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Personal post alert.

I went to a funeral last week. My dad's mom; my last surviving grandparent. Despite the fact that we weren't what I'd call close--I'm 1 of 27 grandchildren and it's tough to be granny to people you see once a year and generally in the company of 26 similar people--I had a rough time of it at the service. The priest sang the second verse of Danny Boy--I can't be expected to handle that. Plus I was sad for my dad. 
Even with more cousins and aunts and uncles in one place than at any time in the last 10 years, the days had a deflated feeling, like it was a sad finale for the family. As the scheduled events came and went, we all met, dispersed; met, dispersed. We didn't spend late nights at the hotel bar like we have at weddings, catching each other up on jobs, kids, pets. Some of us had to remind each other who we were--"I'm Laura; THAT'S Sarah." We talked about those who couldn't make it--a storm, swirling like a February hurricane with its eye over New York, had complicated travel. We talked about grandma some, but not as much as I expected. I did a lot of standing around and thanking my wife for coming with me. She was meeting a lot of people for the first time. I learned a few things about my dad. We all talked a lot about weather, which is a primary medium for communication in my family. We let each other know how depressed we are by talking about the weather. We brag about our kids by talking about the weather. We express our disappointment in each other by talking about the weather. You'd think there'd be a meteorologist in the family somewhere.
We made fun of our fathers for boring us. We made fun of our mothers for not making fun of our fathers enough. My cousin fiddled with a pennywhistle. My uncle grabbed it, played a few notes, and we broke into one verse and chorus of Wild Rover--then laughed and clapped, then looked down at our plates. We did a lot of looking at each other and smiling meek, toothless smiles. Seeing relatives en masse is like seeing variations on yourself through a glass, darkly--what if I had grown up in South Carolina? What if I had brown eyes and played football? What if I had gotten into a better school? What if I dropped out?
After the funeral, we caravanned the short distance to the cemetery. I served as a pallbearer (a job that both scared the hell out of me and made me feel very important). Most of us showed up for a luncheon afterward. Fewer made it to my uncle's home, snug between two fingers of a mountainside splayed into a valley, for more food. As the evening passed, people hugged goodbye and drifted off in the snowdark night. Driving back to the hotel, we saw a soft glow in the crooks where the hills descended toward one another--nightskiing at resorts miles away, light refracted by low clouds and flurries. Early in the morning, my wife and I left the hotel under cover of darkness. She had a flight to catch 6 hours away, over the mountains and south. I had said goodbye to most people the night before, but not everyone. Heres hoping that next time I see everyone, everyone's there.
R.E.M. -- Pop Song 89 (censored video)

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