"What a wonder life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner." Colette

Apr 6, 2014

Hell in a Handbasket

I can’t believe how irreverent I am.  I’m goin’ to Hell for sure.

Yesterday I attended a memorial service for the woman on whose property I now reside.  Born in Medford in 1920, she was one of the last Pioneers of the area, and while I never had an opportunity to speak to her before her passing, I wanted to pay my respects.  After all, if not for her, I’d be homeless.

I haven’t been in a House of Worship since…???  If it’s been that long, God’s likely forgotten my face.  Good thing, ‘cause I’m a different person now than I was back then.  I pulled out my Evan Picone suit jacket and Coach bag; in black, even though I understand that’s not de rigueur now.  I already rub Oregonians the wrong way; I didn’t want to chance insulting an icon.

My friend, one of the woman’s Caregivers for 16 years, warned me the service might be lengthy.  She'd taught countless area children, was popular, and people would be reminiscing.  Great, I thought; maybe I’ll get a nice history story out of this.  I had a bite beforehand (what’s worse than your stomach rumbling in church?), but wore my expandable Samurai pants, just in case there was food afterwards.

I’d met the woman across the street (this neck of the woods is the town’s Widow’s Walk), and she invited me to tag along to the church.  The service began at three, but I managed my first faux pas by 2:45, outside, when I mistook the Pastor for a hired guitarist and asked if he’d be coming back to serenade us.  He laughed and said if we’d like!  Kinda cute but too young, my neck’s still sore after Katy and I snapped our heads when he later hopped up on stage to welcome us all.

By that time Katy had already disclosed she’s a Catholic and almost genuflected upon entrance, so I felt I had a kindred spirit.  I was hoping to sit in the back for a quick getaway, but followed dutifully behind as we moved closer to the stage and her friends.  You know.

Despite what you’re interpreting, I like churches and have nothing against organized religion.  I sat admiring the woodwork, reminiscent of the interior of a boat.  Also fascinated by pomp and circumstance, nothing surpasses, in my opinion, the grandeur of the Vatican.  I mean really, who thought up that black and white smoke?  Genius!

However, when (religion) filters down to the local level where snakes are handled and believers badger nons, the bristles rise on the back of my neck.

Understand, I was leery from the get-go, since after Tino’s passing I’d been the target of various well-intentioned shamans, all wanting to Save My Soul.  I tried politely to shake them, but when I became adamant about retaining my own beliefs, they turned on me like a jilted lover.  I don't like being pushed.

Afraid I might open-mouth-insert-foot, I reached for a glossy-covered Bible and flipped it open.  Noah; ok, I like that story and it’s timely, since I’d just seen an ad with Russell Crowe.  It didn’t say the King James version, but how different could it be?

Well, I’m gonna have to pull down my miniature Bible and look in Exodus, I think it is, ‘cause  I only remember the part about 40 days and 40 nights of rain, not the seven of indecision; nor that two-by-two’s were sometimes multiplied by seven, depending on cloven hoof-ness.

Whatever.  I'll find out for sure when I see the movie.  So cute Pastor said how-dee-do, I rubbed my neck and the parade began.  Two little old ladies, lifelong friends, sang a little duet, accompanied by the organist.  Didn’t matter one was a bit flat; they were darling.
A 40-ish woman was accompanied by the pianist, and the apparently  reformed gentlemen belted out a number rivaling the Battle Hymn of the Republic, complete with karaoke machine.

And then up jumped Santa Claus, who brought along his Ipad.  This was the Main Preacher, and I sat transfixed as he sang a little sermon, looking too often in my direction and pointing towards heaven.  He swore no one would be allowed to leave the room until they'd met Jesus, so I prepared to declare I’d run into him just last week, on his way to Jericho.

I hadn’t bargained for the sermon, which, quite frankly, gave me the willies.  Santa swore that once Jesus came back, the dead would rise up and we’d all hold hands on clouds in perfect harmony.  I kept picturing Beetlejuiceand was relieved when he read my thoughts and added they’d look like their younger selves.  I thought of Tino in his 30s or 40s, but if I live long enough I’ll really look like hell.  Think he’ll be pleased?

After the fourth, “He’s comin’ soon!  I know it!"; a-men, a-men, I bit the inside of my cheeks; a painful trick I’d discovered as a kid to prevent laughter.  The only thing stopping me from yelling…

“So what’s he waiting for already?”

…was the image of being mobbed, accompanied by Hallelujah’s.  Fortunately, the deceased's portrait up front also kept me in check; reminding me why I'd come.

I had an aisle seat and waited for the front rows to empty, when one Elder identified an unfamiliar face and prevented my passage.  He started firing questions I reverently answered, but they’d already announced a buffet in the school next door and he was holding me up.  I mumbled something about “Free food…I’m there,” as I gently nudged him aside.

Someone overheard and stressed they have a luncheon after every weekly service.  I thought I retorted nicely with, “Well, it’s always easier to come back once you’ve been,” but I didn’t really like the food so that clinched that.  Strawberries in a green salad?  I thought it was a weird looking beet.

I managed not to overtly insult anyone, and my good deed was to include a widow sitting alone to our Widow’s Table, which now numbered 5.  We widows have an instant camaraderie.  I beat them all with the length of my widowhood (20 years this October, wow), and for the first time I was treated somewhat as a learned Elder myself.

No one could out boo-hoo me, and as usual I jumped at the chance to entertain.  I regaled with the story of the elderly gent in a wheelchair in the supermarket, who, after I apologized several times for blocking his path with my cart, declared I couldn’t be sorry unless I had at least two divorces under my belt.

“I’ve got that, and one in the ground.  I’m hard on men.”

The ladies laughed.  I continued that I finally acknowledged the other day I have difficulty sharing power.  They laughed harder, probably that I’m such a fool for thinking I ever could.

P.S.  For motherly irreverence, read Mommie Dearest...

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