Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A New World Opening

"Look Daddy!"

He'd brought home a stack of artwork, all done that day at school. It'd been a rainy one, so I'm guessing the teachers were hustling to keep the kids busy. He was beaming over it, and wanted to show it to me, so we plopped down on the couch to go through it. The caterpillar made out of circles, the green diamond he had painted, the sheet of construction paper with various torn bits of paper glued all overit. And on each one, he directed my attention to the letters affixed to the top.

"Look Daddy, it's my name." Pointing to each letter, he sounded them out. "Aitch, eee, enn, are, why!"

I had forgotten this, the joy that comes when these straight and squiggly lines first start to make sense and coalesce into words, words that go along with the pictures on the page and fill in the story. And the happiness of being able to recognize your own name and put it down on paper.

"And Simie's name is ess, eye, uh, emm, oh, enn!"

His excitement was contagious. He's hungry for it, to have this power for his own, to be able to decipher the symbols and get at the stories that they're telling. As cornball as it sounds, I almost feel like I'm re-experiencing this happiness for myself.

While we're on the subject of our children's firsts, I'll have a post up tomorrow at DadCentric about another first, this one not quite so exciting, but entertaining nonetheless. Be sure to check it out. And in case you missed last week's post about my violent children, allow me to enlinken you.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

May my funeral descend into a brawl

I got the weirdest thing in the mail the other day.

Wait. Back up.

So a couple of weeks ago, I had a lot of death going on in my life. I had two funerals to attend in one week, and yet another that I would have attended were it possible for me to be at two funerals in two different cities at the same time. I wrote about one of those funerals already. The funeral I missed was for a coworker of mine, a good man, not exactly a close friend, but a guy I liked a lot, somebody you could share an easy laugh with, and clearly a person who meant a great deal to a lot of folks.

The other funeral I attended that week was for my grandmother. My mom's mom.

This thing I got in the mail the other day, it starts off like this:

Yes, because that's exactly what I need to hear in a form letter from some faceless entity whose name I don't recognize. But that's not the weird part.

But wait, before I get to that, yes, it was my grandmother's funeral the other week. I sort of zipped past that, didn't I? The thing is, well, heh...fuck. I'm not really quite sure how to put this other than to be straightforward and honest about it, so, here goes: I wasn't really all that broken up about it. I feel like a real shit typing that, as if there's some piece of my soul missing, the part that allows you to feel sorrow and grief over the loss of beloved family members who cared for you and loved you since you were a small child, but, well, it's not that simple. Is it ever that simple? It is? I'd like to think that it is, sometimes, in some places, perhaps in indigenous cultures that have managed to remain untouched and unaware and innocent.

Don't get me wrong, I was sad about it. But it wasn't exactly a surprise. The only surprise to me was the fact that she lasted as long as she did. I figured that once my grandfather died, she would follow pretty shortly on his heels, but she managed to stay with us for several more years. And looking through the pictures of her life, there were a fair many of her with me at various ages. Birthday parties, holidays, graduations, moments forgotten, their significance not immediately clear, but still valuable and worth holding onto.

All the same, I can't say that I was particularly close to the woman who was my grandmother. Maybe I was as a little boy, but as I grew older, those bonds thinned. And her funeral was perhaps the strangest service I have ever attended, and it inspired me to demand a promise out of those of you reading this who may one day attend my funeral. And I hope that I don't cause any offense to any family members reading this who may have been there, but the fact of the matter is that there were many moments during her funeral when people were describing their encounters with this woman, my grandmother, and I was sitting there wondering, "who the hell are they talking about?" It was as if these people were describing a completely different humanoid entity whose time had just passed. This preacher person who gave a eulogy, who supposedly had spent a fair amount of time around my grandparents, he wove this narrative that at times made me think, "okay, that sounds sort of like the Mimmie and Papa that I knew," but at other times veered off in other directions and had me wondering things like "um, did you ever even meet these people you're sermonizing about?" or "were my grandparents double agents?" The only part that really rang true was a poem read by two of my cousins, people who, also being my grandmother's grandchildren, saw her in a light similar to the one in which I saw her.

Oh, and then there's the fact that one of the great big happy family photos propped up by the open casket up front for all to see, taken at some holiday years and years past, pictured me standing next to my EX-wife. Awkward?

But back to the strangeness, the letter I received, a letter which came from a company called Algordanza and was signed, apparently by hand, by a person named Christina. This letter goes on to say....
"...one thing that does soothe the pain and bring closure is witnessing your loved one properly memorialized."

"We are the creators of the cremation or "Memorial Diamond" the world's most beautiful memorial."

"...not available to families in the United States until now....now it is available to you."

"...state of the art...treats your loved ones with the utmost respect..."

"Unlike imitation diamonds, the Algordanaza Diamond will be 100% created from the remains of the person you want to memorialize."
I stood in the kitchen staring at that sentence for several moments trying to make sure that I was properly comprehending the familiar yet strange shapes on the paper before me, checking and doublechecking that my brain was accurately piecing the words into sentences, the sentences into ideas. But there was no mistake. This company wanted me to pay them to make a diamond from a dead person's ashes.

My grandmother was not cremated, and nowhere in this letter does it actually say who the hell they are talking about. My wife's aunt was cremated, so I can only assume that these Algordanza people were referring to her, though how they got my contact info or why the letter is addressed to me, I haven't the slightest idea.

So I have to ask a couple of things of you, good people. First off, if you are ever unfortunate enough to find yourself at my funeral, and should you hear a person eulogizing over me, and should this person seem unfamiliar, as if they were not a person that actually knew me in life, and should their description of the man that I was in life ring untrue in your ears and in your heart, I ask, nay, I demand that you stand up in the middle of the service and shout something to the effect of "NOW HOLD ON JUST A FUCKING SECOND!" And when you've got everyone's attention, proceed to describe who I was to you. Give your own eulogy for me. Because dear God, let my eulogy not be left to those who did not know me. And should it descend into a brawl, all the better.

The other request is simpler: don't let my ashes get pounded into a diamond. Because that's some tacky ass commemorative plate infomercial roadside attraction bullshit.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Messiah Bling and other Religious Hilarity

The seminary that I've been attending for the last couple of years must be peddling student contact info. How else to explain how I got on the mailing list of the people trying to sell this shit:

That's right y'all, 24 karat gold diamond* encrusted sandals, just like the Son of God wore back in the day. Motherfucker walked on water in those things. Maybe you can too!

Oh, and I've been meaning to post this one for a while. Remember back in high school when military recruiters seemed to be coming out of the woodwork trying to get you to sign up to do your duty to God and country? Did you think that all ended after you graduated? Well guess again. Check out what I found in my campus mailbox my first semester:

I had no idea that the military's marketing and recruitment budget included an allotment for the chaplaincy corps, but apparently it does. My brain is coming up with all manner of snarky commentary to type here, but I feel like the picture kind of speaks for itself. What do you see? Some pretty flowers.

So speaking of seminary......I don't know that I'm going to continue my studies with them. I'm realizing more and more that I simply don't belong there. I've written here before about why I chose to attend there, one of which was to grapple with some of my Big Questions about God, religion, the whole bag. And it seems that in that grappling, a few things have happened.
  1. It's all started feeling more and more like a house of cards. It seems that the more we delved into topics like the origins of scripture and the beginnings of Christianity, the less divine the whole picture appeared. At every step of the way it seems, there's someone, some group, with an agenda, one which they promote by means of imbuing events and people with divine status, fitting events of their present into prophecies of their past. And it's not like we were studying anti-religious texts, and it's not as if I stepped onto campus thinking that the Bible was the literal word of God, but I didn't quite expect to find out just how much politics went into the creation of the text we now have, even before King James got his royal hands on it.
  2. I grew tired of it. The whole thing. I'm just sick to death of all the questions, the seeking, the wondering, the quest for meaning, trying to be close to a God that, if he does exist, doesn't really seem to want to be found. I can't live like that. I just want to live my life, be myself, be happy, love my family and friends, write, create, and do the right things because they're the right things to do. I'm tired of putting so much effort into trying to feel IT. Time was I did feel it. I felt something anyway. I don't know if it was a delusion or if it was real but fleeting, but whatever it was, I'm sick of trying to get it back at the expense of the now, the moment. The meaning is right here. I just want to be.
  3. And ya know, let's face it. I suck at being religious. I can't go to church. I've got a foul mouth, a sick sense of humor, and a taste for beer. Personally, I believe that if there is an all-seeing, all-knowing, all-loving God out there, then he, she, or it loves all this stuff about me. But I'm tired of thinking about it.
So that's me, that's where I'm at. I think I fall under the heading of an agnostic, but honestly, I don't even fucking care. I'm not mad at God or the church or whatever, I'm just kinda done. For now anyway.

Anyway, uh, Happy Easter?

* Yes, I know it says they're crystals and not diamonds, but "diamond encrusted" just sounds better.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

I guess you'd call that daddy style?

First, a bit of post pimpage: my latest contribution to the wonderful world of Dadcentric concerns breastmilk and the perversity that it inspires. Also, it is very mildly NSFW, as is this very post you are reading, for it features this fine illustration:

So go. Look. Find out why in the hell I drew such a thing.

And speaking of perversity, it seems that even the most innocent child's toy can conjur up the most salacious thoughts in our young people. You see, we have this toy:
It affixes to the refrigetor by means of magnets, and comes with a series of small magnets that make up the front and back of different animals, such as the cow shown above. If you match the front and back of a given animal, it sings a little song about that animal, concluding with the sound that the animal makes. However, if you mismatch the front and back to create some ungodly monstrosity, the toy will still sing a song for you. For example, if you put the duck's head with the pig's ass, you'll get to hear that happy little frog sing this:

You put a duck in front,
You put a pig behind.
Put them together
And what do you find?
A duck-pig?
That's silly!

Well, our children have heard these songs several million times now, so that little tune is emblazoned upon their memories, or at least that of my eldest, as evidenced by the song that he sang for us this evening:

You put a mommy in front,
You put a daddy behind.
Put them together
And what do you find?

I'm not sure how he concluded the verse, for I and The Ash were howling with laughter at our son's unwitting Yanchovichization. Three years old and already he's singing dirty songs. That's my boy!