for resolutely staying put in the seventies.

At the Falls area, we wheelchaired the two widows up a dirt path to a place upstream from the head of the falls. We turned off and gathered in a clearing in the trees near the river, and a few people gave some readings: a couple of psalms, an e.e. cummings poem, and a letter my grand-uncle wrote to my grandfather in the 40s. Then it was time. My dad took the small cardboard box out of a paper bag and opened it to reveal a sturdy clear-plastic bag, tied with a plastic tie with a metal dogtag on it. Inside the bag were the white ash remains of his father. I followed him to the rocky riverbank, where he untied the bag, and calmy perched on some rocks and poured, slowly, the ash into the water. It's amazing how small a body becomes when all of the water is steamed away. How colorless, too. As he poured the ash into the stream, a large plume of white filled the pool below, and dissipated slowly on its way to the sea.

Then it was my grandfather's brother's turn to be laid to rest. His daughters opened up the bag of his ashes and they each scooped a cup and spread it on the ground. Then they took the remaining ash and cast it into the water, "so they can play together" my mom said. They were all crying, whereas my parents and I were more sober about it all. My grandfather died after suffering from Alzheimers for years, where my grand-uncle had died just two months after being diagnosed with cancer, so the pain was still a shock to them.

We each gathered a rock or two from the river (choosing some nice pieces of New Hampshire granite) and then made our way down to the picnic area at the bottom. We decided it would be best to wheel my grandmother down backwards, since she could lean back that way, and there were some giddy near-mishaps along the way. My grandmother was chuckling over it all, while being bounced around down the path.

After eating lunch I said goodbye to the main group; my grand-aunt (?) said it was nice to get to know me better, which was very sweet. My parents and two of my dad's cousins decided to go to Center Harbor and a huge fancy quilt store there. I made Mom ride with me so we could chat and she could see for herself how non-depressed I am. I think it worked. After the quilt store I drove back home, totally tired and almost driving off the road; I made it home just in time to go see my friends play a show at PACE, but I decided instead to relax at home and then just go to the after-party at 11:30. I stayed up until 4:30, which meant that Sunday was mostly a wash; I didn't really leave my bed until 2 p.m. But all in all I had a good weekend, despite (or maybe because of?) my cranky Friday venting.

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