Saturday, March 15, 2008

No Magic

In this story, my grandma will die, my family and I will get stuck on a defective aircraft, explosive personalities will collide, people will cry and I’ll realize that all this material won’t make for such a great column after all.

A couple of weeks ago, my dad came to town to visit the family and me. While having a great time during his visit, we got the news that my paternal grandmother -- my last remaining grandparent -- had died.

In the past, I’ve dreaded funerals. But some sort of magic always lifted the family and me out of the funeral gloom and brought us even closer together -- magic that I hoped to see again at my grandma’s funeral.

As we left for the funeral in Colorado, I noticed I had stepped outside my body and was watching my situation from a bystander’s point of view. (I’m always looking for column material.)

The show began at the airport while we were on the plane, waiting at the gate. I watched my family prepare for takeoff in what might as well have been a sauna bath.

Even though the air conditioning sounded like it was working in the cabin, the temperature was on a constant rise. I waited for flight attendants to hand out towels so passengers could strip down and use terry cloth instead of their own clothes to soak up the sweat.

Eventually, the pilot announced the aircraft was having mechanical problems, something that all passengers on a jet soon to be headed for thousands of feet above ground wanted to hear. I looked out the window and saw a mechanic banging on the wing of the plane. I’m not making this up. He actually banged on the wing.

About 30 minutes later, the plane made its way to the runway. Then we headed back to the gate for more banging on the wing. The problem, we were told, wasn’t fixed.

Another 30 minutes went by, the vehicle that pushes the plane back did its thing, and we were off to the runway again. And then we were back to the gate because the vehicle that pushed the plane had pushed too hard, breaking a bolt on the nose gear.

At the gate, we sweated out another 15 minutes before passengers demanded they be let off the sauna -- I mean the plane.

To avoid mass chaos, the pilot announced the mechanical problem wasn’t going to be fixed anytime soon and that everyone would have to deplane. So we deplaned. This was about the same time we were supposed to be deplaning in Colorado.

In the terminal, airline officials announced the aircraft’s mechanical issues over the loudspeaker, which made no sense to me because, well, I didn’t go to jet mechanic school, so how would I or anyone else for that matter understand the problem? I wouldn’t know the difference between a faulty flawzee valve and a leaking spindle motor wing drive, so why kill me with the details? I just wanted to know when I could board a new plane that worked, and I wanted to know if the thing was going to get me to Colorado before my grandma’s rosary.

Eventually we boarded a new craft and we were airborne.

On the ground in Colorado our family gathered at my aunt and uncle’s house. In order to keep things light, nobody in my family talked about my grandma -- that would be too emotional.

The funeral came and went. Everyone in the family did fine -- nobody broke down. Suppression is great.

Then the family went back to my aunt and uncle’s house, and we all did some more “keeping things light.” But all our suppression was doing just that: suppressing feelings. And those feelings were bound to burst.

Without going into details, so that the guilty may remain innocent, two family members burst into a fight -- to the point of wanting to “take it outside.” Yup, a good old-fashioned fist fight was about to take place, and I wasn’t about to miss it -- I have no shame.

I grabbed my notepad (so I could take notes for my column), and rushed outside to capture the scene.

Nothing happened.

I guess that’s a good thing.

The night before the family left town, some of us began to show our true emotions. Tears were shed for my grandma’s passing. And then we parted ways.

And that’s my funeral story.

What does it all mean? I have no idea. But I will say this: There was no magic at this funeral. Sure, we all enjoyed seeing each other, but nothing lifted us out of the funeral funk. Nothing brought the family any closer together than we already were -- as past funerals had.

I think I speak for the rest of my family when I say that we all just missed my grandma.

I’ll be going to my cousin’s wedding next week. Maybe I’ll find the magic there.

-November 2007

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