First, you have to picture Ann. Whip-smart, pragmatic, organized, able to do just about anything and to deal with just about everything. Her mother's second marriage (long after Ann had moved out and was on her own) was to a man who was only about ten years older than Ann. Then her mother got cancer and passed away a disgustingly early age. The widower, Bob, took his duty as a stepfather very seriously and viewed Ann as his daughter. (Bob, by the way, was a very nice guy.) Then Bob met Nancy and remarried. Nancy took her role as stepmother-once-removed very seriously also. Thus Ann kept in contact with both and visited for the occasional holiday and so on.
Okay. Neither Bob nor Nancy ever had the word "practical" in their vocabularies. They lived in the house Bob and Ann's mother had bought for an amazingly low price. They refinanced a number of times and the house is now worth only a small percentage of their mortgage. There were a lot of other things going on that were the antithesis of practical.
Then came the phone call in the middle of the night that Bob had died. We gave Ann a ride to the airport and she went to help Nancy with the arrangements. This was Ann's first e-mail:
$11,000 before the burial plot. This is completely insane. I'm just watching the madness.
Before Ann left for the funeral, we discussed the possibility that perhaps some of the relatives (both he and she come from very large families) might be able to help with the cost of the funeral. Here's Ann's second e-mail:
Sweet Jesus on a breadstick.
Funeral lunch for 75 with a full open bar.
No money in the cards either.
Nancy is her own worst financial enemy.
And we replied:
Holy Moses on a vanilla wafer.
Methinks there is a predisposition to imbibery on both sides of the family.
Will there be enough liquor in the entire state?
Nancy decided that she wanted to impress relatives on both sides of the family. Ann's next e-mail:
Well, since one person managed to drink a litre of Absolut in 48 hours in this household,
there is a wee possibility that there is some imbibing going on. And it wasn't the widow
She paid $560 for a cleaning service on Monday. Bounced the cheque twice. What
happened to female relatives cleaning the house and stocking the fridge? Oh wait, she
doesn't want to "look bad". Maybe I should hit the vodka.
...Rechecking my IQ might be a good idea. I seem to have lost a lot of points somewhere
along the way.
The litre of Absolut went into a non--relative, who also happened to be an absolute (Absolut?) racist. Nice.
Ann put in $5000 toward the cost of the funeral. Bob had wanted to be buried with Ann's mother's ashes in his coffin. This provided another set of problems because the funeral home had been under charges for mismanagement and they couldn't guarantee that Ann's mother's ashes were actually Ann's mother's ashes, so legally they couldn't put the ashes in the coffin, especially if it turned that Bob would be sharing his coffin with a complete stranger. (Understand?) Ann's solution was simple: bury Bob and sprinkle the ashes on his grave. That, at least, for some reason, would be legal. Luckily, before the funeral the funeral home discovered papers proving that Ann's mother was Ann's mother, so into the casket she went. The cost? One hundred dollars for Ann's mother and a thousand for Bob. Don't know why. But Nancy told Ann that it would cost her (Ann) $1100 to bury her mother's ashes with Bob. (Enter Ann's thought balloon: **Hmmm. No. It will cost me $100. It will cost you $1000. Should I make a stink? No, it's worth an extra thousand to get her off my back.** End thought balloon.) Ann wrote a check for $1100.
So much more happened. A niece of a cousin-in-law was upset she wasn't named as a survivor in the obituary, so she called Nancy to complain, rather than the funeral home. Every member of both sides of the family had the middle name of Drama. Some of the drama is mentioned in a note Ann sent to a friend:
We had the youngest son of the family as the funeral director and let's just say I was not
impressed. Funeral home guys are usually so suave and unflappable. This twit? Not so
much. Okay, so there's a paperwork issue with Mom's ashes because I didn't have all
the certificates. So I pay buddy boy to track them down. Well, the funeral home Mom
used had a scandal and lost its license for improper disposal of bodies. He can't find the
paperwork and tells me all this and that Mom can't go in the casket and that she may not
have been cremated. GRAND. So I say fine, give me the ashes back and I'll deal with
everything myself. Two hours later, the shmuck calls me back - he opened the
decorative box and copies of the certs were taped inside. He double checked the
certificate numbers with the crematory and everything was fine and Mom was cremated
properly with all the state requirements. Can you believe it? I don't get that upset
because I'm not the one who cares about these things. Put me in a hole in the ground
wrapped in a sheet and plant a tree. The body is just a shell and not the person, let it go
back into the cycle of life. But imagine telling a regular person that Mom might be in a
(Let me interject here that the young funeral director wore a cheap, dirty suit that made him look like a stereotypical used car salesman. Back to Ann:)
Other highlights of the week: Funeral lunch for 75 with an OPEN bar. Not wanting Bob's
siblings in the first or second pew, that was for her family and friends. Alcohol
everywhere. $560 for a cleaning service to do the house - and she bounced the cheque
twice, so it's going to be more. An unshowered relative with 3 teeth. Spending $150 for
a sports coat for a 12 year old. Nancy's sister-in-law pushing me out of the way so that
she could sob and carry on. A fight over whose flowers went on the casket - seriously!
The 11 year old eating all the tops of the muffins and putting them back in the box -
and NOT getting smacked to within an inch of her life.
(Me again. Really? Eleven is way too old for that sort of nonsense. Back to Ann:)
A litre of Absolut being drunk by ONE person in 48 hours.
Oh, and the hearse was baby blue.
Ann was a brick and a doll and a fantastic help when Michael passed away five years ago. I'm sorry she wasn't allowed to do the same for her stepfather. She deserves better. At least she has a lot of stories to tell now.