Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Funeral (or why I hate Florida!)

Actually, I like Florida but DAMN this funeral was hard.

My Aunt Adele (who is not my aunt but really my Mom's first cousin) was the matriarch of the family. She has been pretty sick since Thanksgiving. A few weeks out she decided to stop all medication. It was clearly explained to her that she would die. She understood that and my discussions with her children demonstrate that she was very ready to go. It was hard for the family. We knew her time was to be measured in days or maybe a week or two. We were ready for her death.


I got the call just as I was leaving for work on Thursday, 2/8/07 . She was only gone for a few hours. But the wheels were now set in motion. We learned her funeral would be on Sunday. That meant we had to fly in on Saturday. Direct flight to anywhere from Albuquerque, NM, are difficult. We were going to Tampa, Florida. We had to stop off in Dallas DFW. My parents would end up getting on the plan in DFW. My parents and us (my two kids, my wife, and myself) all on the same plane. There are not enough of those little liqueur bottles! Then into Tampa. Rent a van, get a hotel. Oh pack, gather the kids, notify work, find someone to watch the menagerie in our home. Getting a little more complicated,

So, we get a very good deal on tickets. The problem is that our flight leaves Albuquerque at 6am on Saturday. Los Alamos is just under 100 miles away. We decide to drive in Friday evening, buy some last minute items (tiny shampoo, toothpaste. heaven forbid we piss off TSA!), eat a nice meal, spend the night in a hotel, get up ear;y, be at the Sunport by 5am. Nice, casual.

Not on your life. There is a reason my friends talk about "Dale Trips." People think I make this stuff up. Nope, bad luck follows me on travel like dirt follows Pigpen from Peanuts.

We check into the hotel on Friday evening at about 9pm. Nine hours until the flight. Linda informs me that she left her Driver's Licence at home (which would surely piss off TSA!). A frantic one hour phone call to AA confirms we are screwed. Her warped, out of focus Sam's Club card will probably not get her on the plane.

So I leave them there. I drive back to Los Alamos and get in around 11:30 (6 1/2 hours until the flight). I grab a quick nap and am back out the door at 2:30am (3 1/2 hours until the flight). I get back to the hotel at 4am. Grab a quick shower. (2 hours before the flight). We make it just fine. Hey, this Tri is about endurance, right?

The plane sucked. A retired TWA jet. we had the very back seats. Bulkhead, next to the ROARING engine. My kids were upset. I slept.

My parents got on the flight in DFW just fine. Off to Tampa. More sleep. We rented a huge Ford p.o.s. 12 passenger van. A boat on wheels. We get stuck in major traffic due to the Florida State Fair. We get lost going to the hotel (I have a love/hate relationship with Google Maps). We get to the hotel...the WRONG hotel. So back in the van, more circling around. We get to the room. We check in. Good news, they did not lose our reservation. Bad news, the room is not ready. We are all cranky. we decide to go across the street to get lunch at Panera Bread Company which is in the mall.

Bad mistake. Very bad.

I did mention the fair. Well, it seems they were using the mall parking lot. It took us an HOUR to get through the parking lot. To make matters worse, Panera bread was inside the mall but because of (de)construction at the mall we could not get close enough where I felt my parents could walk. we killed way over an hour in bumper to bumper traffic to go about 1 mile and in the end eat at the Outback in front of the hotel.

Hey, I am just getting warmed up.

We finally check in and rest for about 45 seconds. We are off to my cousin Frannie's home. We cannot find it. Actually, we can see it but this major car wreck prevents us from crossing the road. My cousins have to come and get us (we wre sitting by the Tae Kwan Do place watching the girl roller skate in Sonic). The wreck was a drunk teenager in a Ford F150 pickup truck that hit an off duty Sheriff's officer. One fatality. The first of several bad wrecks we would see.

We got to see family and friends and ate and laughed and cried.

The next day, Sunday, was the funeral. Now I knew the best way to get to the home. Easy. We have my "cousin" Ronnie and family in tow, we cruise on down and almost make it to Frannie's home.

Another wreck. A bad one. Cars and body bags are sprawled out over the pavement. Turns out some kids were drag racing and hit and old man who was making a U turn by Florida 310. More fatalities.

The funeral went well. My Mom and Dad insisted on putting earth into the grave (part of the Jewish ritual of burial). The ground was uneven and I had to really hold on to my Dad to keep him from slipping and joining Aunt Adele in the open grave. While it may have been hilarious later on, at the time I felt it was prudent to keep him above ground.

One the way back we saw another major wreck. Looked like a rear-ender. The next day the paper totaled about 5 fatalities. It became a mission to get out of Florida alive.

In the end I am very glad all of us went. My family is small. It was very good seeing people I have not seen in a while. Some not for many years, others just a few months ago. Family is important.

We got home at about 1:30am on Monday. Tired. Grungy. Melancholy. But satisfied.

Florida kicked our collective asses. But I am glad we went.

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