Buckets Of Blessings
If your laws do not allow you to read this story, then don't. All the rest of you people who read it, if you think it's true, boy, have I investment opportunities for you!
Notes From Retta:
Read and enjoy.
The advantage of having a funeral home is you have a level floor without steps and an elevator that will get larger items where they need to go.
Fortunately for us, Gregg and Heather made good time and got what we needed rather quickly. I think it was largely in part to Heather's ability to call ahead and put people in motion before they even put foot on the premises.
The only misstep of the preparations after that was not having the required feet of cable (or outlets) needed...a quick trip to Radio Shack easily took care of that.
When the preparations were finished, a quick lunch of a soggy tenderloin and a dip in the shower and I was ready.
After my shower, Ty insisted I go lock myself away for twenty minutes. I didn't argue.
After my nap, I went out into the funeral home to do a final once over. Ty was lighting candles and and I asked him what mood he wanted set with music.
He shrugged and said to ask Mitch. So, a quick trip to find him netted another shrug. I decided rather than going with organ music, I'd go with soft flute. It's different and it doesn't give a religious feel to a visitation when the occasion.
Promptly at five until one, the door bell announced the door was opening. I knew it'd be Joan and her family arriving. I went to the rotunda and quickly greeted everyone with hugs.
One thing I did note was Jake's smile seemed more ready to present itself to me and I knew he was coming around.
I took everyone's coats and put them in the coat closet being sure to show them where they were.
Joan came over and quietly told me she saw the weather and it looked to her as if the snow portion of the storm was going to be a direct hit. I inwardly groaned, but quickly told her if it hit with the force predicted, I'd pick them up in the Escalade.
She smiled and said, "Hon, we'll check the weather and if it looks bad before we leave, we'll take the Escalade home ...f you don't mind." I told her that was no imposition as I imagined Ty and I would stay at the funeral home.
At one pm, a group entered the funeral home and I instantly recognized a number of them to be family members. One guy, came over and shook my hand. His eyes instantly told me he was closely related to Joan and Mitch as the piercing blue was a family trait.
He smiled and said, "Where do you want me?"
"How about here. Do you have a top coat?"
"No, But if you lend me one, I'll be satisfied."
I showed him where the top coats were located and we found one for him. I took it from him and placed it upon the hook discretely placed by the door. He looked at me and said, "So, what do you need me to do?"
"When people come, all that's needed is to open the door and motion them towards the guest sign in. After that, if there's any memorial envelopes, put them in that letter slot and they'll go into a box which is locked away for later.
All that's left after that is to ask them if they'd like to see the flowers and open the door for them on their way out.
If there's a car that pulls up out front, go out and open the door for the lady. The way I do it is I just put the top coat over my shoulders like a cape. It's going to be on and off a lot."
He nodded and I thanked him profusely.
Joan had Jake come up to me and ask if I needed him to do anything. I looked at him and asked, "What do you feel comfortable doing?"
"Nothing in these shoes!"
I laughed and said, "What size do you wear?"
"Come on, I'll find you a pair of comfortable shoes. You'll be amazed at how the wrong shoes can ruin your night."
We went up to the apartment, and he said, "Wow, This is nice!"
"Yeah, I built it for myself before the house got built. It serves as home to Heather and Gregg at the present, but they're going to be buying one soon."
"Can I live here after that?"
"Sure, if that's your choice."
"Cool. I think this is my last semester in college. Mom and I talked and she's not making me do what I'm not wanting to do. At least I can say I went to Dartmouth and if I need it for applications, that will look good."
"After the funeral, the boys, Mitch, and I would like to talk with you about a business venture they all want to invest in."
"White Castle Restaurants."
"Great. I like them."
"Me too. What they're wanting to do is build a bunch of them and have you on as the District Manager over them."
"Wow, that'd be a thought."
"Yeah, what I like about the idea is you'll have an office and in a lot of ways, it's not much of a job. You'll have time to write and you'll be trained by them to do what they do as a chain.
Aside from that, I'm going to have Mitch talked into a sideline venture for the beer trucks, so we'll see about that."
"To be practical, he's got a large large freezer out there which he uses to keep the kegs cold which go out to parties and other functions.
If you saw the size of the thing, you'd be like, whoa! But, go in it and you'll see maybe twenty kegs and the rest is empty space. That's a whole lotta cold for a loss of investment.
What I see is him going into ice and running the same routes the trucks to for convenience stores. You don't realize it, but there's a lot of profit in it."
"Yeah, so by that time, we can use the confidence of the customers to break into the business."
"Cool" He smiled.
For Jake, that's a big joke, and I knew it. I pulled him into another hug and said, "Jake, one thing I'm learning with you, trust is what opens you up. I'm going to be there and want us to be comfortable with each other."
"Everyone likes you and the more I'm around, the more good things I hear.
You don't know it, but that's what I look for. I've had people who wanted to be friends and then found out later all they wanted, was to come home with me so they could be around Mark. Mark didn't like it and I sure didn't. Now, I take time and see what the person's about before I go around them."
I looked at him while he spoke and realized how fragile he was. That slight in his choice of friendships had hurt him and caused him problems with his brother. For Jake, that's all it took for him to shut down.
"How long ago was that?"
"Oh, first or second grade."
"Ok, well, I'm not hanging around you to be close to Mark. Heck, Mark's a nice guy and all, but the person I want to know is you. Somehow, I don't think Mark's going to be around as much as you, so why waste the time being your friend if that's all I want?"
"Ok, so what do you want me to do tonight?"
"Well, it's not hard at all, but it's got to be done.
Up here in the sitting room, there's soft drink fountain and coffee machine. Keep the coffee made and all the styrofoam cups and plastic glasses, picked up and thrown away.
If you see an old lady leaving the bathroom rather fast, come and get me. We have one that comes in and steals the Soft Soap dispensers."
He looked at me surprised and I said, "Yeah, she likes the candy too, but we put garlic flavored chocolates in once and she's not too keen on them anymore."
He laughed and I said, "There's not much I can do about the soap and the toilet paper she steals."
He shook his head and said, "I never thought I'd hear the day someone would come to a funeral home to shoplift!"
"I'd not mind it if she took some roses home with her."
"How about if I catch her the door and say, "Hey, since you came I thought you'd might want to take some flowers too." and really load her down."
I laughed and said, "If you do, tell her the soap will make the flowers last longer if she puts just a squirt in the water, then hand her those fake ones over there."
He laughed and said, "Oh man, this is going to be fun. I think what I'll do is clue Mark in on it and have him help carry some out and then have him tell her outside that we'll be sure glad to see her each and every time she comes around."
"That'd be funny, but since the garlic, she's not been around. Let's hope she doesn't use the visitation tonight to make another strike."
"Do you have her picture? What I'll do is if the line's long, take her down and stand with her in the line to be sure she sees aunt Wendy. Maybe if the line's really long, she'll realize she knows most of the people."
"IF you do that, be sure to introduce her to the preacher of Mitch and Wendy's church. She goes there ...rom what Ty said...so if she realizes we know and she knows the preacher, we can use it as a form of silent blackmail."
"Ooh, that's good."
"Yeah, but think about it. If she uses my funeral home for her items in her bathroom, then does she go other places for other rooms?"
"I don't know. If you could pull it off at enough places, you'd not need to pay for much at home."
"True. can you imagine going into a restaurant and picking up the creams and sugars at one, then the ketchup and mustards at another, and the salt and pepper at another."
"If you'd do that, I'd imagine you'd go into the kitchen and ask the cook, "Hey, could you pass me the nutmeg, I need to use it."
I chuckled and said, "Can you imagine the look on their faces?!"
"Yeah, but people do that alot. I know kids at school do and some make it a habit of going in and stealing silverware and ashtrays. What's messed up is if they get caught, the school with kick them out.
Can you imagine explaining that to your family who spent sixty grand to put you in that school?"
"Stupid, isn't it? But look at it from this perspective here. I've often thought about going in and doing an ad in the student newspaper that says, "GO ahead and drink and drive, students at this college provide one third of my income." It'd be crude, but true."
"YEah, it's not so bad with the religious college out here, but the college up the road provided four bodies to my income last year with kids drinking and driving."
"I hate it, but they don't seem to pay attention. They always think it's going to be someone else."
He looked down and said, "I know. I knew a girl once that I really liked who got killed in a wreck."
"I'm sorry. If I'd known, I wouldn't have said anything."
"No, you say what you want around me. I'll do the same. I just wanted you to know. I really liked her."
Jake saying that led me to believe he was hoping for something more with her. It's a shame he didn't get the opportunity.
I said, "Jake, I've changed my mind about you working up here. Let me get someone else up here and you go downstairs and be a greeter too. You don't mind do you?"
"No, wherever you want me is fine with me."
"Well, what I'm thinking is I've got that one guy down there and him by himself is going to be busy. If I put you there too, then both of you will have it easy and be able to greet everyone."
"Is that job hard?"
"No, if I hung a sign on your chest, you could fall asleep standing up and do it."
He laughed and said, "I guess I should be glad you chose a live person."
"That's a thought, but it's already been done, so it'd not be origional."
"Yeah, a funeral home someplace had a guy that was mummified they used as the greeter."
"Yeah, I don't imagine their business was real good. There was no one to open the door and tell the people to come back."
He laughed and said, "Oh man, You're funny."
"I try, but I hear you've got more than me."
"Well, at the end of the night, I'll tell you some I've thought of while I've been working down there. Then you can use them as you work."
And, so, that's how Jake and I broke the ice.
From then on, we were close and I really looked forward to seeing him. Each time we'd see each other, he'd greet me with a huge hug and ask me if I needed a door greeter still or if I had replaced him with a dead person. I'd tell him he'd have a job with me always.
I went back into the chapel and I heard the chimes ringing. Ty was looking panicked and said, "I checked the video and it was dad. He was talking with his hands as he usually does, but I don't know how to silence the alarm."
"Sorry hon, maybe I should show your dad how to silence it himself."
He smiled and said, "That'd be funny. Dad would be spending the night running back and forth."
"Well, if it happens too much, I'll go shut off the grid."
"No, don't change security for us. Make him change for this place. He's not going to lower his standards in his business and I don't expect him to."
"This is personal Ty, that's business."
"Hon, either show him where the silence is, or suggest he move a step or two away."
"Maybe he still needs to feel close to your mom?"
Ty gave me a look that said, "Get real", but I didn't say anything further.
We went back into the chapel and Ty said, "That guy over there looking at the flowers is the one that mom screwed around with."
"That's Mary Lou's son?"
"Ok, I needed to know. I'll keep an eye out. You go up to Heather and tap her hand. She'll know that's a sign from me."
He went back over and my whole stance change. My back never turned and when people came by to tell me how nice everything looked, I lost the opportunities to look them in the eye and smile because my focus never left the man.
As he stepped closer to the casket, I stepped closer too and noticed Heather's focus was on him as well. With both of us, I knew he'd not have much opportunity for anything.
When he stepped within hand shaking distance of Ty, Heather's whole stance changed. I saw her lead foot come out and knew she was a fraction from being in stance. The guy looked sad and when he got to Mitch, he looked down. That sign to me told me volumes.
I didn't hear what he said to Mitch, but I saw Mitch nod and put his arm around his shoulder and come to stand in front of the casket. The picture brought tears to my eyes. Both knew the other's position in her life and one was comforting the other.
Randy's composure melted and he began to cry. Mitch hugged him close and said, "I know she loved you too."
I walked over and directed them to a front pew. The look on Gregg's face was hatred, anger, and pain. I knew he wanted to go over, but Heather's hand restrained his in the slightest of actions. It was amazing because that's all it took from her to keep him reined.
Ty came over to me and said, "I've got to go out here."
"I'll go with you."
"No, stay with Dad because Heather's got to keep Gregg. I'll be ok."
I caught Joan's eye and motioned for her to follow Ty. She went and I was very relieved at the moment she was there.
Within moments, Randy stood up and once again shook Mitch's hand. He went out the side door and I followed at a stealthy distance. He went directly out the front door, so I knew he'd come to do what was hardest for him.
In the rotunda, Jake smiled and said, "Take a look at that little Draft Horse"
I looked and said, "Ok"
"Now, take a look at it again."
"Do you see what I'm seeing?"
"What do they do?"
"Pull beer wagons?"
"No, out in the pasture."
I looked and someone had put a potted plant that looked like mound of dung there where it would be."
He said, "I swear I didn't do it. I looked over and the first thing I saw was that and I thought, the flower horse really ripped one loose."
"I've got to go move that!"
"No, you and I are the only one's that know. No one else is paying attention to anything in here. They look at the cards and that's it. It is getting colder out."
"Ok, I'll go out and be sure I have the side walk ready if it gets slick."
"Where's the stuff at...so if it starts, I can go out and do it?"
"It's out in the garage, but I'll move it out by the front door. It's on a cart so it can be moved easily."
"Ok, show me and then I can bring it around."
We went out into the garage and I saw the lp furnaces weren't lit. I asked, "Would you help me light these? They should've been lit a while ago, this place isn't ever going to be warmed if we don't have them on."
I showed him how to light them and adjust the gas. He took a bar-b-que lighter and we lit the remaining. The warmth radiating from each as we lit them let me know we'd be doing good with them in here.
He came back over and said, "Good idea on those."
"Yeah, I came up with it, but Ty's the one that came up with the idea of using one in the tent at graveside so it'd be warm in there."
"Good idea. We're not going to a grave tomorrow, are we?"
"No, as a family, we'll all be going to take her to the crematorium later if the weather's not too bad."
"Who does that?"
"There's someone over there in Quincy who has one."
"What's it like?"
"Not bad as you'd think. It's like not bad at all.
It's like going to the clinic. The lobby is warm and inviting and there's enough room for about fifty people in there. There's a garage entrance on the side of the building and the hearse pulls in far enough for pall bearers to get it out.
For my personal preferences, they have that set up wrong, but they didn't ask me. I would have put the garage entrance on the left instead of the right because all hearse doors open the same way. They have it so we have to pull clear up to the door in order to have enough space the way they have it.
But, what we do is we bring the casket in and we set it off onto a carriage table which allows us to have a sort of graveside service there. Then, after the family leaves, they take the remains from the casket and cremate it. We get the casket back and the ashes. It doesn't take very long."
"I've never been to one, I was wondering."
"It's not as bad as you'd think. They keep it well maintained and looking nice. I've seen some that look like chapels themselves and I've seen others that don't look good at all.
There's one in a state down south that I went to once that was in an old gas station which had us pull into the garage. That to me was the worst I've been to."
"Yeah, give new meaning to fill'er up with Ethel."
He laughed and said, "Oh man, that's funny!"
We took the cart through which had the ice melt and the shovel. The other guy got the door for us. When we got out front, Jake said, "You know, you are awesome with the way you did this out here. When we pulled up, I thought it was nice and thought these were steps. Then, as I got closer, I saw you'd used different colored concrete to have the walk looking like steps from afar, but it's really all flat."
"It's an optical elusion. A lot of older people come and are in wheel chairs. I could've had a handicapped entrance, but that's instantly telling them I consider them second class from others.
To me, they're no different, so I have to do what I can to make it seem like I didn't go out of my way to include them. The wider door, the wider walkways and doors inside makes it look like I did it for ease of getting a casket through, but really, a casket isn't that wide. A wheelchair sometimes is wider. That's the real reason I've got it as I do."
"Neat, but this place is awesome. You should've been an architect."
"I love drawing these places up, and putting knowledge in from a user's viewpoint.
If you pay attention to the way things are designed, you can tell if the person designing it uses it, or not. Take a look at the way smaller cars are designed. If the person designing them actually drove them, half the stuff wouldn't be where it is.
My aunt had a car once that had a standard transmission with a cup holder located just perfect so when she put it in second gear, it'd crush a styrofoam coffee cup. How stupid is that? You know that guy designing it never drove that car.
So, what I did was I drew this up from a user's viewpoint and made sure I went out and bought a wheelchair so I could sit in it and know I wasn't going to knock an elbow going through a door."
He nodded and said, "Mom's hospital was designed all wrong, she says."
"Probably was. There are architects who want something pretty, but don't count on it being more than that concept on paper.
Pretty stupid if you ask me, but some people when they're buying that blueprint only look at pretty. They don't look at useful."
"That's why mom and dad are redesigning the hotel. She said she got a lot of ideas from you."
"Yeah, and your dad gave me a look each time she got an idea that told me he was spending more money."
"He gives that look to her a lot, but he's also the first one to tell her it's nice afterwards. I hear we're going to the hotel supply place in St. Louis on Thursday. Mom's more excited about that than I've seen her be in a long time."
"You'll be blown away by it. Most people go in ho-hum, but when they leave, they're going, WOW!"
"That nice huh?"
"Yeah, and what I've not told anyone is we'll have lunch there. They have it set up so the restaurant equipment being shown is actually being used.
If you love slushies, you'll find a slushy mecca. I think they've got every flavor known as well as ice cream."
"Yeah, what's neat is it's all hands on. You get to make your own whatever, all you have to do is pay one price at the entrance to the restaurant and you get to do the rest.
They have all sorts of people there to help, but it's great. You'll get to cook your own steak or lobster on the grill."
"Yeah, and you'll see things there which you just don't think you'd see like the elevator department and escalator department is nothing but different elevators set up. One escalator, if I could ever find a way to use it would be awesome."
"What's so neat about it?"
"You know that Sultan over there who's got all that money?"
"Well, he had it designed for his palace. You know the steps on an escalator, well, these are regular steps, but as it goes up, they're like crystal on the front and light up.
You want to talk about gorgeous. For me, I can stand and look at that thing and just fantasize about the building it'd be in because if someone put that in their building and paid that much to detail, you know they'd put the details into everything else like that."
"Man, I've seen pictures of that palace over there and it's just awesome."
"Yeah, I've seen them too, but you know what?"
"It's not a home where love is. Your house and mine is a place where we have love. That man has wives and you know he can't love them like we do."
"Yeah, that'd suck."
"But, some people don't see that when they see all the things money can buy. Me, I look at it and say, "Yeah, but I'll take someone I can love instead.
That's why I'm so enchanted with Ty. He fills me up with that love and I do what I can to give it back in abundance."
"He needs that. For a long time, I'd see him and think, "He's so nice and he's so good looking but his eyes look sad."
"Well, you're just as good looking and I can hardly wait until you find love like that. I just know it's going to be awesome to see you feeling the same."
"Yeah, but I don't even know anyone."
"Well, I'll tell ya what. We'll sit down with Heather some night and we'll have her tell you about her friends.
The other night at a party we went to, we had a whole table of nothing but girls who were all knock outs, really nice, and lonely. What's strange is I think they're so nice and pretty, all the guys just assume they've got guys already."
"We'll have to do that! It'd be nice to be able to go out on some dates."
"Well, you could either do that or you could ask your mom to think of someone. She's the one who set Ty and I up."
"Yeah, he and I had met earlier, but he was shy and afraid I'd be straight or taken so he never acted upon his feelings. Me, well, I was eating dinner in the restaurant and thought he was a knock out and let him know in the best way I could I was interested but when we left, he never gave his number, so I left thinking he wasn't interested.
Then, later at that party, your mom drew my Valentine card for a dance and we got to talking. She liked me and asked me if I would mind if she gave my number to her nephew. Low and behold, guess who it was! When he called and I found out it was him, I was so excited I could hardly stand it and then, when he found out who I was, he told me what he was thinking at the restaurant."
"Yeah, and since then, it's been wonderful. The more I learn about him, the more I like. Well, it's really that way about your whole family.
So, when your mom said you guys were coming home, I was anxious to meet you and the more she said about you specifically, the more I wanted to get to know you."
"What did mom say about me?"
"It's not what she said, Jake, it's how she said it. She talked about you and I just knew she felt bad because she thought she'd lost you and didn't know how to reach you.
She loves you more than anything and I really felt like she didn't know what it was that was pulling you two apart. I get the feeling you weren't telling them what you really wanted and I don't think they were asking the right questions to get to know."
"That's true. Dad would come in and tell me how much of a good time I would be having in school. All I knew was I felt like they expected me to go to school to be a doctor and I'd be stuck doing something I didn't want to be."
"Why didn't you say something?"
"I don't know. I think it was that I was afraid of disappointing them. They had all these hopes and then, there was Mark going to be a Lawyer.
In a way, I felt like I'd disappoint them as if they'd go out and say, "Well, I've got one son that's a lawyer and I've got Jake who's a disappointment."
I went over and hugged him and said, "Has your mom or dad ever said anything like that about anyone?"
"Aunt Wendy. That's the only one I think they've ever talked bad about."
"So, you didn't want to be in that same category...?"
"No, and that's what I was afraid of being to them."
"Oh man, I'm sorry."
"You didn't do anything. I did it to myself."
"Well, now things are right and we'll get you where you want to be.
One thing from me is if you think I'm not meeting your needs or if I'm expecting something from you you can't be, be sure to let me know.
Sit down and say, "Lance, I've got a problem" and I'll sit with you, wherever, and whenever. Well, don't do it when I'm in the middle of a funeral, but do it just as soon as you can and I promise I'll take the time."
"Ok, will you have time to talk about some other things?"
"Sure, we've got time now, what's on your mind?"
"I don't know how to say this without sounding stupid, but I've never been with a girl."
"Me neither, so what's the problem?"
He laughed and said, "No, for you it's not a problem. Me, that's what I like."
"Ok, so are you filled with anxiety about it?"
"Well, I'm afraid they won't like me."
"Just be yourself. Don't be something you're not and don't tell them something you don't mean. Treat them how you'd want to be treated.
You don't know me well, but I'll tell you now that Heather and I've been super close since we were really little. Everyone thought we were boyfriend and girlfriend, but she knew and I knew we weren't.
It's not that she didn't want it, but I knew I couldn't be it. What we have is friendship and I love her more than you'd believe. I think if she called in the middle of a funeral, all they'd see is me running out the door because she means that much to me.
What I know with her is I've got that closeness because I've never been anything more than I could be with her. She's wanted more and she wanted us to be together, but she knew I couldn't be."
"So, what you're saying is take a look at how mom and dad are with each other and do what they do?"
"Yeah, well, don't dress up as the Baskin Robbins dude or a Chippendale dude if that's not what you want ,or she wants, but be yourself and have fun.
If the girl doesn't like you for who you are and tries to change you, sit her down and tell her you have a problem with it and you can't be that person. Be honest and she'll know you're not right for her and she's not right for you.
If that's a problem, come to me and I'll sit you both down. There are some crazy people out there that can't be told no without it becoming a problem."
"I know what you mean. I had a friend once that tried breaking up with a girl and she stalked him and told all the girls all sorts of lies so they'd not go out with him."
"If that ever becomes the case, tell me and I'll sit you two down and tell her in most uncertain terms where she can get off.
There is such as thing called "character assassination" lawsuits out there and restraining orders that will keep them at bay."
"That's why I stand back and watch someone before I go out with them."
"Yeah, but don't stand back so long that another mouse comes in and steals the cheese."
"Well, that's happened a lot, and it makes me feel bad, but I don't know how to go up and even talk to a girl."
"What I think is it's not that hard. Look how you're talking to me. You're a damned good looking guy and you're a real sweetheart, so I know they're going to like you. If they don't, then be nice to them and say, "Thanks, I hope you find someone you want." because I'll tell you now, when you say something sweet like that, she's going to go, "Hold up, I'm making a mistake on letting this one get away!" or, she's going to think of a girlfriend real fast who needs a sweet boyfriend. Then, you're in like Flynn!"
"So, will you ask Heather to set me up with someone?"
"Sure, but why don't we do it together. That way she sees you're interested and isn't thinking I'm doing it without your permission."
"Right after visitation."
"Ok, do you think she'll mind?"
"No, we've talked about finding someone nice for those girls. She had a guy that wanted to date her that she really felt bad because they had a date set up and then, she met Gregg. So, what she did was she called him and set him up with one of those girls.
Now, there's one girl I'm thinking of who's a real sweetheart and I'll tell you why I liked her. She's shy and quiet acting, but she wasn't.
I think it's because she's afraid to be seen by everyone else at that table who are her friends as the smart one in the bunch. I danced with her and we talked. And, you know what? That girl works in the lab out there and makes her own perfumes.
She smelled me and said, 'I love how you smell and I could make that cologne you're wearing'.
When I told her it was my natural smell, and how I had a problem with wearing colognes and deodorants, she said she'd make me some deodorant which wouldn't give me a problem. Now, that's a girl that uses her brains to help people and she's alone."
"Is she pretty?"
"All of them were, but with her, she's like you. She's a knock out and she dresses it down.
With you, I think you know you're so good looking that you do what you can to make yourself look plain. To me, it's like a Porsche in a demolation derby. Which one doesn't fit here?. But, if that works for you, great. That's the way it is with her."
"You think I'm good looking?"
"Haven't you heard what I said? Hell yeah dude!"
"So, what do you think I could do for me to look better?"
"First of all, I'd dump the dreadlocks. I have no clue what's going on with them, but if you like them great, but to me, I'd see you with a style more like Ty's. You'd be sizzling then.
I'd also lose the glasses. If you've got to wear them, fine, but you're not Harry Cary, so don't be him. Find some which make you look like you're a hot guy who has to wear glasses. Don't make them the focal point so much that everyone walks away thinking you'd be so much more without them."
"Well, would you help me?"
"Sure, but what I'll do is I'll guide you. I'm not going to style you into something you don't want. That's just not me."
"Good because I've heard it before from other guys but you know how they are. They'll tell you things but not tell you what to do to improve."
"Well, they didn't give a fuck. Me, I do, so I'll stand there and tell you, but I'm not going to do it to hurt your feelings."
"I know. What I want is to look good so I can walk up to a girl and know I look good and not have her thinking I'm a dweeb."
"You're hardly a dweeb. I'll tell you that now. If you walked up to a girl now, she'd think you were hot and then she'd probably tell you what she thought was wrong herself."
He smiled and said, "Well, that'd be good. Then she could help me look better."
"No, do it for yourself and not someone else. What if a girl wanted you to come in looking like a school boy in a little uniform and pacifier, would you do it?"
"If it's kinky for her I will!"
"Oh dude, you're your dad's kid alright!"
He laughed and said, "I think my dad's cool. Mark and I laugh about it, but we know mom and he do it to be romantic. We joke, but I really want to be like him."
"Tell him that because he thinks he's failed you too."
"No, he's the one I'm closest with. At times, he's the one who can get me to talking when I think it doesn't matter. With him, I know he cares and he reaches out to me."
"So, why do you go to your room to be alone?"
"I go there because I find myself feeling down. Do you understand?"
"Tell me more."
"Ok, say it's Saturday night and you try calling all your friends to see if they want to do something and they're all out on dates.
Well after the third or fourth call, you sit and realize you don't have a date, so it gets to be a bit much. Then, after a couple more calls, you realize you're the only one that doesn't have someone. So, I go to my room."
"Oh man, Well, from now on, you give us a call and we'll do something."
"It's not that. The guys all want to go do things too, but it's not the same. Why go out and do something with them when it's a girl you want to go out with?"
"So, what we need to do is get you dates."
"Yeah, that'd help."
"Ok, we'll work on that."
He smiled and came over and hugged me. "Do you think Heather would talk?"
"Yeah, let's see what she's up to. It's about time for her to take a break anyways and I think if Gregg knew it was something to help you, he'll jump at the chance. He loves you, you know that, don't you?"
"Yeah, Gregg knows how I feel. He and I used to sit in there and talk about how it was to not have dates. And look at the one he got! She's awesome!"
"Yeah, and you're just as good looking as him."
"Nah, Gregg, Mark, and Ty all got the looks."
"Let me tell you now, Gregg and Ty got looks from their parents and Mark and You got looks from your parents, but you all have enough looks to be models.
Maybe it's just the way we're made, but Ty thinks he's not good looking and Gregg doesn't either. I'm told I'm good looking, but I'll tell you now the way I feel compared to you all is I feel like an ugly duckling."
"No, Mark and I talked and he said he thought you were a babe. You are good looking for a guy, and I think you're better looking than me, but maybe you're right. We all are thinking we're not."
"Well, I know you are, but I'd make those changes and that's it. Anything else would really have you looking way better than everyone and I wouldn't want you to get a big head."
"Well, why you showing your butt? That style isn't right. It doesn't make a girl have a fantasy, but it sure does a gay guy...but I've got someone. It seems that if a straight guy's going out to try to get a gay guy to notice him, then he's using the wrong bait or something..."
"Oh, well it's the gangster look, we do it because I want people to know I'm into hiphop."
"Ok, so you can't listen to music without having your pants hanging off your butt and giving gays a free show? I know my dad listened to country music and he didn't walk around looking like John Wayne. However you know that one singer Alan Jackson?"
"Yeah, now that's a nice looking guy."
"You look just about like him except you've got dreadlocks and he's got a mustache."
"So lose the dreadlocks and grow a mustache and I'd look like him?!"
"Yeah with Harry Cary glasses."
"Oh, well he doesn't wear glasses."
"Get contacts then...if you want to look like him, but if you do and you're showing your ass, believe me I'll be looking and so will a lot of other gay guys."
He smiled and said "You gotta stay off my butt man!"
"Pull 'em up or put it out. I'll look!"
He smiled and said, "I'll pull 'em up. I don't want the girls to think I'm gay."
"They won't. You'll be a stud and they'll want you."
"Well, I've got a plan, so then what?"
"When you go out on a date, then we'll see, but that's the plan, right?"
"Well, let's go back in and see how it's going. How many people you think has been in there so far?"
"I know when I was in there at the door, I let over four hundred myself."
"Wow, for not being well liked, a whole lot of people sure wanted to be sure she was in that casket."
He smiled, "Aunt Wendy was someone who should have talked to you. You would have told her what she needed to hear."
"Yeah, but she thought she had it all figured out."
"Nah, she was someone that no one could figure out. I don't think even she did."
"Sometimes people get that bad off when they don't have someone who will tell them what they need to hear. Look at Gregg, he's changed!"
"Yeah, him getting a girlfriend sure helped him."
"It will you too.
Now, before you go to bed tonight, and before you leave your parents, you go up and you give your parents hugs and kisses. They love you and you love them. When you want, come here and the apartment's yours. Just don't be dragging all sorts of girls through the funeral home."
"No, I'll be lucky to have one."
"Yeah, looking like Alan Jackson, you're going to be lucky to get one. Tell me another one!"
"I'll do it and then hope, ok?"
"You do it and then hang on because the ride's going to be exciting."
He smiled and said, "I'll bring them by to show you since there'll be so many."
"Ok, but only date one at a time and be safe."
"Ok, all it will take is one."
We went back inside and I went into the chapel. Everything was going smoothly and the line was up the side and across the back. I knew where the line was there were probably three hundred in the line. It was proving to be a real nice turn out and we weren't even to the five oclock hour yet. From then on, it'd be busy. I went up and told Mitch to go take a break. He looked at me and the line and said, "I can't."
"Yes, you can. If anything, go down the line and speak to everyone and then go get off your feet for a bit. The line will still be there for the fifteen minutes it takes for you to get that break.
Believe me, when the rush comes, you won't get the break."
"This isn't the rush!"
"No, this is the pre-rush. When five o'clock hits, the ones who went home and got supper and got dressed will come.
From then on, it's going to be packed. That line will snake down the middle come back up it and then across the back and down the other side. By then, we'll have nine hundred in line."
He looked shocked and said, "How many we got now?"
"There's about three hundred there. I took a look at the book and we're on the third sign in book. That means we're over a thousand."
He looked surprised and said, "Man, I knew I'd talked to a lot of people, but now you tell me I've not even gotten to the rush."
"Yeah, so that means you need a break. Otherwise, you'll be standing up here and you'll be shaking the leaf on a flower and telling it thanks for being here."
He laughed and said, "Ok, I get the hint."
"Go down the line and tell everyone hi and by then, I'll have Quizno's in the office. Which kind does everyone want?"
They gave their orders and I went out to Jake and said, "Jake, would you do me a favor?"
"Here are the keys to the Escalade and here's my bank card. Would you take this order to Quizno's and get it and yourself something?"
I turned to the guy greeting and said, "What would you like?"
He smiled and said, "I'm not sure what they have."
"They've got subs. If you like a particular sub, then they'll have it."
He said "Roast Beef"
"Ok, on white, wheat, oat, rye, or cheese?"
"Ok, lots of veggies or none?"
I wrote his in and then put mine down. I told Jake to hold up a moment and ran upstairs to see what the woman wanted in the sitting room. She gave her order and what blew me away was the way she had the sittin room arranged. I said, "This is awesome. You really got this place looking nice!"
"Hon, it just told me I had to do something."
"Ok, let me know if you ever need a job because this is nice."
"Do you have an application?"
"No, because if I needed them, I'd tell everyone else the job's just been taken after seeing it in here. Come give me a talk when you have a chance. I'll work with your hours."
She smiled and I went downstairs thinking to myself how lucky I've been.
I gave Jake the order and then walked him down the hall to the Escalade. In the garage, I felt the warmth and knew it was going to work with the heaters. It was almost tropical back there. He even noted the change it temperature.
When I walked back in, some kids were playing on the elevator and I had to tell them it wasn't a toy. I didn't mind them doing it, but out of control kids led to out of control situations. There was a room downstairs where I kept toys, but even I knew kids didn't watch themselves very good.
Everything was flowing well in the chapel again and I saw Mitch was about a third of the way up the line. Ty motioned me over and said, "Stand here a minute between me and Aunt Joan."
I stood in the line and Joan said, "Jake came in for a moment."
"Yeah, we had a talk."
"I know you did. He wanted to know if I would set him up with some girls."
"You told him you would, I hope?"
"Yeah, but not at a funeral home!"
"We talked and I think things are going to be great for him. If we were in the game of baseball, I'd say Jake's got the World Series won."
"He also asked to go get a hair cut in the morning."
"And, all you say is good?"
"Yeah, what else do you want me to say?"
"Like, you walk on water. That kid saying he wants a hair cut is a miracle. For him to want me to introduce him to a girl is God send."
"Well, I told him you introduced me to Ty and the hospital is full of hot chicks and you were the queen of them."
"Yeah, my son's going to be getting a hair cut and wants me to introduce him to a girl."
"Yeah, and he's going to be wanting contacts and to grow a mustache."
"Ok, I can understand the contacts because he does need to get rid of the glasses, but why the mustache."
Ty chuckled and said, "Aunt Joan imagine him with one and then think of who Lance told him he'd look like!"
"Oh man! You think?"
"Think! Man, he's going to be hot."
"Yeah, and I told him if he looked like that and kept the pants down below his butt as hot as he looked, me and every gay guy in the area would look at that butt, so he's decided he needs to pull up the pants."
She laughed and said, "Miracles do happen!"
Ty said, "Man, he'll have to beat them off with a stick."
"Yeah, but he thinks it's all a big gamble and doesn't think he's going to get a date. I told him he'd have his choice."
"I told him about that one out there at the party who works in the lab."
Joan looked at me and said, "Which one?"
"Heather, who's that girl that sat at the table and makes the perfume?"
"Nicole Seddens, she's a real sweet girl. You want me to ask her to come over so they can meet?"
"Yeah hon, I've already told him about her and he's anxious."
"Good, they'd be good together."
Joan smiled and said, "I know her. She is a nice girl."
"Well, both of you do your magic and I'll do mine."
Little Mark leaned behind Joan and said, "I can't believe you got Jake to open up like that! For him to come in here in front of everyone was one thing, but to ask mom in front of everyone was awesome."
Joan smiled and said real low, "Jake's going to be ok.", like she was comforting herself with the thought.
"Yeah hon, nothing wrong there but a lonely guy that needed to be guided to making some changes. He said he's going to change things with you and Mark too."
"Good, I'll try harder too."
I turned to Ty and said, "What I think I'm going to do is I'm going to get the line going up and down the pews. We can get more people in here that way. I don't want to go out the front door.
Ty said, "I was worried when Randy came in."
"He was civil and I'm glad Dad spoke with him."
"It's a time for healing."
Joan nodded and I said, "Joan, when Jake gets back, you, Mark, and Mark go eat with Mitch and Jake. The woman upstairs and the greeters can all break. I'll go out front and greet people.
I want to get that line trained so it doesn't get out of hand. It's going to be a long night and everyone needs to take breaks.
If you don't take breaks, I'll be in telling you to take one once an hour. In my office bathroom is lotion. Everyone needs to use it and coat your hands really well. Shaking all these hands will cause your hands to dry out."
She nodded and said, "I was going to get some out of my purse, but I'll use yours."
"It's good, I use Vaseline Intensive Care. My first bout with dry hands sent me to a doctor who recommended it."
"That's what I use. The lanolin in it is wonderful.
People think Oil of Olay is wonderful for their faces, but they need to look at an ingredient list sometime and see Vaseline Intensive Care is basicly the same thing."
"I think I'll start using some."
Ty leaned over and said, "When, as active as I plan on kissing you, I'll tell you now, either we both use it or you're going to taste awful."
Joan chuckled and said, "Well, that's not one thing they've made flavored yet."
Little Mark started laughing and said, "I've got to go take a walk."
He walked off and she said, "I think I cracked the kid up."
"He probably never thought other people could use flavored items too."
"Wendy would just die if she knew we were talking like this at her visitation!"
"I imagine, but maybe she'd realize we're all being ourselves and she'd be herself too."
"She was a good woman. I've got regrets I'll not do again with anyone."
"We all have those. The object of a lesson is to learn it and to not make the mistake again."
She nodded and I said, “Why don't you and your family go along the line and greet people and then prepare for your break? “
She turned to Mark and said, “Let's go up the line and greet people. Then, we'll take a break and come back to relieve everyone else.”
They went up the line and Ty said, “This is harder than I thought.”
“Yeah, but one thing that's good about it is you'll remember this and it will help you.
Be sure to use the Vaseline hand lotion in the bathroom. If you don't, your hands will be sore as all get out tomorrow.”
“They're already stinging.”
“Then go use it now and bring it back in to give Gregg and Heather a squirt. There's no sense in hurting your hands.”
He walked away and I told Heather and Gregg what he was doing. Gregg nodded and said, “Mine are stinging too. I just thought it was repetitive motion.”
“No, the oils of your body rub off and what normally is there become depleted and each hand you shake is like using microscopic sandpaper on them. You'll have burned hands and what feels like an Indian burn on your arm is what your hands will feel like tomorrow. But, from what I understand, we're going to do this again before the service, so use the lotion and they'll feel better.”
Heather said, “I never knew that. I'm learning something and I thought I could do all this in my sleep.”
“That's one thing they won't tell you politicians do.
The only one I think who's been obvious about it is Hillary Clinton. You'll see her use sanitary wipes on her hands after shaking hands and then you'll see her reach in her pocket. She's got lotion in there in a wipe.”
“I didn't know that.”
“Think of all the hands they shake and how their hands would feel if they didn't.”
Gregg leaned back and said, “Lance?”
“Rick just came in at the end of the line.”
“Good, I'm glad your dad is out of here. I'll keep an eye on him.”
Heather said, “I was really tense when Randy was in here.”
“Yeah, but I'm glad you were where you were.”
“Me! You should have seen you. You looked like you were off into stance.”
“Then you didn't realize you were too. But, I'm really glad you were where you were. Gregg needed you.”
“Yeah, we had it arranged that if my hand left his, he needed to worry. We'll do it again when he comes through.”
“Was Randy civil to you guys?”
Gregg nodded and leaned back, “All he said was, “I'm sorry for your loss. And, then when he got to dad, he said, “I'm sorry.” and that's when his voice broke.
When he looked at mom, I heard him give a sound like he was going to cry and that's when dad stepped in. It really amazed me Dad could do that.”
“It had to have been hard for both of them. I think both of them loved her.”
“I didn't realize it until he was standing there he could have loved her. That's what is strange.”
“He's in a bad spot. Think about if you were in that spot. His mom hated her, and he loved her and your dad was still married to her. It had to be rough.”
“Yeah, but he shouldn't have been in that spot.”
“Try telling that to his heart. When you love someone, you can't stop that from happening.”
“Oh man, I wish I'd said something to him.”
“You did what you should have. Your Dad did what he needed to do too. I think it worked out for the best.”
“Yeah, it's going to make me feel bad for what else is going to happen.”
“No, just think of it as business. Leave your heart at home that day. If things were wonderful, you'd not have to be doing it. Sometimes, you can't see the beauty of the snake when you've got to kill a pit of vipers.”
We continued to shake hands and I saw Jake come through the side. I stepped out of the line and went out to him. Joan was in the office and said, “Good, I'm famished.”
“He's in the bathroom.”
I went over to the door and knocked.
The door opened and I stepped in. “No, not really. I meant it when I said it was hard.”
He stepped towards me and we hugged.
“Babe, I tried to prepare you the best I could.'
“I know. It's just hearing all the things people say and knowing a lot of what they said is true, is rough.
She had a lot of good times with a lot of people and I know there were good times for us too, but the bad stuff always clouded it.”
“Yeah, but do what you can to remember the good times and let the rest go. I'd ask you to roll all your hurt and pain into a ball and put it in the casket to be buried with her, but I don't think it'd help. Sometimes you are too afraid you'll forget and transfer it to someone else that you don't let go of it.”
He pulled back and kissed me and said, “I love you”
“I love you too. Let's go back out and if you need me, I'll be there. Don't hide the pain away in a bathroom, ok? You had me worried.”
We went back out and his red rimmed eyes had Joan standing up immediately.
“I'm ok, it's just hard “
“I know it is dear.”
“She had a good life with other people” He started to cry again and she hugged him.“why couldn't she have it with us?”
He pulled back from Joan and she said, “Hon, sometimes they don't know how else to show the pain. Think about how you feel when you hit your thumb with a hammer. Is your first response to cry out and then follow it up with pain? She cried out and we all heard it as anger, because she never followed it up with the pain. Now, we're realizing she was hurting and didn't show it.”
He hugged Joan to him and said, “I know” His voice told me he was crying again.
He pulled back again and said, “Shut down the grid. I've got to hug her and tell her I forgive her.”
“Do you want me to clear the room?”
“No, fuck 'em if they can't handle me hugging my mom.”
I walked with him and said, “Come here.” I showed him the panel and I said, “when you want it up, you type in grid 4-7-4-3. When you want it down, you type in Down. 3-6-9-6. It's down now. Go hug your mom.”
He went over and before he got there his sobs were loud. Gregg stepped forward and he said, “Gregg, I've got to do this. She's got to know. He leaned in and said, “Mama, I love you.” as he leaned in, in his sobs his “You are forgiven” were mumbled in. Gregg heard and his crying started. He hugged Ty to him and I stepped in with Heather to get them over to a pew.”
Heather looked at me and the tears were down her cheeks. I looked out into the room and I can't tell you how many women were crying. Her hand came up and she wiped away my tears and said, “Real professional.”
“That wasn't a moment that called for it.”
I turned to the room and said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, The family will be back in a moment, they need to take a break.”
I went over to Ty and he said, “I'm better now.”
“No, you've got a break and so does Gregg, Gregg, if you need the grids down, so you can if you want. I'm not telling you a thing.”
“No, I need to be alone.”
“Ok, then come with me to the garage as I need to speak with you.”
He looked at me and said, “What for?”
“This is for me and not you. Just come and you'll understand.”
We went to the garage and I said, “Gregg, you know I love you and you know you'll always be a brother to me, but if that moment in there didn't tell you what just happened with him, I can't.
What's going on with him is he's got all those people telling him how the good times were and every bit of his were clouded with pain.
He'd went to the bathroom and locked himself in. While in there we talked and in a moment of clarity afterwards, your aunt Joan said something that really brought home to me what you went through. She said, “When a person smacks their finger with a hammer, the first thing they do is let out an exclamation that sounds like anger. Then, the pain comes.
For him, the pain came and it lodged itself in his heart. It hit you too, and your anger was let out on everyone around you.
In too many ways, you were like her. The problem is, you never shared your pain. Don't be like her, Gregg and don't be like him and lock it in. Let it out and take that ball of it that's within you and roll it up and bury it with that casket.
He just put his pain in that casket. He forgave her. If you don't want to do that, I'm not making you. But, don't let it come out and affect your life like it did her and you all.”
“You telling me she was feeling pain and anger against someone and let it out at us?”
“Yeah, I am. Take a look at the dominoes falling. I just did and it became clear. Her family dying....Pain, anger, confusion and turmoil.
She's suddenly dealt a hand that tells her she has to step up and assume a role that she wasn't prepared for. She's got to wing it and she's got a short time to not only deal with a family dying which would normally take a long time, but she's also got to deal with running a business and keep a family happy which was a role she wanted.
Now, take a look at it and put yourself in that place. Would you be pissed off at life if it dealt you that hand? Wouldn't you unleash it? Wouldn't those around you say, “Hey, you're changing and we still want you in this role over here” and you know you can't because suddenly rather than going out and playing pitch and catch with the kids, life's thrown you more balls and you're now juggling your ass off and if you drop one, they're going to make fun of you and tell you, “I knew you couldn't do it because you're only a woman. A man could have done it.”
He said, “Oh my God.”
“Yeah, see where she was?”
He stepped into a hug and said, “I'm so sorry. I hated her and I hated the wrong thing.”
He started crying and said, “She was keeping it all in because that's what a man would have done. She came home and did what a man would have done. She loved us and she needed us, but she was hurting us crying out for help.”
“Yeah, so whether you realize it or not Gregg, you're realizing she was a human being and she did the best she could. You were out there doing the same thing and you were crying out for help too.”
He continued to hug me and said, “You make me realize things that no one else can. It's like you see inside me and you report back to me what you see.
For so long, I felt like there were explosions going off inside me and I was like a volcano. I knew there'd be a day that came and it'd be a huge explosion and then afterwards, I'd most likely be dead. I lived with that fear and that only caused it to grow in me. I love Heather and I'm so afraid I will become resentful towards her. How do I stop it?”
“I'll tell you and it's easy. Start off with two words. It's two words that tell yourself YOU ARE HUMAN and not a fucking volcano. The words are, “ I Feel”. When you are angry, say, “I feel angry because or I feel angry when you do this because I feel scared, I feel vulnerable. I feel confused. Don't bottle it up and say you don't have feelings You have feelings and you are entitled to them. If you deal with them in that manner, it releases the pent up anxieties and it helps you communicate them out so they can be dealt with.
Heather then understands and she can work with you. I can work with you too if I know and so can everyone else.
It's when you take it at work and don't deal with it and then when you come home, you unleash it. They don't understand it and they have no clue how to help you.
Your mom had issues that confronted her at work that happened that if she came home and said, “Hey, I found a man attractive today and I felt human, she would have been told to sell the business, or your dad would have felt threatened.
She knew that and she bottled it up. When she got to the point she couldn't take it home anymore because she'd damaged too many relationships, she reached out for someone else who was there and she knew also understood the situations she was facing.
It's a hell of a lot easier when you feel like you have someone you can communicate those things with who doesn't resent you bringing it home.”
“Oh man, now I'm understanding so much more. She needed so much and she didn't get it.”
“Yeah, and you can't blame you kids and you can't blame your dad and you can't blame the job. It all was life and it all was a ball she juggled.
She had no choice. She could have gotten rid of one but then the outside world would have said she was a failure.
What's sad is I think the affairs was another ball she juggled. It's hard to think of that, but in a lot of way, I think it was her only option she had that could have saved her.
It was like the escape hatch. Some people use drugs and alcohol to escape and it becomes their affair. Soon, it consumes their life and the things that matter suddenly can be dismissed because it made her wanted, needed, and loved.
“Lance, would you leave me alone for a moment?”
“Lance...I'm ok...For once, I'm probably more ok than I've been so far in this life. I now understand things and I going to do it by myself for a moment and then, I'm going to come to some decisions of where I need to go from here on out.”
“Ok, if you need me, I'll be one request away.”
“I know that and I know everyone else will be too. I also know they would have been for her too.
It's embarrassing because now, I can see with the clarity you do and it's a bit scary. I'm going to look in at my life and I've got to make some decisions of what I want and what I need to change.”
“Ok, that's only fair.”
I went back in and Heather looked at me strangely. “He needs time alone.”
“Better than he's been so far in life.”
“Ok, what did you two talk about?”
“Life and him understanding his mom.”
“I don't think he does.”
“He does now, and so does Ty. That's what has happened. He now has what you and I have. We can look at ourselves and see our lives and see what we have going on and what we need to change inside us and what we need to keep and what we need to let go.”
“He's going to dump me.”
“Where the hell did that come from?!”
“I feel it.”
“He loves you.”
“He also has a roving eye that's all over the place.”
“He does that...and I think that's a part of the decision he has to make. I think he's growing up and I think he's facing responsibilities out there, and I think he's doing things right. He's doing it alone where others can't impose their own agendas, needs, and desires. You've been there and I've been there too.”
“So, you think he'll make the right decision?”
“Yeah, the right one for him.”
“Am I in that decision?”
“If it's a smart and healthy decision, you will be.”
“I think he's gay.”
“How can you say that?”
“Lance, his eye looks at guys like you do.”
“Hon, look at me, does he make love to you?”
“Then reevaluate that thought.”
“I'm trying to but I'm scared he'll follow his feelings.”
“Look at me...When you're a kid in a candy shop, what the hell do you look at?”
“I look at everything.”
“You did too and I did too. Then, what did you do?”
“I decided what I wanted.”
“He's there now.”
“He'll decide he's gay.”
“I say he'll decide he loves you and to stop looking at the eye candy.
I say he's most likely going to realize he's rich and tell Mitch he can't do it and to tell Mitch to sell the place. That's what I think.
It's the healthiest decision he could make and I think if he looks at his options, he'll stay in school, give your relationship the effort and decide with the love of his life what he wants to do.”
“Ok, So, you're saying he's not gay but could have been bisexual?”
“I think if you'd play with him, you could have him pulling all nighters at some swingers joint. Is that what you want?”
“No, and if that's what he wants, he'll have to find it with someone else.”
“Then let him decide the candy he wants and face it that it wasn't meant to be, that you'll find someone who can love you and can give you what you want. BUT, if he decides you're going home with him, then know you're a lucky woman and you've got him the rest of your lives and never hold this decision against him.”
“Where'd you get so smart?”
“I have a little sister that occasionally forgets lessons she taught me. I was there once when we showed each other our privates. Sorry sis, but my decision got made and it wasn't nothing towards you, I had to make me happy.”
“You did, and although it hurt, I think I like this better. We can talk and our other halves know about our needs in our friendship and they accept it. What's great is we step in and we take care of each other's other halves and it's growing our bonds stronger.”
“Let's go get something to eat, I'm starving.”
“What have you ate today?”
“A long john donut. A nibble off the corner of Ty's pop tart, and a soggy tenderloin that had bread from pickles all over it.”
“I thought you don't like pickles on sandwiches.”
“I forgot to tell them that and they definitely gave me pickles with how soggy it was.
Oh, I also had lattice fries but I shared with Ty because he discovered how good they were and ate all his. So, when I was eating mine, I shared. And that is where I am until I inhale that Quizno's sub in there.
But what we need to do is get that ate and get Gregg fed and then, we need to get back in there because this funeral home is running down the highway without a driver right now.”
We went in and I ate my sandwich. Ty asked to try a bit of mine and said, “Why is it your food always tastes better?”
“Because I've eaten enough of their stuff to know what's the best. And that's usually the case wherever I go.”
“We'll have to start cooking at home more often.”
“Ok, but only about three nights a week. The rest, we can eat out and try different places.”
A thought hit me and I said, “Hey everyone, Dinner on Thursday is going to be at the Old Spaghetti Factory in St. Louis, so be ready for pasta.”
Mitch heartily agreed and Joan said, “Is it good?”
Both Mitch and I said, “Oh man, Good? The place is beautiful!”
Joan laughed and said, “Ok, but is the FOOD good?”
Mitch nodded and I said, “Joan, when you see the place, your restaurant in the hotel will have a redesign.
Think of my men's bathroom upstairs after I've had a chance to go to some really insane architectural auctions and you've got this place.
Chandeliers, Stained Glass, and even a trolley car in the basement. The place is awesome and pasta the way my Italian Grandma would have made it.”
“Yeah, after going there, you won't think of an Italian restaurant without thinking of it.”
Mitch was animatedly describing dishes there to Ty and Mark and she said, “It must be good. Mitch loving a restaurant that much is wonderful.”
What was funny is when Mitch uttered the word “spumoni” both of us did the Italian kiss of the fingers. He looked at me and said, “I can hardly wait, what are you having?”
“I'll probably have the sampler platter. That way, I get everything and Ty will have the Lasagna because I want to see the look on his face when he sees the size he'll get.”
Mitch laughed and said, “You two will be sharing food because he'll want to try it all. I know I'm having the fettuccine Alfredo with the shrimp and chicken. The last time I was there, I had it and it was wonderful.”
Joan said, “Mitch, tell me some more about this place!?”
“Hon, remember the restaurant when Wendy and I went down to the city for that beer convention and we both came home raving about it? That's the place.
It's down on La Clede's Landing and it's not but a skip from the Arch.
What you'll love is walking along the cobbles holding Mark's hand and window shopping. We'll do that while we're waiting because the place always has a line of people waiting. What we'll do is give our names and get a time for when they'll seat us and then we'll go walk the cobbles. Y
ou two will fall in love all over and if it's foggy like the night Wendy and I went, you'll think you were in London.
But, wait until you get the plate of pasta they'll serve you. They serve the stuff like mom used to serve fried chicken. Remember those big platters?”
“Yeah and oh, that gravy.”
“Well, they serve your pasta on those platters and he's not lying about the size of a piece of lasagna. That things like eight inches square and what? Six inches high!”
Ty looked at me and said, “We're sharing.”
“They give go boxes and you'll need it. But, I think we'll order the fettuccine to come home with. It is good.”
Mitch said, “Is it anyone's birthday soon?”
“Ty's is in March.”
Joan said, “Jake's is March first.”
“Well, we'll tell them it's his birthday so we can see how the whole place carries on over a birthday. J
ust imagine what it'd be like if a bunch of Italians threw a family reunion and suddenly find out it's someone's birthday? That's how lively the place is...but when it's someone's birthday, it goes up full volume and everyone's singing and everyone even the kids get wine.”
Joan's eyebrows arched and I said, “Joan, think Italian family, not a bar and you'll have it. It's responsible there, not a bunch of drunks.
You'll love the place and scream to go there more, but on Ty's birthday, we're taking him down to the Bevo Mill because I want him to see my other heritage and that's authentic German food.”
Mitch said, “I'm going! Man, he' knows all the good restaurants! The Bevo's a bit pricey, but hey on buffet day, you'll see people in suits out for business power lunches next to people in shorts which are tourists.
It's like you really took a trip to Germany.”
Heather stood up and said, “He's going back in, I'm going.”
I stood up and said, “Ok, everyone, let's go back in, but now we have something to think about for Thursday.”
Joan hugged me and said, “Thanks”
“You couldn't have done it better. He's going to go to that restaurant and he's going to have some closure because he'll be doing it without her and that will tell him she really is gone.
But it's a place he and she both found together and came home really in love. So, I think it's going to be wonderful and I'm excited to see this place.
If it is that good, you'll have to help me get Mark talked into a redesign of the restaurant.”
“There won't be a question in his mind when he sees the place. The good thing about it is we'll have old bricks from the tear down of that building next door to put into the walls like they have.”
“So, it's a new building?”
“No, it's an old coffee factory that they gutted. It's really old, but in order to get the feeling, you'll want exposed bricks and beams like they have. It's gorgeous, just think overload and you've got it coming hon because everywhere you look it's got something incredible.”
“Like Chili's or Friday's?”
“No, all this stuff is architectural. The stair case is from an old stern wheeler riverboat. All carved and beautiful. There's a bar upstairs they don't use which has stained glass out of this world and everywhere is stained glass.”
“I'm looking forward to is because Mark and I were talking about taking some weekends and running away together. If we could find places like that to look forward to, it'll be nice.”
“Oh, when you want to go someplace, give me a call and I'll tell you the best restaurants. I can tell you most of them for the midwest.”
“Yeah, In Kansas City, it's the bar-b-que places like Gates or the Stockyard. In Dodge City, there's a steak palace that is awesome. The beef there is so fresh it's never even touched a freezer.”
We went into the Chapel and began greeting. I went up the line greeting people and when I got to Rich, I said, “You're invited by the family to come on up.”
He looked at me and said, “They fired me.”
“Yes, and you were a valued employee before that, so you can come on up.”
He looked at me and went up with me. We went to the casket and he paid his respects. He turned to Mitch and said, “Good Luck on running the place”.
Mitch nodded and he turned and left.
Mitch asked, “What just happened there?”
“I just brainfucked the guy. He got told he was valued as an employee and he was getting privileged over others, and then he couldn't very well wait and slam it in your face over anything else.”
“Oh,” Mitch smiled and said, “Are you sure you don't want to go into business selling beer?”
“If I did, it'd not be good.”
He smiled and said, “Things you pull out of your hat are amazing.”
“Part of it was making him wait the length of time he did and then him realizing the line was freaking slow and then knowing he got to go ahead compliments of the family.”
“So, that's what you said and he ate it hook line and sinker and didn't cause a scene?”
“Yeah, ask Heather, the best form of defense is a surprise offensive move. It takes them off guard and then, they're at your mercy.”
Heather smiled and said, “Lance, Gregg needs to speak with you a moment.”
“Ok hon, and then I've got to move that line.”
I went over to Gregg. He hugged me and said, “You know, when I was out there thinking, I thought about where I was a week ago and where I'm at now.
A week ago, I didn't have a thing to say I was happy about and when we were out there, you showed me how to give life a shake like an Etch-A-Sketch and have a clean slate.
When I told you I had a decision to make, I really did. I could fuck it up and fill it up again with junk, or I could draw from life what I wanted and valued and hoped to be true.
When I thought about it some more, I looked at it and it was like all the good things had a line attached to it coming from you. Yeah, I could have gotten the money from mom and dad's estate on down the road, but how messed up would my life been by that time?
You introduced me to Heather and to be honest, I was going through the motions and pretending. Then, out there, I saw it and said, “Hey, this is real and it's something you can either value or you can screw up.
You don't know it, but you gave me that decision time and saved me years on figuring it all out through more bad decisions.
What I've come up with is I'm more committed now than I've ever been with her and the playing I've been doing, is stopped.
Out there, I think I just became a man...not a MANipulator.
Earlier today, Ty told me a phrase you used and that's Bucket of Blessings. I now understand how he and you feel. Thanks.”
“Don't sweat it. The lights now on and you can see the room inside is free from all the junk. The junk man's gone and now you can put that bucket up someplace where everytime you need it, all you have to do is give it a jiggle and it'll rain some more down on you.
Do me a favor though, when you build your new house, you build a room with a ceiling high enough that you can actually put up a bucket and for each valuable life lesson you put in a piece of paper.
For this one, put, “I feel” on it and put it in. As you learn lessons, you put it in. Soon, your bucket will overflow and each will be a memory which is good. What's interesting is when life comes in and you've got kids, and the kids are suffering a learning lesson, you can jiggle it and you'll be amazed at how that bucket will give you the right answer to teach them the things they need to learn. When your bucket's empty, then you know they'll have buckets in their house which are full of blessings passed along.
If you've done your job right, your kids will pass it along and the stuff that happened here won't have been passed along and you can rest with the enjoyment that future generations can give the treasures we never knew existed.”
He smiled and said, “Bro, you throw me things and I can see them so clear now and it's beautiful. I'll do that.”
“Good because you've got a year from Easter to get ready for that baby boy. What you going to do when you're a daddy?”
“I'm going to take time to be a dad and not take on balls which cause me to juggle like a clown.”
“Then decide what matters and get the ones which don't matter out of your life.”
“Ok, that decision got made out there too, I've got to find the time to tell Dad.”
“I knew that'd be the decision. How'd Heather react?”
said you already told her that'd be what I picked.”
“Amazing isn't it when you can see inside like a fish bowl? Keep it clear and you can see in it too. Now, I've got to move that line, look at this!”
“Yeah, it's amazing because I would have loved to remember what everyone said.”
“You will, the mics are on all these cameras tonight.”
“Yeah, and it's not for that reason, but isn't it amazing the reasons I turned them on aren't the reason they were needed? I'm glad because it's now a good reason. You'll have all the memories they shared with her and can celebrate it.”
I turned around and went up to arrange the line so everyone went up and down the pews. The advantage of it not seen by me was people now could sit while they waited.
As soon as I realized the result, I started telling the others standing they could sit and go up when they were next in line. Everyone sat and what was neat is after the viewing, people were coming up to me and telling me what a brilliant idea they thought it to be since they didn't have to stand continuously like they had at so many other places.
The seating in the pews also changed the role of the greeters. They now held a line of people at the door and allowed twenty five to enter the chapel at a time. While they were waiting, they were told how the seating arrangement made it easier on both them and the family.
I turned on the video from the website and the pictorial eulogy began to play for those waiting. The good thing was it took enough time to play the people waiting had formed the twenty five and their line could go in. It was something I decided we could use for future visitations then and there.
As time went on, the rush of people became a trickle and I relieved the greeters.
Jake said, “Everyone's been coming down talking about the bathrooms, what's funny is I've not been there so I've got to go up and see what everyone's so excited about!”
I smiled because I hadn't realized no one had taken him to see them. He was gone for about fifteen minutes and then he came running back down the stairs and said, “Why didn't you tell me that was up there! I could have been telling people to go check out the bathrooms! Has mom and dad seen it?”
“Yeah, they have and that's what got your mom to redesigning the hotel.”
“I imagine, that's awesome!”
“When everyone's gone, I'll take you over to see the women's and then you'll see what has them raving about theirs.”
“You mean they're different?”
“Oh yeah, theirs is a woman's ideal bathroom versus a man's. They have lots of beautiful stuff in theirs and the toilets are heated.”
“Yeah, Gold toilets which are heated.”
“No, smart. I figure if they like them, they'll be dying to come back.”
He smiled and said, “Hey, it's me that's supposed to think of the jokes!”
“Ok, now, do you want to know the name of the girl I told you about?”
“That name sounds familiar, did she go to school here?”
“I don't know, all I know is I asked and that's what Heather told me. Both your mom and Heather think she's good for you.”
“Great. So, what's she look like?”
“Thin, Long Brown hair, Maybe five ten and she's got a wonderful personality. Just a moment, let me get the door here.”
I opened the door and in walked Nicole with two of the other girls from the party.
She came over and said, “Here, try this and tell me what you think. It should be hypoallergenic and it's got no scents.”
I looked over to Jake and his mouth was a perfect o.
“Nicole, I'd like for you to meet Joan's son Jake. Jake, this is Nicole Seddens.”
Jake smiled and said, “Hi, Lance has told me a lot about you. He said he met you the other night at the party and you were interested in finding someone to go out with. Would it be possible that we could go out?”
She smiled and said, “Sure!”
He said, “Don't be afraid to go out with me, I'm getting a hair cut tomorrow and we're going to get me contacts. I've been away to school, but I'm coming home at the end of this semester.”
She smiled bigger and said, “Jake, could I get your number, or do you want mine?”
He smiled real big and said, “Yeah, one moment.”
He turned to me and I handed him a business card out of my vest pocket. He used the ink pen from the sign in lectern to put his number and name on the back and handed it to her. She gave him her number and said, “Here, don't lose it because that's the only one you're getting.”
“It's the only one I need. It's going right over my heart here in my shirt pocket.”
She blushed and what was funny was he stood up straight and said, “Your friend?”
“Yes, we go places together when we don't have dates.”
“Oh, well let me see if I can get some of my friends for them. But until then, would you ladies like to follow me upstairs? I've got something you'll want to see.”
They all followed and as I stood there, I chuckled. Who says you can't meet someone at a funeral home?
Joan came out and said, “Where's Jake? I thought this was his job.”
“Ma'am, your son........(pause for dramatic effect).......is upstairs getting to know the love of his life better.”
“Nicole and some of the girls from the hospital just came in and you should have seen the romance artist in action. Valentino couldn't have done it better.”
She whispered....”Jake!” Like she couldn't believe her ears.
“Yeah, they've exchanged numbers and she's blushing and he's throwing lines at her like she's the only fish in the river. I think she's caught, but he took them upstairs to the bathroom to sink the hook.”
“Oh my...thank goodness, I'm dressed for it. You know a mother doesn't often meet their future daughter in law dressed nice.”
“Thank goodness he's dressed in clothes that isn't showing that butt.”
We both giggled and she said, “I can't believe this. I'm so excited.”
“Not half as excited as I was when they stepped in because he was just asking me to describe her to him and who should walk through the door! The timing couldn't have been more perfect.”
She began stuttering and said, “I've got to go get Mark.”
“Because I want him to be as happy as I am right now.”
“OK, you better hurry and when you two come flying back in here, don't be running and don't look so obvious as to be staring at the steps. Look like there's another reason you are out here.”
“Well, ok, but I'll be too excited.”
“I think it's going to be funny if they stay up there for a long time and talk.”
“Well, go hurry because they did come here to support Heather.”
She turned and I think she probably hit the chapel at a dead run. I do know she left me chuckling. And, it wasn't a minute later, Mark came out with Joan. He had a huge smile on his face and said, “You are terrible. You know you shouldn't tell her to hurry, she actually ran in a funeral home!”
I stood there chuckling and said, “She's excited.”
Joan said, “Mark, let's stand here like this and let's be talking with Lance when they come down the stairs.”
“I am standing here like this talking to Lance. Should I be talking with him about how we should look nonchalant when my son comes down the stairs with his new girlfriend?”
“Mark, you're terrible. Don't be making fun of me!”
“I'm not darling, but it is funny.”
“Well...what could be taking him so long?”
“Why don't you go up and see?” I said with a wink.
Mark smiled at me and said, “You're not helping her any. The next thing you know, I'll be drug up them stairs.”
Joan had a serious look on her face and said, “Well come on Jake!”
Mark and I both chuckled and he said, “Now I know why he's not been serious before. She should really take a look at herself now.”
“Don't be making fun of me” she smiled.
“I'm not dear. Have you ever thought how our grand kids will feel knowing mommy met daddy in a funeral home?”
She said calmly and nicely, “They can tell the little darlings they were dying to meet each other and loneliness evaporated the moment they saw each other.”
“No, because he was over there standing and staring with his mouth like this with that little dread lock hanging down his forehead and his glasses slid down to the tip of his nose and she was a vision of loveliness.”
“We really should have made him get his hair cut.”
“He told her not to be afraid of dating him because he was getting his hair cut and contacts.”
“Yes he did.”
“And what did she do?”
“She stood there and blushed”
“Well, we will have to go get him contacts and I don't care if he grows a mustache or not if it gives him some self confidence.”
“I won't care if he looks like Alan Jackson and keeps that butt out!”
“He said he was pulling up his pants from now on, didn't he?”
“Yeah, I told him that to give him a complex. Hopefully it stuck.”
Mark smiled and said, “It should. But, I think if Mark had heard you, he'd be changing his style.”
“Well, he's next on my list, but for the life of me I can't think of .......oh Joan, that Doctor that's the Gynecologist...what's his name?”
She smiled and said, “Mark, oh man, that will be hard. All I have to do in that house is yell 'Mark' and three would come running.”
Mark winked, “You are terrible, now she's going to play matchmaker.”
“I swear, it just came to me.”
He chuckled. “Sounds good to me. I believe you.”
“Here they come! Here they come! Here they come!” she whispered excitedly.
Jake came down the stairs and with Nicole holding the crook of his elbow. The other two girls following.
“Mom, Dad, I'd like for you to meet Nicole. She and I are going to be going out on Saturday night.”
The look on his face and the straightness of his back had Jake looking more grown up than I'd seen him. The only thing left of the old Jake was that dangling dreadlock.
I looked over and said, “Nicole came to see Heather, wouldn't you like to go up and get her Jake?”
Jake gave me a look like he could shoot me, and said, “Sure, I'll be right back Nicole.”
When Jake left I said, “Nicole, I appreciate you thinking of me with the deodorant, I appreciate it.”
“No problem, it's not often I find someone who can't wear scents and I know how hard it is for you to find something without any that are hypoallergenic. I had all the ingredients that I normally use to make scented deodorants with, so I thought I'd make that for you to try.”
Joan asked, “You make perfumes and colognes?”
“Yes, they're not hard. All you need is essential oils and some other ingredients. The hard part is the particles to bond. What you don't know about most perfumes is it's a finely tuned chemical reaction. The ingredients not only have to be perfect, but they have to be added in the right order. It's like building a house. You can't add the roof before you build the walls and the floor.”
Joan nodded and said, “Do you make originals or copies?”
“I do both actually. What's interesting is after dancing with Lance, I've been working on his scent. I thought I'd make his scent and blend it into a deodorant so then there'd not be a reaction between his scent and the added one.”
Joan smiled and said, “Well, he does smell good. I'd be interested in seeing how it smelled on other people.”
Nicole said, “When I get it right, I'll bring some up to your office.”
“Oh, you work at the hospital?”
“Yeah, I work in the lab.”
“Oh, ok, I knew you looked familiar.”
Mark smiled at me and I nodded. I knew both of us were thinking Joan to be a sly fox for getting that conversation flowing.”
“Yeah, I got hired directly from college last May.”
“Oh, well, Jake will have to bring you out to the house. You two look good together. Well, we've got to be going back in, it's nice meeting you Nicole.”
“Nice meeting you to”
Joan and Mark left and as soon as they went through the door, Nicole came over and said, “ Oh thank you.”
“No problem, do you like?”
“He's so cute.”
“Good, I wish you two luck. He's been anxious since I told him about you.”
“Yeah, so it was wonderful you were able to come by. It's like it was meant to be.”
“Something made me decide to come along. Now, I'm glad I came.”
Jake came back in with Heather and as soon as Heather saw Nicole, she came over and said, “Guys, you won't believe what happened, but I'm engaged!”
The girls all walked away chatting animatedly and Jake came over to me. “I could have shot you!”
“You didn't understand my reason for getting you out of here. I'm glad you left.”
“Jake, for a relationship to be good, you have to have seals of approval. One of those was your mom's. Believe me, she passed with flying colors. So much, she's now got approval to go out to your house. See what you just got handed? Now, she can come out there and you can show her the view and be alone with her someplace that's romantic.”
“Oh, well I was worried.”
“Your mom likes her and she's a real sweet girl. Do you like her?”
“Oh yeah, she's hot.”
“I told you.”
“We're going out Saturday night, so I've got to get my hair cut and I really wish I had contacts.”
“Go to Wal-Mart's vision center and see if they can get you some. You might be in luck, but they do take some getting used to.”
“You wear them?”
“No, but I know people that have gotten them.”
Joan came back out with a woman and said, “Lance, do you have a moment?”
“Sure, what can I do for you?”
“This here is the woman I was telling you about. My friend who works at Division of Family Services.”
“Oh....come on back here. Jake, mind the store.” Jake gave me a look that could kill again.
I took them back to the office and sat with them. “Hi, I'm Lance, I'm sorry for not introducing myself sooner, but I wanted to be sat down when I heard any news.”
“I went up yesterday and spoke with your brothers. They want to see you and the first thing they both wanted to know is if they could live with you which is a good sign. I told them you wanted them to live with you too and they were both ready to pack then. I was going to wait until you were less busy to talk with you.”
“I'm pretty much busy all the time, but I'm stable and I've got a nice house and I've got the business here. Upstairs is a suite too, so they'd not be alone.”
“I'm not doing a fitness for custody on you Lance. Everyone who I know and myself included all have glowing things to say about you. What I need to know is when you want the boys?”
“I would love to say right now, but I can't. I've got this visitation tonight and the funeral tomorrow. I guess what I need to find out is how soon I can get them?”
“How about if I give the foster parents a call tonight and they can be ready tomorrow afternoon. Is that too soon?”
Tears sprung into my eyes and I said, “Sure”
She touched my hand and said, “Lance, the boys love you and they've missed you. Any help you need, I'll be there.
My advice is for you to find someone who will share the responsibility with you and have them there so that when you're unable to be, you won't be leaving them alone.”
“I've got someone.”
She nodded and said, “That's what I'll need. We'll have paperwork to fill out, but the options are open to you for what you need and feel they'll need. If you need counselling, it's available and if you need assistance, it's provided. They have benefits and they have insurance afforded to them. Now, do you need anything immediately I can help you with?”
“oh....ummm.....I'm thinking....I've got to get them beds and I've got to get them...oh...uh.....”
Joan came over and put her hand on my shoulder. “Hon, we're going to the hotel supply on Thursday and we'll get them everything they'll need. She's wanting to know if you need any counselling or anything for emotional support?”
“Oh, I'm sorry, I was overwhelmed there for a moment. For me, personally, I'll need once a week. Then for family counselling, I think once a week at first and then we'll scale it back. If things are going good, we'll scale it back, but I want to make sure their needs are met.”
She smiled and said, “Lance, you're a good person and you've managed surprisingly well. No one could be more proud of you overcoming what you've accomplished in the time you've had. The boys know you needed time and they know you're gay. They know you'll likely find someone.”
“But, I have.”
“Good, then that adjustment will be absorbed into the reunification.”
“I don't want them to think it's conditional on them coming home.”
“Oh, they don't. The way they've been told is they'd have to meet your girlfriend or wife, so they need to be accepting of you partner.”
“He's great. In fact, he's in there. Would you like to meet him?”
She looked confused and Joan said, “Wendy's son is Lance's partner.”
“Oh, which one?”
She smiled and said, “Ok, I saw the other one with a girl, so I was confused. Sure, I'll meet him, but it's not for professional reasons. I've heard so many good things about you, I thought it'd be nice to see the person who was lucky to have you.”
“Oh, the luck's all mine. He's great.”
She smiled and Joan said, “I”ll go get him and be back.”
She left, and I said, “Oh, I've been so worried they'd not want me.”
“Don't say that. They love you. Like I said, They wanted to come just as soon as I started telling them why I was there.”
“They're being treated ok, aren't they?”
“Yes, but our homes can only provide so much of what a child needs. A child needs someone who will actually love them.”
“They'll have that. There's a lot of love in our house. And, they'll come into a family that's the best. I can hardly wait for everyone to meet them too.”
She smiled and said, “You've done a good job here. I'm impressed.”
“Thanks, we're now able to expand and things are going so nice. I had to be sure I could afford them.”
“They know that. Are things well financially?”
“Yes, and business is going well, so I can not worry there. I really have missed them.”
“They know. That's the only flaw I've found and even that I understand. It's a hard adjustment when parents die as yours did and I know there will be adjustments with them coming to live.”
“There will be, but I know it will work. Ty is looking forward to them as I am.”
The door to the office opened and Ty came in followed by Joan. He looked at me and said,” Joan said you needed me. You ok?”
“Yeah, sit down as I've got good news.”
“What is it?”
“They'll be coming to live with us tomorrow afternoon.”
“We have the funeral tomorrow?”
“Yeah, they've got school too, so after they get out of school, they'll be picked up and brought home.”
“Oh, we have the wake. That's ok, I'll be home. The boys and you need me worse.”
She smiled and said, “How about if I make it a little later?”
Ty looked panicked. “No! He's wanted his brothers and now he's got them, I...I...I'm not going to stand in that way.”
“Ty” she said reaching for his hand. “You've lost a mother and you're gaining two children. It's an adjustment.
Don't feel like your needs aren't to be met in raising children. They'll need time to adjust and you'll need time for grieving and adjusting to them too.
What I'll do is I'll take them shopping and I'll bring them by when you get home.”
“Ty looked at me and I knew his heart was breaking for taking that time.”
Then it hit me. “How about we go up and get them and then go to the wake. Would that be ok?”
She looked at me and at Ty and said, “Ty?”
“Yea...Yeah, that's fine I just don't want them to think we don't want them.”
“They know they're wanted.”
He smiled and came over to me and gave me a huge hug. “You got them!”
That's when I began crying and I could feel his shudders too.
She stood up and said, “Lance, Ty, here's the address and I'll be there at four o'clock. Take the time you need and bring a good sized vehicle because they've got a lot of things.”
“Ok, I've got the Escalade and the flower truck, which do you think we'll need?”
“I was driving the van and think it will fill it. How about what you can't take, we'll take in the van?”
“Ok, you'll do that?”
“Ok, what's that address? I'll do map quest now so I have the directions.”
I was so nervous it took three tries before I got the address in correctly. As soon as the map came up, I printed it.
She smiled and said, “It's nice to see you again and I'm glad it's on happier terms than the last time.”
As soon as she said it, I said, “You...you're the grandma!”
“Yeah hon, you did my grand baby's funeral”
Ty looked at me and he said, “The one you told me about?”
“Yeah, oh my, I didn't recognize you. I'm so sorry.”
She smiled and said, “I didn't think you did.
See, now you know why I gave you the glowing report I did. I knew anyone that handled themselves that well under that sort of pressure presented would be able to handle kids.
You handled everything excellently and my one regret there was those so-called friends of my daughters did what they did in there. Since then, my daughter's gotten a lot better in prison and she's not had one visit by those friends.”
“I hate to say it, but they did come and visit here, but the windows weren't broken by the bricks they threw. However, the reputation I gained for being a racist did stick. You know that's not true, but you can't stop people when they want to hear something bad about someone.”
“Hon, people like them can't pull people like you down. Your business doesn't need them. The ones who come wanted to come and those that don't, well...let's just say they deserve what they get. I know where I'll be taken and it doesn't take a whole chapel of drug dealers to send me off.”
I hugged her and held her. When I pulled back she had tears in her eyes and said, “You were so kind to me when I needed someone to be. My worries then were people would use what happned to bring me down in my profession. They didn't and none have since. I've finally gotten to give you a little of what you gave me.”
Ty said, “Babe, I'm going back in here. Come in when you can. I'm going so I can give Dad and Heather the good news.”
He left and she said, “He loves you. MAN, does he love you! The look in that man's eyes makes me wish I was that young again.”
Joan laughed and said, “Girl, you ain't that old! We went to school together and I refuse to admit we're a day over their age!”
They both laughed and I said, “Well, both of you don't look bad at all. So whatever you're doing, keep it up!”
Joan went over and hugged her and said, “Lance, you don't realize it but things used to be a lot different.
In our day even though people weren't supposed to be racist, they looked at people who were friends with someone from another race as a downgrade. She was the first black girl in our school to be a cheerleader in the mixed squad.
Before that, they had black cheerleaders and they had white, but not a mixed squad. Then, they stopped dividing them up and no black girls ever got on.
She changed that because she stood up and said she wanted to be one and no one was going to stop her. For that, I said if she had that sort of gumption, I sure was going to be there for her and be her friend.
Let me tell you, people did everything they could to put us down over it. Mark was on the football squad and we were together but he even got in fights over names the football players would call us.”
“Yeah, and nowadays, the kids don't think a thing about it.”
They walked out of the office with arms around each other and I sat back down and cried. My privacy was shattered when Heather came running into the room and pulling me up into a hug and yelling in happiness.
She then realized I was crying and pulled back and then pulled me to her again and began crying too
“You're scared, aren't you?”
“Things will be ok”
“I know. They're better than ok”
“Yeah, and I'm so happy for you.”
“Me too. They wanted to come home as soon as she talked to them.”
“So, you're getting them back tomorrow afternoon right?”
“Yeah, and then we've got to get everything to make things right for them to live there.”
“Don't worry hon, I'll be there to help.”
know you will. I've got to get so much stuff for them. Somehow in the
back of my mind, I thought it'd take forever to get them. I didn't
think in my wildest dreams we'd have them this soon.”
“Honey, don't worry. Things will be ok.”
“I know, I'm just nervous.”
“Well, they're going to be nervous too.”
“I know and I don't want them to be. Them poor kids. They'll have to leave friends again.”
“That's ok, it's worth it this time. They're coming home where they need to be.”
“Yeah, but what if they don't like Ty?”
“They'll love him just like you. Now, what I want you to do now is go out there and reassure Ty things are going to be ok. He's worried enough for the two of you.”
“I know. Ok, I've got to pull myself together here so I can go out there and be professional.”
“Things are almost over for the night hon, so all we have to do is make it to the end and then, we'll have tomorrow and then, we get the boys.”
“Yeah, oh man. I know they're going to be as excited as I am.”
She smiled and said, “I'm so glad you're back together.”
We went out and into the Chapel. Mitch saw me and smiled. He quickly stopped talking to whom he was speaking with and said, “Oh man, I'm so happy for you.”
“I'm happy too. Scared, but happy.”
“I know you must be. It's like becoming a father.”
“Yeah, in a way, but being a brother is a little easier.”
“Not necessarily, you'll be raising them and that's a responsibility siblings don't have. Parents have that, so you're going to be more than a brother.”
He hugged me close and said, “Come over and stand by me. I want people to know you're my son in law.”
We stood together and greeted people for a while and I said, “I really need to get up front and tell the door people we're done for the night. Then, I'll have to get out front and vacuum up all the cigarette butts.”
Gregg said, “Lance, wait a moment and I'll help you so we can get those tarps down. You don't need to be doing that alone.”
“Ok, well, I still need to tell the greeters they're done and tell the woman upstairs, I really appreciate her working.”
I paused and said, “Ty?”
“The woman upstairs in the sitting room, I hired. Have you seen it up there since she's been working?”
“No, I hadn't gotten up there.”
“Come on up with me and I'll show you.”
“Ok, one moment hon.”
“Take your time.”
When he was ready, he told me and we made our way up front. I relieved Jake and the other greeter and thanked them for doing such a great job. As a bit of appreciation, I tried to pay them, but both took the money and put it into memorial envelopes and designated it to go to the American Cancer Society.
Ty took my hand and we went upstairs. As soon as he saw the sitting room, he said, “Oh, this is nice!”
“Yeah, and she's been up here keeping the coffee made and the place spotless. Isn't it great!”
She came over and Ty said, “You've done excellent. He was raving about how you did, but man, you've got my vote!”
She smiled and said, “Well, I did take the liberty of cleaning the bathrooms and making sure thing didn't run out once an hour. Everything's good to go and I'll be getting ahold of you so I can tell you what hours I can work.”
Great, either drop them by or give my cell a call. Here's my card. Ty's number isn't on there, but we need to get him another phone.”
I turned to him and said, “Ty, remind me we've got to get that done.”
“How about we do it tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow's your mom's funeral. We're not doing anything but that tomorrow.”
“Yeah we are.”
“Well, you know what I mean....”
“Yeah, we're going to Wal-mart and we're getting groceries bought because I'm bringing two people into that house without so much as a box of pop tarts in it. So, we've got to shop and while we're out there, we can go one building away and get my cell phone. So, count it done.”
“Ok, but I sure didn't want you to have to do anything tomorrow.”
“Hon, if thinking about someone other than myself will help me, then I”ve got two reasons to be helped.”
He smiled and once again we thanked the woman.
When she went downstairs, Ty smiled and said, “You hired your first employee!”
“No, we did. How's it feel?”
“I like it and what's her job going to be?”
I have no clue but she can do this if she wants.”
“Well, if she cleans and takes care of things real good, why not have her clean the place?”
“I don't know if that's what she wants to do.”
“Well, if she's going to work here, she's going to have to do something!”
“Yeah, but saying we have a maid makes it sound like we're rich.”
“We are rich!”
not that rich.”
“Babe, do you realize we'd never have to work again the rest of our lives?”
“No, not happening. That'd be dumb. I'm not old and I don't need to be retired.”
“Me neither, but I do think we could have a maid.”
“No, but if you want, I'll dress up as the butler for you!”
“Ooh, that'd be fun. And I could dress up for you too, what do you want me to be?”
“I don't know. The stripping fireman?”
“Oh, with my hose?”
“Sounds nice, but now you're turning me on and I have to go downstairs and get ready to shut this place tight. Hey, did you feel how warm it is in the garage?”
“Never got back there either. Let's go back there.”
“Ok, take the 'vator down?”
“Yeah, better check it out because kids were playing on it.'
“They're ok, I checked on them and it's ok. There should be a way for us to lock that thing so it's not being used.”
“State fire regulations state we have to have two forms of egress from the second floor”
“Ok, didn't know that.”
“Yeah, there's all sorts of sneaky little codes and Illinois is worse. Over there, not only does the building have to be licensed for a business, but each of us have to be licensed to be licensed too. Then, I'll have to be licensed to be an embalmer, but both of us must pass their funeral director's test too.
“Oh yeah, tons more, but each one has to be dealt with differently. The toughest one is the waste act which deals with chemicals and all that stuff.”
“Any likelihood they make a fortune off all the licenses?”
“Yeah, I thought the same thing, but for me to even go over to pick up bodies at the airport, I had to be licensed, the car has to be licensed, and then the car has to be considered it's own business. That one there nearly got me disqualified from government contracts with FEMA because they don't want contractors subcontracting the work.
As a seperate business, the car was considered a subcontractor company.”
“Yeah, to me it is too, but look at how they look at it and then you can see why they do it.”
“Say we have the funeral home and we're really doing good and we've got like twenty chapels in one locations. Not happening, but that's the only way I can say this next part.
Ok, say on Halloween, we decide to lease out the hearses for profit. Then, that's a business venture that isn't covered under our origional business license. So, they do it to make sure the businesses stay in line with what they say they are going to do.”
“Ok, now I see”
“Well, the good thing there is we're sort of protected.”
“What do you mean?”
“Say we're out picking up a body and the car slips out of gear and rolls down a hill., crashes, through a fence, and ruins Shaw's garden.”
“Yeah, so Shaw decides to sue and thinks he can get the whole shebang, the funeral home, the morgue, and the Halloween rental cars. Well, he can't do that. He can sue that car because that car is it's own business. So, we're protected there.”
“Not cool really because it makes more paperwork for us and it's crazy how we have to do it.”
“What do you mean?”
As a funeral home, we have to pay ourselves the business that has the limos, and the hearses, for their use and get this...that business in order to be a business has to make a profit.”
“Yeah, we have to pay ourselves and we have to make a profit off ourselves. So the state can receive taxes.”
“So, it's a fucking pyramid scheme put on and required by the state!”
“Yeah, essentially. The way they do it is a whole lot more complex. We won't only get gray hairs from this but the way they split hairs over shit, we'll be bald...and they probably have that figured so that's it's own business as an airport beacon service or some sort of shit and we better make a profit.”
He laughed and said, “You as a bald guy, now that's funny.”
think you'd be hot.”
“Not happening hon, you see these legs, my mom said I gave her enough heartburn for three kids.”
“Then what's Gregg's problem?”
“Gregg's like freakin' Godzilla. Did she bitch about him?”
“Well, for as much hair as he has on him, I'd say she probably had an I.V. Of Pepto Bismal. Sheesh. It's like his pubic bush reaches the tops of his toes. She definitely had to gotten you two confused. “
Ty was laughing and said, “That's funny.
“Don't you say a thing to him about what I said, because he can't help it, but man, if we take him to the zoo, it'll give the Gorilla's a complex if he wears shorts.”
“You got to stop, you're killing me!”
“He'd have to by Nair by the gallon.”
From behind us I could hear laughing. I turned around and Jake stood there. Ty jumped and Jake said, “You guys think I'm funny and that's guys a one man laugh factory.”
“Hey Jake, don't you repeat a word I said.”
“I won't but you know the next time I see Gregg swimming, I'm going to laugh.”
“Can you imagine him in the ocean? A shark that took a bite of him would be coughing up hairs for a year!”
Both of them started laughing again and I said, “Jake, so how'd things go with Nicole?”
“Great, but no thanks to you. You took off.”
“Sorry, but that lady was a friend of your mom's and she got me my brother's back.”
“Really? Where were they?”
“They were in foster care. They got put there when my parent's died. Now, I can have them back tomorrow.”
“Neat, so what are they like?”
“Their names are Lonny and Lenny. Lenny is 17 and Lonny is 15. Lonnie is wild about running sports and Lenny is a brainiac. Both are great kids and fun loving. Other than that, I'm not sure if I know much about them anymore.”
“So, ya scared?”
“Amazingly so. There are so many things I wish I'd done differently.”
“Well, they'll love you. If you tell them jokes, it'll break the ice.”
“I'll try, but they might be too pissed at me to laugh.”
“They'll love you. I can just feel it.”
Together, we began to close down the funeral home for the night. After the doors were locked, I said, “Do you want to help me with the folding chairs?”
“Yeah, there are a lot of them.”
“Yeah, more than I've ever deal with. Who would have thought the biggest funeral I've ever done would be for a woman I don't think I would have ever liked.”
“I understand. You don't know it but I caught her once when she was being mean to Gregg. She tried telling me I never saw anything and I told her I did and she should forget ever trying to threaten me again because if I went to my dad, she'd go to jail.”
“How'd she handle that?”
“She tried all sorts of things, but the most underhanded was she forgot getting me a Christmas present on purpose. Mom told her she'd forgot getting me a present and called her out on it. She had Mitch bring it over and didn't ever acknowledge me after that.”
“What a bitch.”
“Yeah, so when they'd come over, Gregg would hide in my room. I think he knew I wouldn't take anything off her.”
“Well, it's stupid for her to try doing anything to a child anyway.”
“I don't think that was in her rule book. To her, she could get by with it and she tried.”
“Well, I'm glad I never got to know her. I mean there are things I put up with, and there are things I won't put up with, but her....man, she'd already said too much and did to much to everyone else for me to even try liking her. I'm sure we would have had words and I'd had to put her down.”
“She would have tried playing you. She was that sort of person. For her, it was finding the weak spot and then using it against the person. She used dad's business and invested with him. Then, she spoke with mom non-stop about the hospital. More than once, I caught her in dad's office looking through things on his desk. Each time, I'd tell her she better get out of there.”
“Man, privacy wasn't a boundary for her was it?”
“Well, It is for me. With as many cameras that are aound here, she'd been caught if she pulled that stuff. All it would have taken is fhe first time and I would have called them in and showed them the recording and then ordered her off the property. It would have caused a rift, but Ty would have had to get over it.”
“No, with Ty, it would have ended your relationship. He did everything she told him to do. One time she told him to the car and he did it. He sat in that car for like four hours until they went home.”
“Didn't your parents ask where he was?”
“She probably lied to them and told them he wanted to sit in the car. That's the way it was. Lying to her was a way to get what she wanted.”
“Well, she certainly did that.”
“What we've got to do here is use a tape measure. I want forty two inches from the back of one row and the front of another.”
“Ok, but why?”
“ The pews in there are that way Have you ever noticed that in some places like movie theaters or churches the rows are so tight you can't walk through there?”
“Well guess what? They're violating fire code. Fire code states it has to be that way and what they do is they let it happen rather than condemning a building.
For me, I use the code in a way that you you don't think. As you saw tonight, I used it to move the lines up and down the pews. Also, a person in a wheelchair can access a row that wide anywhere. I do it repeatedly throughout this building and here's one thing you might not think.
When you over build a place, it's structurally superior. The floor joist are eight inch on center here rather than the one foot most commercial buildings require. Tomorrow, we're going to press that weight limit to the max and a normal building would have a bunch of people in the basement. This one, will stand it even with that snow load on the roof....”
“What do you mean?”
“This building if you really want to know is a big Morton building. From the side and from the front, you might not see it, but go out back and you'll see it.
Now, what you don't know is a Morton building has supports every nine feet. Up under the roof the cross beams are two feet. You may not realize it, but the building expands and contracts. Heat it up and it flexes out. Make it cold and it contracts. Not much, but it does.
Now, with a normal building like this, there are varying limits on loads. Throw six inches of ice on the roof and don't let it slip off and you're maxed on the limits. Put a foot of snow on top of that and you've got structural failures all over the place.
What I did was I went up to Ontario and took a look at the buildings up there and saw their codes were way different. They have three feet of snow up there and no failures.
Yeah, they pay more for the building, but how many times does it take for you to kill a bunch of people for it to pay to put more into a building?
So, what I did was went by their guidelines up there and then added in structural stiffeners like insisting every joint was welded, not just the main ones.
They bitched and I called the company and told them to get it the hell off my property and they'd not be paid a dime. Guess who got the building how they wanted it and guess who's thankful he did because tomorrow, we're probably going to have the most weight in this building one's ever had and more weight on top of it than it's ever had and I'm going to be breathing easy”
He smiled and said, “You and my mom are too much alike.”
“Well, think of that when you ever put money into things and you'll be happy. I could go on and on about why I won't buy clothes at certain places like Wal-Mart because of the buttons on shirts. Try going to them to get replacement buttons like the ones on a shirt and you can't. You'll have to buy a whole new set.
Yet, you can go to Penny's and get a better built shirt and get the extra buttons sewn into the fly of it for maybe a dollar more. To me, that dollar has value because of the bad experience over the buttons.”
He laughed and said, “I get mine at the Gap.”
“I never could afford it. You were luckier. Heck, it wasn't until I got out of college I got many clothes at a store. Most of our clothes when I was growing up came from rummage sales.”
“Mom said you sure grew up bad.”
“Yeah, but now, I've got to make it up to my brothers, so I'll be doing a lot of things different, but one thing I will do is Ill always sit down and listen to them.
Next year, Lonny is going to be old enough to drive and I'll have to get him a car. I'll tell you now, one thing he won't get is a hand me down, nor will Lenny. But, they will know the value of a dollar.”
“Make them save for things.”
“Oh I will, but they're not going to have to be out and work like I did. I'll laugh and joke about my grades being low, Jake, but if you really want to know, there wasn't time to study. I had not only one job but several. Now, I look back on it and kick myself, but back then, I had a goal and I wanted to see it accomplished.”
“Man, you were driven.”
“Yeah, because I knew no one else was going to get it to happen but me. My mom was working too hard and my dad just didn't care.”
“A lot of reasons, but mainly it was because they dove in and got over their heads financially with a house.
I'll tell you now, Ty and I have money, but think about it and it'd be like us going out and buying a hundred and fifty million dollar house. We'd have to work ourselves to death to have it and how much would the kids get to enjoy it?”
“Your parents, how'd they die?”
“Plane crash. The plane blew up.”
“So, if you were so poor how'd they come about flying in a plane.”
“Mom got a thing in the mail about some sort of time sharing thing giving them a tv and a bunch of other junk if they'd go.
Well, what was strange is she called and told them to take her name off the mailing list because it hurt too much for her to think about getting the stuff and not getting to go. Amazingly, a few days later, the company sent them tickets to fly there. So, they went.”
“So, the plane blew up?”
“Let me say this and then I'll not mention it again. The company that had the time share thing was heavily invested in by my first lover's family. The airline, the same thing. Th eplane had apparently been repaired and completely gone over, but with them on board, it blew up. Go figure.
They never knew what hit them and I had no clue until afterwards and did some looking into the board of directors. Of course I couldn't prove a thing, but it looked fishy to me.”
“You and your first lover have a bad break up?”
“If you call him going and blowing his head off with a shotgun a bad break up, you could say that.”
“Oh man. So why'd his family have it out for you?”
“They told him to break up with me or else. I told him if he'd break up with me, it'd be bad because I'd go public. When he was faced with those options, he chose the one no one thought of. He ended it all.
Then, his family wanted to fuck with me and demand things he had given me back. Where the line I drew in the sand was is the car he bought for me that I had traded a car I'd invested a lot of money and time in.
I told them if they tried to get it back, I'd make life hell for them. They tried flexing the muscle because they thought that because they were richer than God, they could do it. They made threats and they pulled things and finally the straw was they sent a tow truck to get the car and I went out and put a gallon of gas in it and burned the damned thing.
They never got it and suddenly my parents died. That all stacked up and then my brothers got taken away. The only thing I thought was about killing myself. So I tried and Heather saved me. After that, we went to war with that family and it wasn't nice.”
“So, did you win?”
“I can't say I won. I still live life looking over my shoulder wondering if they're going to strike again and I'm then going to have to think about what I'll end up doing in order to end it.”
“Yeah, but let's not think about that because life's going good now and I think it's going to be good.”
“You really love him, don't you?”
“Oh yeah. You don't know all the hopes and dreams I'm now able to have just from having someone love me. I hope things work out for you with Nicole because I want you to feel it too.”
“Oh man, she's so nice. The way she looks and the way she smiles.”'
“Yeah, and when are you going out with her?
“Saturday night. I'll have to use mom's car, but I can hardly wait.”
“Well, what I”ll do is give you some money for helping me and this time, you keep it and use it to get your hair cut, get the contacts, and for your date. Ok?
“Yeah, but you don't need to do that. Mom and dad can give me money.”
“Jake, you earned it. It makes you feel better when you earn it and don't have to have people buy for you.”
We continued to put up chairs and when the chairs were up in the garage, we went in to take a break. Gregg came into the office and said, “Do you want to put the tarps over the walks? It's beginning to snow.”
give me a moment and we'll get out there.”
Jake said, “Gregg, I'll go help, I know he's got things in here he needs to do.”
“I do, thanks Jake.”
“When I went into the chapel, I saw the casket wasn't there. The only person who knew the procedures enough was Heather, so I went to the basement to see if she was needing help.
She wasn't down there, so I called upstairs to see if she was there. She answered and said she'd done it as she knew we were busy. I thanked her and she asked where I was as Ty wanted to come. I told her to tell him to meet me in the rotunda and we'd start putting chairs up.
She said that Mitch, Mark, Mark, and Ty would be down to help. I told her to tell them to meet me in the garage and we'd get the chairs put up.
They met me there and with each pushing a rack of chairs, we got two hundred moved to the upstairs sitting room. We moved the furniture out into the gallery and then closed the doors.
With the open space I measured and set up chairs so we could set up the front row. They then began unfolding chairs and setting them out. I measured the distances and Ty and I set up the rows. Surprisingly, we got two extra rows setup so we had to go get another forty chairs.
In the rotunda, we set up chairs and with the forty extra upstairs, we were able to leave four rows out there for a better walkway. Mitch commented about the amount of people he was surprised we could put into the building and Mark commented about the weight. I explained about the structural abilities in the building and they were amazed. Mark looked at me and said, “With eight inch on center, what's the load capabilities?”
“Dependant upon the span, but you can roll a tow motor over the chapel floor and get by with it.”
He smiled and said, “I think you just helped us with a dilemma we were facing with the hotel. We were going to have the ballroom/conference room on a concrete pad, but we can now have a basement under it and open it up for a lot of extra storage. What do you think Mitch?”
“I think it'd keep us from having to build a warehouse, so let's give it a shot with an architects and see if they'll do it.”
“You might have them run it past an engineer. I did that here with this place and found the welds at every seem made the building way stronger than what it would have.
So, do that because you might find that if you do something as simple as putting in plywood instead of particle or strand board will make it a lot stronger. Also, have it ran by them to see if you put a piece of plywood up under the joist and afix it will work. We did that here with a piece of half inch below and inch above made it so it had the structural strength of concrete.”
“Yeah, what we'll do is we'll call out there and run it past the guys at MECO. You'll save yourself a lot of headaches before even a stick of wood touches another.”
Mitch smiled and said, “It sounds like you learned a lot building this place?”
“Yeah, and not being afraid to ask questions saved me a lot of money. Steel costs way more than wood and if you do it right, you can use lumber and get a lot of the same results.”
Mark looked at Mitch and he made a face like “Who knew!”
“I'm not telling you how to build it, all I'm saying is leave your options open. I think you'll be way happier with the results.
I know the addition here was designed into this concept and although it cost me more for the blueprints then, what we did was we added in the wiring and connectors which would have cost a lot more if we'd not.
Downstairs, you'll see wires ran which go nowhere now, but when it goes up, it will all tie in. Do you want to go down and see?”
We went down and I took them into the playroom for the kids.
“Over there, you'll see those racks. What they are is all the hard drive storage for the video in this place. I hold video data for three years and other data for services will be kept for life.
You'll have people tell you to go with off site storage, but what you don't know is off site storage is only so good. If a company doesn't receive payment one month, all your data is erased. If they go out of business, your data is shut down so you can't get it and then sold to someone else.
Rather than do that, and risk it, I chose to store my own. An array on ebay cost less than a hundred dollars and all the hard drives were less than ten bucks a piece. That system over there has an estimated storage capacity of over a hundred years for me and it cost less than five thousand. One of those servers would cost that new.”
If you look up in the runs, you'll see plastic conduit which is that purple, blue, yellow, and red. The red is electrical running to a generator out back.
If this place loses power, we keep lights on and are able to to keep a lot of needed items running. The blue is regualar electric for non essential items. Hospitals have the same system. The yellow is phone and internet. The purple is the cable television. You'll see I used professional connectors for the cable because a box of them on ebay were cheaper than one single piece here in town.
That plastic conduit is way cheaper than metal and passes code. The one hundred foot roll of it cost less than ten foot of it here. And, I'll tell you now, if you have a hands on with the contractor, he'll tell you he doesn't care where something comes from if you have it for him to use when he's needing it.
Use your spec sheet they give you for build and you can run it on ebay and find a lot of items new.”
Mark smiled and said, “You just saved us a ton of money already.”
“Yeah, and now you're getting an idea of how this place came in as cheap as it did. I didn't scrimp on quality, I scrimped on wasting money.
Now, if you look at this piece of concrete here, you'll see a built in seam there and there. It runs floor to ceiling and is siliconed in so when we need that opening, it will come out. And the tie-in can pull on through. What we will use the basement for over there is a larger federal morgue and a casket warehouse. I
t may not sound like much savings, but if I buy four of them, I can save nearly the cost of one if I buy less quantity. Some of them we don't sell a lot of, so it wouldn't pay, but a large number of them we do.
Also, over there, I'll have a larger office for the morgue. By then, we'll have the one in Quincy, and the one in the funeral home. Between the three, that will be almost two hundred bodies. That doesn't sound like something most people would look forward to having, but figure it's nearly half a million a month extra income.”
“Yeah, and maybe it won't be used, or maybe it will, but the way it goes with the government, is they pay for the capacity whether it's used or not.”
“What's that morgue look like?” asked Mark.
“Here mine is.”
“That's just a cooler.”
“Yeah and it holds twelve metal caskets at thirty seven degrees farenheit. The electricity used is about thirty dollars a month and it cost me eleven grand to install including purchase, but it's thirty thousand a month extra income.”
“Do they need them a lot?”
“Oh yeah, you may not think of it, but I could tell you how many they have in the country on less than ten fingers. Do they use it? Yeah, I've got a call to go get one in the morning, but it may not be just one. And, I'm pulling in bodies from all over the world.”
“Yeah, when you think about what we do as a country and where we go to do goodwill efforts, think about the number of dead.
When it's an unknown person wearing English labeled clothing, the body is stored for a month and then it's buried.
Our federal cemetaries are all over. If a President is buried there, that cemetary is federal. If a battlefield cemetary is nearby and is still taking bodies, it's federal. Our closest is over at Macon.”
“So, is that something you'd consider expanding?”
“Yeah, we're looking at this one which was a fluke because I wanted space to be used for a morgue.
Little did I know 9/11 would happen and then it'd make mine one of the few still within the guidelines. Rather than put the money out, a lot of places didn't want to mess with it because they thought the red tape the government would throw would be enormous.
I filled out four pieces of paper and sent them in and then called to see what the other paperwork would be that they required. They said they'd get back to me and then the next week I got the certificate stating I was certified.
The week after that, we had Katrina and I got busy receiving bodies. Since then, I've looked into it and found I could put in another cooler over there and hold forty eight. The same for the one in Quincy. Add a stand alone and you see the possibilities. Those coolers cost less than fifty grand.”
Ty said, “Tell them the best part.”
“That you never see the body and you never touch anything other than the casket and the paperwork.”
“Yeah, that's nice, but to me, it doesn't matter. What matters is it's income has really pulled me away from bankruptcy numerous times.”
Mark said, “How many of them does the government want?”
“To be honest, I think if I put up ten of them, they'd still ask me for more. It's something that I thiink the guidelines tell them what they should have, but when space dictates, they go ahead and bury. If the space is available, they use it.”
Mark nodded and said, “If we got involved in this, would you mind?”
“No, but what I'd ask is you give consideration to two things I'm thinking right now.”
“And, those are?”
“What I'm thinking is talking with Ty and investing the money into a crematorium in the Quincy funeral home and possibly one over there.
The investment is about twelve grand each and they'd pay for themselves here in about four months with the way it's going.
What I'd want here is stairs going down wide enough the family could go and space for enough people...say fifty. We could do it in lieu of the casket storage and it'd be within federal guidelines. What that does is it opens up the ability for us to handle the bodies ourselves rather than burial. Disposal of the ashes are still a concern, but it's not very difficult to do it so it passes those requirements.”
“What are their requirements?”
“Well, in our state, we have to have permission to even spread them anywhere. A lot of city municipalities won't allow it period. What they will do is allow burial of ashes.
What I've thought is having a series of fountains over in Quincy so it's an attractant for the funeral home, but it's also a memorial plaza for the ashes. Each block can hold the ashes inside it and hold a placard on it with the number or name.”
Mark smiled and said, “So, that would be more income?”
“Yeah, about another three grand.”
He nodded and said, “You know, what's interesting is when you look at it from the outside, a person thinks it's really going to be gory. When you see how humane it's handled, you think how less humane treatment is for a butcher shop at the grocery store.”
“Yeah, and what's the other thing I ask is if you do it, we look at building a building which is not just functional, but it's attractive for the neighborhood.
I don't want people saying to people, “Ooh, you live next to a funeral home?” They don't do it here and they won't in Quincy because of the space I'm putting in.
As Ty knows, I've asked for at least ten acres. We're sitting on two here and that's including the place next door. Over there, I think twenty would be nicer, but that's allowing for a lot of yard.
What you're seeing there is off street parking that's attractive and used as a barrier between the funeral home and the boundary. It's nice because here, kids skateboard over there and you don't hear one complaint by me. I figure if it's nice enough they aren't in fear, the citizens aren't squeemish either.”
Mitch said, “Not one time have I heard anything said about this place being spoken about in those terms. Everyone speaks about how beautiful it is and how expensive the building must have cost, but they aren't thinking about it like that.
Heck, when we went out into the rotunda tonight, several people were looking at the vases inset into the walls and the chandelier and talking about how gorgeous it was.
One guy who is a judge here was talking about how much it would cost for the courthouse to have that chandelier and his figure was more than what this whole place cost!”
“Yeah, they look at those things and don't realize they're cheaper than they actually are. They assume because a house light fixture cost two hundred, and a chandelier cost six hundred that the one out there is over one hundred thousand. What they don't know is that one out there is four grand.”
Mitch smiled and said, “Mark, how much did you say it was!”
I laughed and said, “That whole rotunda cost less than that!”
Mark looked serious and said, “What did you insulate with here to get the sound proofing?”
“PolyIsoCyanurate.which is expandible foam. And you want to know who did it? Me.”
“Yeah, see that drum over there and that hose? That's the equipment.
Now, To get that, I went on the military auction site on the internet. Thirty of those drums and that equipment cost me a hundred and forty dollars.
Yeah, I had to rent a U-Haul and go to the base outside Dayton Ohio, but while I was there, I got the sound system and phone system too. On the way back, I got the marble for the rotunda and the hallway at another auction. That all cost me twenty eight dollars.”
Mark smiled and said, “How long did you scour for those deals?”
“Not long. If I took you up there now, you'd be amazed at what you'd find. With a truck the size of the flower truck, you can pick up a lot of items like whole stacks of plywood and drywall. Those mirrors in the bathrooms were also in that load and they cost ten dollars.”
Mitch said, “Mark, you and him need to scour websites. The savings he's just listed could put up a building out there to store a lot of items we'd need.”
"If you'd like, we're going to be getting another flower truck for Quincy and I'm going to have a nice garage over there which will hold eighteen vehicles.
Until the funeral home is built, that's going to be storage central and after it's built, and the business takes off, it will be an open space becaue I'm not going to be adding vehicles until they're needed..”
“How long do you think it will take you to be up to speed on that?”
“We have to get the land, and then we have to get the land surveyed and elevated. Then, the drawings will be done and that usually takes a couple months to adjust, so ground breaking probably won't be until May. Then, by October, the crews will be framed in and then we'll go in and finish out, so I'm not looking for an opening until the Summer after next.”
Ty said, “If we have people come in and work, how much do you think it will speed up construction?”
“Ty, it'll speed it up, but it's a factor of speed versus money and payback. If us working on it saves three million, and payback on that three million isn't until four years after opening, I'll invest the six months of working on it myself.
If we do it together, you'll see there's a lot of things which we'll do which you'll learn and appreciate more.
What you don't know is this one is going to have a rotunda that is going to be awesome. The marble on it isn't going to be the same, but it's going to be awesome.
I've been working with a guy who has a construction company down at the city. He's been installing Corian countertops and the cutouts for the sinks are normally waste. He's selling them to me for three dollars each and they look like marble.
The marbling on them is beautiful and all we have to do it run them through a saw to get the eighteen by eighteen squares. He's got five hundred of the things so far and another to go before I'll get the call to come get them...not bad for him just taking a piece of scrap or three home with him at the end of the day.”
Mark smiled and said, “You think of everything.”
“Yeah, gut the biggest part of that one is gong to be the painted frescos on the ceilings. The outlined part which is supposed to be ornate plaster is nothing but sheets of plastic which are melted over a form.
What I'm using as the plastic is those five gallon buckets from the embalming solution. When they're done, we'll have those up there with gold spray paint to take place of the gold leaf.
I learned a trick by accident one time when I thought I bought gold spray paint. Instead, I got copper, so I painted the gold over the copper. Rather than getting a bright gold, I got an antique gold which is identical to the real gold that's in the capitol in Washington.”
Ty smiled and said, “Where do you have the stuff stored?”
“That building next door. When I bought it, I went in and had to do a clean up. In there, I found six twelve foot tall doors which are five feet wide. At first, I thought about using them as dining tables, but then it got me to thinking about the rotunda of the new one. Now, they're painted and have the gold paint on them. The frescos are painted already too.”
“Who painted them?”
“Me. All I did was took a painting and scanned it and had the printer downtown run it out of a plotter. Then, I transferred it over. Then, I got about twelve cases of those markers you get for a dollar at the dollar store and voila they look identical. All I had to do was spray sealer on and they're ready.”
I paused and said, “Guys, Ty and I are going to go out and get a bite to eat at Steak N Shake. Do you want to go?”
“Let me go up and ask Joan. We might all not be able to fit in one vehicle.”
“Well, if we fold down the back seat of the Escalade, a bunch of us can sit indian style back there, so if Heather and Gregg go too, we'll all be able to fit. I know it's snowing out, but the four wheel of the truck should get us through ok.”
We all rode up in the elevator and went to the apartment. When we got there, we found it was eleven thirty. Joan asked Mark if he wanted to go home and he said, “We were just coming up to see if you guys wanted to go to Steak N Shake.”
She smiled and said, “Hon, I'm tired and tomorrow's another busy day.”
“Well, what I'll do is give you a ride home when we all go out if you'd like and then when I get back from Quincy, I'll come over and get you. Ok?”
“You have to go to Quincy?”
“Yeah, I have to pick up at least one body for the federal morque. That plane flies no matter what and the airport better have the runway clear. If it doesn't they get fined more than I make. It's like ten grand.”
“Yeah, but they make good money off that plane. It takes precedence from above everything else and is written in all the contracts that way. I've seen the American Eagle flight have to circle around until I get my load and they get back in the air.”
“They do that every time?”
“No, that time, the plane was running late. I was waiting three hours on it but I'm paid for waitting time at an astronomical rate. If they have to wait on me, I'm docked at the same rate.”
“Oh, how much is that?”
“Ten grand an hour.”
“Oh, it makes it worth the wait.”
“Yeah, but no. If I have to wait tomorrow, then look at what I've got for pressure.”
Ty looked at me concerned and said, “How are you going to process that body tomorrow when you've got the garage full?”
“Hon, I'll back up to the door and then go get the cart. Then when it's there, I'll open the door and back in far enough to get it unloaded and then pull it back out and take it on down. The funeral isn't until two, so the heat should be back up in there.
How are we doing on the fuel tanks?”
“We've not used one tank per heater yet. When I was reading the directions, I saw it said a full tank of gas on the highest setting burns for twenty four hours, so we should be fine, but I'll change them out before the funeral.”
“Ok, well, if the tanks aren't empty, put them over and we'll use them on the barbque. When we go to refill them, we'll take them to Big River and they'll do it there. They're really reasonable.”
“Well, are you guys ready?”
“Sure, now what's the plan for tomorrow?”
“What we'll do is we'll meet here about noon. We could do it about eleven if everyone wants to go to lunch.
When everyone's here, we'll come in and form up the pallbearers. What the pallbearers will do is they'll take the casket out and they'll load it into the Escalade which will be sitting out where it will be.
I'd put the hearse there, but I don't think the roads are going to be real passable. Heather, are you singing “The Rose”?”
“Yeah, but I don't know how good I'll be.”
“You'll be wonderful.”
Gregg smiled and said, “She'll be awesome. She's been singing up here and sounds great.”
Joan patted her hand and said, “Hon, with what I've heard, you're going to be fine.”
She smiled and said, “If Lance hadn't told everyone, I'd not be doing it. I've never sang at a funeral before.”
“You'll do fine hon. Do you want to go down and practice? You can and if you close the doors, it's sound proof.”
“I'll do it in the morning. I want someone here so the volume isn't too loud.”
“Ok, what I'll tell you is to use a volume which sounds good without a crowd in and then, turn it up a notch for when the crowd is in. If you don't, the crowd will absorb the volume without the compensation.”
Mark said, “What about the television crews?”
“What we're doing is this.
Mitch knows and I've told everyone who will listen, is if they don't sign off on the waiver, they don't enter the door with the equipment. It's that simple.
When they come in, they're to set up at the back of the chapel and no closer. If they step closer with a camera, I'll put them out the door. It's their privledge being here, not ours.
If the power goes out, don't panic, The generator will kick on and Heather, if it does when you're singing, don't stop, keep going. Act like it's an everyday occurance.
I doubt if it will if they're hooked in this power source. If they have two twenty power, that piece of equipment doesn't come in this building. I won't have someone stepping on it and dying from being electrocuted here.
We're going to have too many people here to risk hurting someone.
Now, no one can predict something from occurring, but if a disturbance happens, I'll be standing by the panic button. The acrylic panel will come down, the doors will lock and the police will be called automatically. I'll get the doors opened, and we'll deal with it accordingly.”
Mitch said, “What do we do if it happens?”
“Stay seated, stay calm and Heather and I will go into defense mode. We don't need anyone being a superhero and getting themselves hurt when we're kicking the shit out of whomever it is... and I mean that because if you've been warned, there's no reason you should be up. All you'll do is be in the way.
That gunshot which takes that panel down is going to stun the crowd and the person who is causing the disturbance.
Now, what I'll say, and Ty knows this, is this....My job is to protect Wendy's body. Then, it's to protect you and then everyone else. Once a disturbance occurs, I won't raise that panel. Let the crowd think it won't go back up. The preacher, the pallbearers and you guys will all be on the right side of it and we'll go on with the service like nothing happened. But, whomever it was who caused it will be restrained in my office and taken out the side door. Once I'm in there with them, that door won't open until the police have them in custody.”
Ty said, “I don't like that plan.”
“You're the family Ty, not an employee. So, don't do anything other than instilling calm and keeping things going forward.
I doubt if anything happens, but we now know the plan if anything happens. I'll take an assault charge to take that person out, so after the service, someone come bail me out.”
Joan laughed and said, “Guys, you heard him!”
I thought of something, so I brought it up “Now, tonight we defused two situations and they didn't happen. One was handled very well by Mitch and the other took care of himself. .
The only other situation I think will happen is that distributor. I doubt seriously if he's a problem with the brewery officials being here, but stranger things have happened.
What I'm going to say now is there's an area in the front of the chapel which is going to be cordoned off for brewery and distributors.
Any bar people and anyone not dressed in a suit is not to be shown into the chapel, I don't care who it is. That camera going to be live and I'm not going to have any promos allowed for Quiet Riot or Harley Davidson when people choose to get rid of the beer they drank last night.
If they insist, tell them calmly that I'll be with them, and I'll kindly show them the door or a seat someplace else. They can take their pick.
Now, in the event of the place filling and going beyond seats, What you do is you put standing room only people into the garage. I'll tell you why. We're violating fire ordinance already as it is. Out there, if an emergency should occur, I'll be to the switches and hit everyone of the door switches to get everyone out as fast as possible.
If people stay calm, we can evacuate this place in less than three minutes. If they don't, it will take three to four hours to haul bodies out of here. I'll make that announcement before the cameras will be allowed to go live, so I think calm will prevail. Psychologically, people DO want to live...even crazies. Any other questions?”
Ty stood up and said, “Can we give the camera crews a tour of the bathrooms if they have a hand held?”
“I don't care as long as they don't go in filming me going to the bathroom or anyone else.”
Mitch laughed and said, “The kids doing what he can to promote the place, I'll give him that!”
“Well folks, I was hungry, now I'm starving, so let's load up and be careful out there on that tarp, I don't know how slick it will be.”
We went outside and the snow was blowing a near white out. Everyone loaded and Joan said, “Do you think there will be many people out tomorrow?”
“I don't know. If it's still going like this, when I go to Quincy, I'll give a call to the stations and have them tell everyone the live service is going to be on Thursday.
If the television crews make it, we'll go live with what crowd we have and the cameras will be pulled up towards the front so it looks full. To be honest, I'm winging it and have never had a snow out, but, then again, I've never had a funeral like this.”
Mitch chuckled and said, “Well, she got her way in a lot of ways didn't she?”
Ty said, “What do you mean?”
“Remember all the times she said it'd be a cold day in hell? And over her dead body would we ever receive a penny?”
Everyone chuckled and I said, “Well, it might be cold there, but as long as we've got this family, it's warm here.”
“From My Keyboard To Your Heart”,
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Disclaimer: All individuals depicted are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons, locations, or incidents is purely coincidental.