Monday, September 19, 2011


Left speechless at the dinner table tonight. Not from praise of the FINE stew I made.

From Reyde asserting himself. Looking at Uncle Bob and he says, "just so you know I wasn't talking to you."

Uhhh. WHAT? His delivery was impeccable, and I had to really hold it together to be stern without laughing at how funny it was. So I reprimanded, James chewed on him, and Uncle Bob didn't realize what was happening it occurred so quickly.

Love parenting.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

You wanna talk to my....

Uncle Bob kibbitzed with Mom for a long time on the phone tonight.

I sat down at the table with him, patiently waiting for him to wrap up the conversation so I could show him soccer photos.

Dah duh duh....da duh duh....waiting. Zoning. Pretty tired. And then I hear him say, "Do you want to talk to my lawyer?"

What? Mom didn't get it either.

He hands the phone to me, and I say, "I thought I was your nurse, caregiver. Not your lawyer."

"You're my everything Wendy."

"Mom, did you hear that? I'm HIS EVERYTHING."

HIS EVERYTHING. If it weren't my 73 year old uncle telling me that I'd be over the moon.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

I thought we were just picking up a catalog

I took Monday afternoon off to do a couple of things with Uncle Bob. Needed to go to wound care in Renton and since we’d be in the area, I thought I’d drop by the cemetery to pick up a catalog for Uncle Bob to peruse head stones. It’s been since 1991 when Verla passed, and he hadn’t gotten around to ordering a marker for her grave. Now each time we’d talked about this task, Uncle Bob had teared up; Verla truly was his soul mate and I think in the back of his mind, a marker would be pretty darned final.

I’d called over a month ago to arrange a catalog. The guy I’d spoken to said that we could look online, but I kindly refused saying that my uncle is a paper kinda individual. I’ll put something together he says. And he actually followed up call me to ask when we’d be in. That was a month ago. Life got in the way, and we found ourselves in the neighborhood. I told Uncle Bob he could sit in the truck, and I’d be right back.
No, I’ll come in.

10 minutes later, we’ve walked the short distance to the office and inquire about getting a catalog. The receptionist says they don’t have any, and I asked if there was anybody available to help us. She went through the names and I recognized the salesman’s name. He’s on the phone, if you’d like I can have you sit in a room and make a cup of coffee for you? Knowing that the afternoon has been taxing on Bob to begin with, I say sure, 2 cups of decaf and let’s sit in a room.

Been quite a while since I’ve been in a mortuary. We follow the gal into a room that resembles a residential dining room. Obviously decorated as such to make us feel like we are at home and not in such an odd place. You know, end of life place.

Before long, the salesman walks in and we say that we are looking to get a catalog that my uncle needs to arrange a marker for his wife that passed away in 1991. Our phone conversations are recalled and he gets us a catalog. About an inch thick. And I think to myself, there is no way he’ll let us take that home.

Uncle Bob tells him that he wants to be cremated and buried with Verla. That brings up a whole new conversation about 2nd rites and if he has those to be buried in the same plot. Off he goes to pull the card. Coming back we see that Grandma bought 4 plots, one for herself, one for a future husband, and the other two are assigned to Uncle Bob and Uncle Don. So, the salesman says, you can be buried next to her if you like? Digressing into who should go in what plot, pondering Grandma’s plans for a future husband, and what about so and so, we finally get back to 2nd rites and having Verla and Bob together.

Luckily this guy has done this thousands of times right, and begins to direct us on how to pick the marker. Shape, font, saying, design. Holy guacamole.

Flipping through the pages, I see that we gain a little traction in that there are a few pages for dual names. Uncle Bob is quick to choose one; seeing pictures of angels and flowers, he says he’d like to have an eagle on it. Go to the clip art section and you’ll find an eagle the salesman tells us. We find one that matches the tattoo Bob has. This is going well but it’s been about an hour and my attention span is waning. Remember, I planned to pop in, pick up a catalog and head home to start this journey.
Do we have room for a saying? The salesman says yes. Uncle Bob thinks about it for a moment, holding back tears I think but I can’t really tell as his eyes are shadowed by his baseball cap. I was think about writing something like, mother, friend, wife, because that’s what Verla was. We agree, sounds good. What do you think Wendy?

Oh boy, huge commitment here. Suffice or do I offer my opinion? Well Uncle Bob, I’m probably going to tear up a little bit here…but you guys were soul mates. You didn’t need anybody else around but each other. He agrees, the salesman says that’s nice too. Yeah, we could add that to the bottom. You know, she was the best friend I ever had.

That’s it exclaims the salesman. That’s what you should have written on the marker.

Best friend I ever had.

I take a sip of my cold decaf coffee to pull myself together and look at the paperwork in front of the salesman. No eye contact with my Uncle, don’t want the waterworks to start in full force.

Redirecting to pull myself together, I say should we talk about prices then?
We flip the brochure open to the options of burial and Uncle Bob suggests that we might as well pay for his cremation while we are at it. I look at him and say, okay, but we may not be getting the best deal. Yeah, but it’s done then and it would be easier for you right? Yes, yes it would. In the back of my mind, I am also thinking, when did I become the executor of your estate? I really wanted Amy to have that responsibility since she just handled Dad’s. Maybe we can be co-executors…

Looking at the prices, and knowing that Dad had a really good deal, I still asked if we could have the cremation service happen somewhere else. And then bring the ashes to be placed with Verla. Sure, not a problem. Would there be a cost? Like a handling fee? The salesman looks at me and says no. Wanting to make sure that he understands what I’m saying, I explain it like a cork fee. You know, if I bring my own bottle of wine to a restaurant, they charge me a fee. The salesman gets a twinkle in his eye and says, you know, no we don’t have that sort of fee but you have a great idea there.
After we pay for ours, you can start charging that fee okay?

Soon the event starts feeling like buying a used car. The brochure is flipped over and the salesman starts writing figures for cremation, and this fee, and the marker, and the engraving, and the 2nd rites and, and, and. We come up with a figure.


What sort of discount can you give us? This feels like we are paying full retail here.

No cork fee.

Doesn’t count, you get to start charging that after us.

If you pay today, I can give you 10% off but that only applies to this and this, and the state doesn’t allow us to discount that, but this, and this…we get a new figure.

How about a free t-shirt? Any gift with purchase? The salesman looks at me to see if I am serious. Yes, you know, like I got great service at Greenwood Memorial?

No, we don’t have t-shirts.

We’ll settle for these pens then and I point to the gel pens on the table. Oh no, pens are hard to come by here. I can’t give you a pen. I raise my eyebrows; this guy is serious about the pens.

Diverting our attention back to his worksheet, Uncle Bob agrees on the price. The salesman stands up to leave the room and print contracts.

Is there any sort of viewing with this cremation Uncle Bob asks.

The salesman sits back down and explains that the package he is buying does not include a memorial. No, but can people come in for a viewing before I am cremated? You know to say their goodbyes? The salesman looks a bit agitated, like we are not done like he thought he was.

Wendy, Uncle Bob asks me; wouldn’t you like to be able to see me one more time? Well, I mean, no, not really, but if that is what you want, for people to come see you, we need to make that happen. So here’s what you can do the salesman says. Upon your death he looks at Uncle Bob, she just needs to inform the funeral director that we need to do this…

What do you think my uncle asks me again. I’ll do what you wish. Looking at the salesman, I ask him again what I need to say. Writing it down verbatim, I put the note in the folder we will take home. I can’t forget, I have to make sure this happens.

The salesman leaves to get contracts.

I look at my watch and we are 90 minutes into “picking up a catalog.” I call James and let him know that we’ll be awhile, that he and Reyde are on their own for dinner; maybe you should hit McDonald’s.

Uncle Bob is starting to look a bit piqued. When the salesman returns I ask him if we can do this pretty quick as my uncle needs to have some food and we need to head home. Yes, this will be quick; I have a 6pm appointment.

We head out to the foyer to look at marble and pick out the color Uncle Bob wants. Going through all the colors, what looks best with the engraving, what looks good in the rain, what takes upkeep or not. Some are always tidy with the wind, while others get moss and mold growing in them. We lean toward green since Uncle Bob loves the outdoors and the mountains, and we have an eagle.

Heading back to our faux dining room, the salesman notes the color, the clip art number for the eagle, and then asks us for the font to use. Knowing we have hundreds to choose from, I wonder how long this will take. Uncle Bob makes a quick decision and before long we are done.

A signature here, initials there, papers are signed for both his cremation and the grave marker. As Uncle Bob write his name for the final time, the salesman hands us a copy of the contracts and says, and I’ll take those pens. Right.

We shake hands and excuse the salesman from the room. Uncle Bob’s gait is a tad bit slower than his, and he is late for his next appointment. We leave the building and get to the truck.

I ask if he’d like to go visit Verla’s grave and Grandma Lillian’s. No. Let’s head out to Maple Valley and visit with Don and Julie. Sure, but I need food and so do you. Might as well hit up McDonald’s for chicken nuggets and salt free fries. Not the best choice but one that doesn’t mess with his diabetes too bad.

Heading out of the parking lot we see a conveniently placed McDonald’s right across the street. Bet they get used a lot for folks unexpectedly coming to Greenwood.

Quickly ordering and pulling up to the drive through window, I tell Uncle Bob that I don’t plan on driving and eating. You sure you don’t want to have dinner with the girls?

No, we’ll visit them when we place the marker.

As we eat in the parking lot I check out of the corner of my eye to make sure he’s doing okay. Big stuff organized in the last two hours. Closure to his soulmate’s death. Planned his own cremation. AND we were just supposed to be picking up a catalog.

The whole event was pretty non emotional. A business transaction, as if we were buying a new appliance. Perhaps it was so matter of fact as it was unplanned, perhaps because he’d thought about it for a while. I don’t know. I sit back and wonder how I would feel, paying for my own cremation, and planning what will be on my grave marker.

Watching traffic go by, and cars arriving at the funeral home, I remark that he’s gotten a lot accomplished.. Now, you need to remind me what you want and where to have your memorial I tell him.

He says I don’t want to wait until after I’m gone for the party. I think we should have it while I’m still alive so I can hear what people have to say about me.

I laugh, put the truck in gear and head down the road.

My day didn’t’ go as I’d planned. We got home very late and while we didn’t cry, it took a toll on my emotions as I’m sure it did his. Quite a remarkable afternoon.

I knew there’d be life lessons learned living with Uncle Bob. I have to say that I appreciate every day my family gets with him and the opportunity to get to know this man. My uncle.