Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Adventures of Poppy and His Ridiculous Spawn: Part 2

After that lumbering half hour I hear a familiar voice in the hallway, and turn to see my cousin Tony walking into the room. Tony is a successful disappointment in the Rossi family. All-star athlete before joining the army, one of the nicest, easiest guys in the world to talk to, but kinda slow. He's eight years older than I am, taught me how to play poker when I was five and Risk a couple years later, and always let me partner up with him during the manly family card games, because to him, I was the smartest girl in the world.

But after he left the army he left Catholicism too, and is now a preacher at one of those hardcore Christian churches in Bakersfield, California where they don't watch TV and all the women wear long skirts. This, to our family, was absurd. When I found out he was moving to Bakersfield, I told him to brush up on his Merle Haggard, and he smiled and said, "Well, I'm not sure I know what that means, but I'll be sure to do it."

And when Tony eased his wiry army frame through that door, with his ten-year old mini-me son beside him, Poppy geeked out like a hippy in a Bonnarroo drum circle.

All of a sudden, Poppy wants to sit up and engage. He wants Tony to talk to him about Bakersfield, and we hear a story about how Tony's brother, cousin Rob, who also lives out in California, is the sliding star of a twenty-foot baseball action photograph on the wall of the biggest sporting goods store. For the first five minutes or so, Tony leans over and subtley adjusts Poppy's bedsheet every few seconds, covering the puckered belly and diaper. Inevitably, the sheet slips every ten seconds, and eventually Tony gives up trying to keep Poppy decent and respectable.

Then my Uncle Dick strolls in like a Goodfella and waves his hands at us. "Christ, Dad, put on a pair of goddamn pants." Thank god for Uncle Dick.

Poppy is defiant. "I am fine."

"You want the girls to see you in your, your, uh, you know? Diaper? Have some respect. Your goddamn great grandson is here for Chrissake."

"I know. Hey, Timmy--" Poppy reaches a knarly hand out to Timmy, who shakes it and turns back to the fascinating hospital television, because he doesn't have one at home.

"Did you tell the nurse you didn't want to wear pants, or is she lazy?"

"I don't need 'em, it's hot in here."

"Christ almighty, that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard."

Tony interrupts, "Dad, could you please not say that?

"Why? It is stupid."

"Not that, Dad, the Lord's name."

"Jesus, it doesn't matter, it's not like he's not your goddamn Lord anymore."

"Dick, shut up and calm down," my dad jumps in.

I think my Uncle Dick is slightly stressed out. They bicker for awhile longer, with Poppy grumbling about how he doesn't need any worthless goddamn pants, and no one cares about how he feels in his final days, Uncle Dick is yelling at him for being a baby, my Dad is yelling at Uncle Dick for yelling at Poppy, and Tony is trying to calm the lot of them, clutching his pocket Bible. Me and my sister just try to watch the Cubs game with Timmy, talking about In-and-Out Burger and good places for fries.

Eventually it's time to go. We've all been successfully embarrassed by Uncle Dick, confused by Poppy, and proselytized by Tony. A jolly good time, by our standards. We say our goodbyes.

"Oh, Rassles," my uncle grabs my elbow just before he walks out the door. "I almost forgot. You're going to be a pallbearer, when it's time. Up for it?"

I nod, slowly. "Are you sure?"

He's not really looking at me while he shrugs lazily. "I don't give a rat's ass if you do it or not, I just thought you might want to."

"Okay. Yeah."

"Good. Because...you should. You should be one of them."



Anonymous said...

As dysfunctional as that visit sounds, you know what's great about it? There were six (if I counted right) people visiting Poppy. I bet there are patients in there who don't get six visitors in a month. Next time, just take a flask.

Del-V said...

I agree with "Here"...

Anonymous said...

you know, dropping poppy on uncle dick's foot might be kinda fun. and therapeutic. i brought whiskey to all death-related events. it helps. makes us giggle harder and cry less.

Red said...

I've never seen a female pall bearer. Go you.

Nikki B. said...

only you can make visiting a goddamn nursing home sound interesting...even fun!!

Anonymous said...

These last 2 posts have been right up there, in my top 3 things you've ever written.

I was a pallbearer for my grandma. She weighed about 60 pounds and the end. But those mother fucking caskets are heavy, to.

Anonymous said...

Hang in there. As this thing winds down, it's sure to get weirder . . .

My thoughts? With you . . .

The Ambiguous Blob said...

This is very different from the visits I had with my grnadpas in the hospitals just before they kicked.
My dad's family was all smiles and taking pictures and joking with gramps, sneaking him more bits of ice than he was allowed- because the docs don't know shit about my grampa's sneaky side.
My mom's family- all yelling at the docs that 6 year olds CAN AND WILL go into the hospital room to visit gramps. Then, sitting and holding his hand for as long as possible, not saying much. Just spending the time.
Neither of them would ever have let us see them without pants on. But that's the joy of family- they're all unique and surprising and all yours. Forever - whether you like it or not.

Mongolian Girl said...

Oh Rass...you are goddamn brilliant, you know? Seriously, I absolutely love this post.
I think that you would really hate the way I reach out to friends who are hurting. You would. But I feel like doing all of that 'Mongoliangirl has a friend who's hurting' stuff to you.
Big love.

wolf said...

Rassles, this is brilliant writing. I mean that. I think we've all had weird familial episodes where some people are fighting, others are watching tv, others are embarrassed... And you've captured it so well.

At the same time, the whole situation just sorta sucks, don't it? I'm sorry.

A Free Man said...

For some reason, I saw 'Larry Hagman' where you mentioned Merle Haggard and then started thinking about Dallas and was all `Why is she writing about an 80's soap opera?'. Then I started thinking about how hot Victoria Principal was back in her hey day.

What were we talking about?

Pallbearering. That's hard work. Heavier than you think.

Erin said...

When you're the pallbearer, go for the feet side. Way lighter.

This might be my favorite post of yours.

Gwen said...

I'm sorry for what you're dealing with right now. It sounds like despite everything, your family is rallying and trying to be supportive of each other and of Poppy as he faces the end of his life. Death is the worst, and I believe it can bring out the best or the worst in people. I hate to be trite, but I don't know what else to say other than "Hang in there."

Le Meems said...

Thank god for uncle dick.

You give Poppy a big ole smooch. Kiss Kiss kiss and talk and talk and talk.

I talked to my great grandmother even when they said she couldn't hear. And once, I left to get a soda and when I came back she opened up her eyes and said "Don't leave me" clear as day.

American in Sydney said...

Can you imagine how boring this would be if Poppy just put his pants on already. Props to Poppy for doin' what he wants. And props to you for capturing the emotions of it all.

Dean said...

This is great! When you can make the mundane fantastic then you know you've got it!

I love how real your posts are. i sit for ages pouring over the right word to say 'fuck'... and miss it totally.

To me, good writing presents a moment in its entirety, leaving nothing out... like haiku, the old pond, frog jumps in, plop... perfect!

Thanks for sharing. you could make a soap opera out of this stuff.


Rassles said...

Franklin: I guarantee he gets daily visits, and he'll continue to get them. Despite my feelings about him, we're all pretty fucking tight.

Del-V: Smart man.

Daisy: My sisters and I do that too. Laugh at the face of death. Out of awkwardness, but still.

Red: Perhaps there will be pictures.

Nikki: Ours is a screwball comedy.

Ginny: I'm not too worried about it. After all, it'll be me and five guys who are all giant, ex-football players. A soldier, a personal trainer, an amateur MMA fighter. Yup. They're manly. And I'm a good seven inches shorter than the lot of them. I'm worried about that. Plus, I've got crazy hulk strength.

Brian: Thanks, friend.

Ambiblob: I love learning how different families interact with each other. But I'm pretty sure that if one of us tried to grab Poppy's hand, he would get mad.

Mongo: I don't know if I would hate it or not. I do know that I appreciate that, though.

Wolf: It does suck, but it's inevitable, and I'm just trying to make the best of it and all that. You know?

Freeman: You just keep on making my fucking day.

Erin: Good call. I didn't think of that.

Gwen: It's okay. Really, I'm more worried about my dad than anything else.

Meems: I know right? The man lives up to his name, but he's fearless, and words from him mean more than I thought.

Flora: The guy is a quintessential manly man.

Dean: I probably could make a soap opera, with overacting, and runny stage make up, odd blocking with people standing all facing the camera in a completely unrealistic manner...I love that idea.

Bluestreak said...

fucking hell. What a day, rassles.

Your family sounds a lot like mine in terms of the mixing of personages. I often wonder how I made it through my youth never being hospitalized.

Gypsy said...

"like a Goodfella." Perfection.