11 August 2010

Another Here and There

Just a few random elements pulled from the last few weeks.


My Father in Law's funeral was the usual case of well laid plans coming apart at the seams at the last moment. In my case, as singer, my troubles began right before the funeral was to start.

I had arranged with the organist to meet half an hour before the funeral to go over the music. However, my Father in Law was buried the Friday morning of the G8 meeting, meaning traffic was absolute murder. The original organist was coming in from Mississauga, got stuck in traffic, and phoned in to say, sorry, not happening. A replacement was somehow found quickly, and he showed up two minutes before the funeral was to begin. I only had enough time to ask him if he knew any of the songs. The answer was no, with the exception of Schubert's Ave Maria, which he did know, only not my arrangement, and not in my key. The arrangement he had was for sopranos. I told him to just give me my cue notes. Every time I sang I would say to him: “Give me a B!” or something. He would hit the note I requested. That was the only time he played for me. He was paid for that, too.

The irony of this situation was that we had asked if we could use our own organist, a very gifted and excellent organist, but we were told the church preferred to use their organists. What makes this situation ironic is that as I was singing I looked out into the congregation and saw our organist, who had come to pay his respects.


Irony has been abundant. As a matter of fact, I would say we achieved the Platonic Ideal of Irony the very day I was singing a capella at the funeral.

You see, that Friday was not only the G8 meeting, it was also the Friday following the announcements of our hours being cut at work, and it was also the last Friday of the month. At work, we have this little ritual, wherein the last Friday of the month is Staff Appreciation Day. Management, the very people who a week earlier had told us we were to blame for the store's problenms, and cut our hours to save heir own skins (not one of them is losing a penny, by the way)  held the day as scheduled, and served us the usual stale bagels and old coffee, just to let us know how much they cared.


The other day I got hear half of one of Pothead’s conversations on the phone at work. It went like this.

Pothead: Got to call my brother…. Pick it up…. pick it up… pick it up you b*****d…. c’mon, pick up!… I’m gonna let it ring until you get your lazy butt out of bed and answer the phone…. PICK IT UP, @%$^$&#!! …. PICK IT UP YOU SON OF A B***H! PICK IT oh hello, Gary? Sorry to get you out of bed…


The meeting with the boss wherein he cut our hours began with a three hour speech by him. He is the worst public speaker I have ever heard, and if you knew just how bad come of the speakers I have heard are, you would understand the full depth of that statement. He compared the way we work with silos, and had a presentation replete with pictures of silos, just in case we were unaware of what a silo was. .

He also told us that the five years he has been in charge have been the worst five years in the history of the store. He then proceeded to blame us, who have been there for ten and twenty years in many cases, for the store’s downfall.

Sadly, I wasn’t there for that meeting. I saw him the next day when he told me, with a smile, that he was going to cut my hours for the good of the store.


After Pothead had called his brother, he told us all he was leaving work and going home early. “They’re spraying my apartment for bugs, and I want to be there,” he explained.


While I was waiting for the organist to show up at the church prior to my Father in Law’s funeral, I had another surprise. The priest we had met with and with whom we had arranged the funeral was not there. He had been called away. Instead, another priest came by to fill in. We were very familiar with him. He has a habit of inventing new rituals and has on occasion preached flat heresy. There was nothing I could do about, and I couldn’t even warn the family the change had been made. I felt dread creep up my spine about what was about to happen.

Fortunately, the dread was largely unfounded. He stuck to the ritual as prescribed and did none of is innovations. Or so I thought. The only indication I had that something had gone wrong was when Puff broke down and cried a bit during the Gospel. I thought nothing of it at the time.

As the Gospel was proclaimed in Italian, it wasn’t until later that I discovered what had happened. We had chosen Luke 24:13-35 as the gospel, but father, who prefers a warmer, fuzzier approach to God, for reasons known only unto himself, switched the gospel to the Sermon on the Mount. While that is a wonderful passage, and I do love it as much as the next man, it was really the wrong gospel for my Father in Law’s funeral. He did not look well in the light of the beatitudes. For example: “Blessed are the Meek…” I’m sure they are. Unfortunately, he was not one of them. Nor was he poor in spirit, nor a peacemaker, and so on. My father in law had virtues: he was tenacious, he was generous, he was a hard worker. He came to this country with whatever change he had in his pockets, and he raised a family, put a roof over their heads, fed them and put them through university. He was an easy man to respect, but he could be a tough man to love. For all that, he still had his virtues. We put our hope that he was a man who believed, and in God’s infinite mercy. Calling attention to the virtues he did not have scared Puff terribly, and unnecessarily.

“My father’s going to Hell!” she sobbed.


My sister in law wrote a eulogy for her father that was among the finest pieces of fiction I have heard in a long time. It reminded me of an old Irish woman I had known years ago. She had sat in the front pew of the church for her husband’s funeral. As the priest gave his eulogy, speaking about what a wonderful man the deceased was, what a paragon of every virtue, she turned to her son and said: “Go and see who is in the casket. Make sure we’re at the right funeral.”


Pothead hung up the phone today and let out a triumphant yell. “YES!” He said. “I HAVE HIPPIE LETTUCE!”


My sister in law seemed to be having some trouble with the truth for a few days around the funeral. At the funeral home I had one person after another come up to me and say: “It’s terrible he had pancreatic cancer. I had no idea.”

“Yeah,” I said, somewhat confused. “I had no idea either.”

I suppose it was more palatable than the truth: He drank too much, and his liver failed. “My Dad had cancer” was probably easier to say than “He was a drunk.”


The greatest hope I have of his salvation comes from an accident that happened just as he began his final slide. Of course, you may very well believe there are no such things as accidents. It was on a Sunday morning, back in March.

It was actually the beginning of the March Break. I had booked the week off, and was looking forward to spending time with the family, and we were all on our way to Mass when I remembered something.

What I remembered was that we were in the beginning of Spring, in Canada. Every year, around springtime in every Canadian province except Saskatchewan, we switch over to Daylight Savings Time, which means that on a certain Saturday night in the Spring, we turn our clocks forward one hour, and then turn them back in the fall. That Saturday night, for the first time ever, I had forgotten to turn my clock ahead. It wasn’t until we were on the bus heading to church that I remembered.

I told Puff what had happened, and that we would be late, and she suggested we stop over at her mother’s house while we wait for another Mass to start. I agreed.

Puff’s mother was up and fiddling in the kitchen, however her father was nowhere to be seen. Her mother told us he was upstairs and had not gotten out of bed yet. She was not concerned. Puff went upstairs to say hello to him, and let him know his grandchildren were there. She came downstairs a minute later. “He can’t move,” she told me. She called paramedics. They came quickly, did a quick blood sugar test and got a reading of barely two. They gave him a shot of glucose and rushed him to the hospital. Had we not come that day, he would have died then and there.

As it was, he survived for several months. We had a chance to get him the anointing of the sick, and he took that chance. He also asked my sister in law to take him to church, a surprise as he had not been a regular church goer for years. She did not take him as she believed him to be too sick, but his desire to go was there, and in our faith, desire counts for much. I cannot vouch for the salvation of his soul, and I pray for him, but I have greater hope now than I would have had otherwise.


The layoffs and the loss of hours has dominated all conversations at work these last few weeks. I am weary beyond belief of hearing about it. Pothead spent about half an hour griping to me about what this would mean to him.

“I’ll only have enough for food and rent. That’s it,” he said. “This is really gonna cramp my lifestyle.” By "lifestyle" he meant his regular consumption of booze and drugs. That may be a style, but it’s not a life.

Others are more circumspect around me. They tread around me like I am surrounded by broken glass. One of the managers looked like she was about to break down crying every time we passed in the hallways. They were all sorry about the way this was to affect me, with the new baby and all. Truth be told, rather than increasing my worry, the baby actually relaxes me. Somehow, whenever I think of him, I just get this feeling that everything will be alright. I have no idea why I think that, and the empirical evidence is against that, but it is what I feel. We’ll find a way. Life goes on.

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