Thursday, August 26, 2010

send off week...

It’s been a send-off week.

Boo started this year of schooling on Monday. What happened to starting after Labor Day? Apparently youth is not as important as it once was. Everyone is in a rush to grow up, do something, go places…be somebody.

Bear’s entering into the sixth grade. They started changing classrooms for different subjects last year. It was a transition for getting organized for my Boo. She ended up in the hoosegow more times than not for forgetting a paper, a notebook or a textbook when arriving at the next class. Three minutes between classes just didn’t cut it.

One of Bear’s classmates was so afraid of not having something she needed at any given time, she never put anything in her locker. She carried it all with her. All the time.

Her damn backpack weighed over 40 pounds. She only weighs 65.

The mothers would get together and bitch about it. But we never said anything…to the school officials at least. We would just talk amongst ourselves.

I guess we must have spoke loudly. They okayed the use of rolling backpacks this year. AND they bought new textbooks that are split into several sections so each textbook doesn’t weigh 7 pounds, only 1. That’s good stuff. They’ve also changed it so there is 6 minutes between 4th and 5th periods. It allows the kids to get the stuff needed for the second half of the school day. But they aren’t allowed to carry backpacks at all this year. They must carry their books and folders needed in hand.


They must have those little developing backs in mind. For once. I kept thinking that if my daughter develops some sort of back trouble later on, I’m holding her elementary school accountable.

They must have heard how loudly I was thinking that. Thus the change. I wonder if I'll get some sort of waiver soon in one of the weekly news envelopes...

But the start of school and sending Bear off on her daily routine isn’t the only send-off I’ve had this week. As you might already know, my best friend Chrissy’s dad past away over the weekend. I didn’t get the word until Monday. I went to the wake. I went to the funeral. I held it together.

I wanted to be there for Chrissy, but I hated going. It brought up all the thoughts of my mom and her funeral just over a year ago. Her dad was to her as my mom was to me. Indispensable. Fantastic. Wonderful. The more loved parent.

I hate funerals. They make me physically ill. I can feel the bile rising if I think about it too much. Funny that I was going to go to medical school. When death makes me sick. Literally. I guess all my patients would have to stay alive. Or I'd be a mess. Could you imagine me tending to a terminally ill patient? "Hi, Mr. Corrigan. How are you feeling today? The chemo helping out at...." Spew. Chunks. It's probably a good thing I changed professions before continuing with that line of work. Too bad I decided after I'd taken the MCATs.

The funeral was beautiful, although I didn’t get much of it. It was all in Armenian, except the Eulogy. That was presented in broken English. My brain didn’t even register it was in my own language until the third sentence. I didn’t know when to stand, when to sit, when to join in what sounded like the Lord’s prayer or when to give the sign of the cross. I was definitely an outsider; an ‘Odar’ or non-Armenian.

I always like to take in my surroundings. I was sitting with several of Chrissy’s close friends, one that she’s known since they were 4. I’ve met them all before, but it had been many years since I’ve seen any of them. It’s a East side-West side thing here in Cleveland. For that matter since Chrissy’s moved back to the East side I hardly see HER anymore. Which sucks donkey doo if you ask me. It's only 18 miles. You'd think she lived in another state. Maybe if she lived in another state I'd see her more. We'd plan things. We take for granted that they are here. You know?

But as I looked around this church, which happens to be the only Armenian church in Cleveland, I notice that the depiction of Mother Mary over the alter is of distinct resemblance to Chrissy herself! I mentioned that to the other Odar’s with which I was sitting and yup, it was unanimous that if Chrissy were indeed wearing red lipstick, she’d look like the mother of Jesus.

Wait. Red lipstick?
Yes…the Mother has some rather red lips. Who knew? And it was the main alter she presided over with the baby Jesus giving what looked to be a high five surfer hand signal. I'm used to Mary being on the side and a simple cross hanging above the alter. Mary's usually at the side.

There's a tortured looking Jesus was on the left side of the church in a little alcove apse. And some dark, brooding, sinister looking guy on the right side. There was a red veil over some old black leather bound book of Gospels. Who is that scary guy? I haven’t a clue. I couldn’t imagine sitting there as a child. Those images might give you nightmares. They would me.

Chrissy’s dad was very involved with the church. The rest of the family…not so much. Chrissy herself said that she hadn't been there in fifteen years. She told me that the priest made her very aware of that fact. Go figure. It was obvious that St. Gregory of Narek was going to miss him. I heard it mentioned several times that they wouldn’t have been able to build the cultural hall without his overly persuasive letters sent out to parishioners and local business’s to support the project. At least two people attending the luncheon following mentioned ‘No one could possibly say 'No' to that man and his letters’. That made me giggle. It was hard to imagine George as a mafia-esque money gatherer for the his congregation when the most recent photo I’d seen of him wearing google-eyed spring glasses.

George was a veteran of the Korean war. So the Honour Guard was at the gravesite. I’ve seen the Honour Guard in movies, but never in person. Quite a moving sequence of events. I was curious how long they trained to make their folds in the American flag…just so. The salute crisp. The steps perfectly planned. Taps played with just the right tempo and volume.

Chrissy approached me after the conclusion of the internment service. “Thanks for coming Nancy, I really appreciate it….” she said through red rimmed eyes. Her hair was pulled back tight in a high pony. Her mom had made mention that her dad liked Chrissy with her hair away from her face. Chrissy’s mom is well versed in the passive aggressive. Chrissy was sure to have not a single strand anywhere near her cheekbones. Her red eyes didn’t shock me, I’d witnessed her crying several times off and on throughout the services. What shocked me was her rapid approach.

Geez…she saw me last night at the wake. I know it’s been awhile before that, but what the…..her hand was rising towards my head. I thought ‘should I back up?’ That brief moment where the fight or flight instinct kicks in…”Nancy! Don’t MOVE!” Whack. Her hand smacked through the right side of my head.

Whaa………?” was all I could manage.

The people lingering at the gravesite started to turn to find out who could be upsetting the youngest daughter of the recently departed.

“A spider. A big spider. It was IN YOUR HAIR!”

How long had it been there? Where did it come from? There weren’t any trees nearby. Did anyone else see it and think it a hair decoration like the peacock feather headbands all the rage? Had I actually reached up and fluffed my hair and had a spider bite my hand, or fall out on my clothes, or make it’s way down into my clothes, or my neck before she killed it….Ugh. The mere thought makes my skin started to crawl. I’m sure I probably would’ve passed out right then and there.

Maybe even died of a heart attack.

They could’ve just rolled ol’ George-y over a notch and I’d join him in his eternal resting place. The priest was still there and all. I’m sure he’d have said a prayer for me. Even if I were an Odar. And it would make his wife Jean happy…she’d only have to pay half the funeral cost. A discount. A bonus.

And maybe, just maybe, with giving the funeral home business for two services instead of one, she’d get Chrissy that date with the single brother of the funeral home...after all.


Please say a little prayer for Chrissy and her family.
I love you, Christine.


  1. Awww, poor spider. Spiders are our friends. They eat the bad bugs. Clearly it was looking for bad bugs in your hair. I hope it didn't find any.

    I'm glad you got to participate in a loving cultural experience, funereal though it was.

    Korean vets... there's not many of them, and no one ever hears about how they suffered.

  2. So sad...until the spider.

    Still though.

    I wish her the best. :)

  3. LOL @ the spider. Everything happens for a reason... the spider was there to be sacrificed for the levity of the situation.

    Everything you said about death is true. My best friend at work died last month, and it's an adjustment to make.

    You are to be commended for being there for your friend at that time... it's what friends do...

    *hugs for you*


  4. SOrry to hear of your friends father passing away. It's always so difficult during those situations. My grandfather was that for me and I still miss him so much. It's been 2 years since he passed.

  5. You kooky Odar, you. Dad would have loved to have a Mafiaesque reputation. He loved those mob movies. Almost as much as the 12 Corazones.

    I couldn't have made it through without you. Thank you. Love you~

  6. I'm glad they are doing something for the kids and those big backpacks! Wheely-ones can hold a lot! ;)

    Sorry about your friend's dad, but so glad you were there for her. Just wish the spider hadn't been. I'm feeling creepy-crawly just thinking about that!

  7. I wish they would impliment the backpacks with wheels here, my poor niece is going into the sixth grade this year and the responsability for books and such for each class. It's only been two days and she is already having difficulty with it all.

    I know how it feels to have your friend just live across town and hardly see each other.

    I can just imagine how difficult that had to be for you, but I'm sure she really appriciated the support.

  8. single brother from the funeral home? does ANYONE want a date with him? creepy

  9. It's a shame that so many people have friends and relatives living comfortably nearby that ... only see them at times of stress. Weddings, graduations, hospitalizing illness, and funerals. I think I see my few relatives only on such occassions - where words are tough to formulate - and we all sit and mumble quietly not quite sure of what to say.

    I am sure Christine was grateful to have you there - she probably felt especially awkward during the spider-smashing incident. I suspect she wouldn't mind you inviting her to a cup of coffee to discuss what happened or perhaps to talk about the soul-searing/stirring artwork found in the Amenian church (it obviously had an impact on you which would no doubt please the artists).

    I too "run" from death - I regret it is a major socializing cause in my family. It might be easier if the family knew each other better and enjoyed more "casual" encounters - which would turn the funeral more into what some call "life celebrations". I don't know - won't know until I try it, if I try it.

    I'm glad you think loudly and your group of moms talk loudly - Boo and Bear's backs will thank you. I'm so glad I went to school long before the "backpack" thing - I don't know how I managed without one, do you?

  10. @ Marvin - NOW you've got me checking my head for 'bad bugs'! Ick! :-)
    Chrissy had at the wake a framed collage of pictures of her dad taken during the war and the medals he was awarded. It was really neat stuff. And I never really hear much about the Korean war.

    @Red Shoes - It WAS a pretty funny exchange! That's for sure! I found it rather funny...and not to be irreverant to the seriousness of the situation, but laughter has always been a cure all. For me at least!

    @Senorita - There are those that are gone, but they aren't ever, EVER forgotton. Here's to them!! Cheers!

    @Chrissy - that's that dating show, right? Where they shake their stuff? :-) Your mom was SOOOO jealous of all those crazy gals on the TV. I like my new title...Kooky Odar. I think I'll get a tee with that printed on it.

    LOVE YOU back....

    @Rita- I get all itchy just thinking about it! I washed my hair 4 times when I got home. Just to make sure. I told my neighbor about it and she said, 'what if it laid eggs in there?" she's 7. It freaked me out!

    @ Heather - I wish the kids nowadays could just enjoy their childhood a little longer. They have enough time to be adults when they ARE adults! Maybe it's just me...but Boo came home talking about what she wanted to be when she grew up. Something they were discussing in school so they could gear their studies in that direction. Which is fine....but at 11? Bah.

    @ Daft Scot - He actually WAS kindof that Italian-esque way. At least you know he'd always have a good job! That's one industry that doesn't seem to be diminishing!

    @ Intense Guy - I agree that families (and friends) should get together more often than just the 'biggies' that life holds for us. My brother and I were distanced from each other (due to his fiancee that forbid him to see me...weirdo.) but since my mom had her stroke, we've talked almost every single day. Funny how things can bring people together. And I'm going to call Chrissy now everyday! :-)

    Thanks you guys for your comments!

  11. great as usual, spider and whacking included! what I loved the most about this post is the link between our rush for living (6th graders having 3 minutes to switch classes? c'mon!) and is like that: one day you feel you have endless time to make up for lost time and the next, somebody you love is gone. If we could only realize that sooner and stop rushing away from life...the real life... what matters. My prayers for Chrissy and her family.

  12. Dang those wheelie backpacks are a great idea...I'm so telling my kid's school to do that or face my wrath. My back is still stuffed from my textbook lugging days!

    Good friends point out when you have food on your teeth or friends belt you around the head to kill spiders :)

  13. If my fiancee would've had a spider in her hair, she definitely would've fainted. ...And there would have been years of therapy to follow. She has a phobia of spiders and makes me kill them for her all the time whenever they show up.

    Very sorry to hear of Chrissie's loss. She will be in my prayers.

  14. Beautifully written. Chrissy has a great friend in you and you in she for saving you from that spider.

  15. Glad Boo's back is saved this year. Sad for Chrissy. but really do think your getting slapped up side the head at the funeral is kinda funny...can you imagine the rumors?! Now, Chrissy is a true friend for saving you, and you're a good friend for being there for Chrissy.

  16. Before you know it your girl will be heading off to college as my son is this weekend. I will be in your neck of the woods next week visiting relatives in Cleveland after we drop our boy off at University of Michigan.

    I am sorry for your friend's loss. Like you, I hate funerals...they are just plain sad. I also hate spiders. When I was younger and I would find a spider in my room I would scream for my dad. I never really trusted he killed the thing until he produced the evidence in a wadded up Kleenex.

  17. Best of luck to your daughter with the whole back pack thing... three minutes between classes WAS ridiculous!

    I was just over at Chrissy's blog, reading about her father's passing, so it was comforting to come over here next and hear more about the services.

  18. I like how your daughter's school has changed to rolling back packs and longer times between classes. Sometimes I'd see kids walking to school with their backpacks loaded down, it's a wonder that they could keep standing!

    Attending a funeral of a different culture sure is interesting, isn't it? But the loss is still the same. I'm sorry for your friend's loss...losing a parent is so very hard.

  19. @ OJ Gonzales- You got the connection! I knew YOU would! :-)

    @CAM - I love that. And it's so true!

    @ Mike - I don't necessarily have a phobia OF spiders, but the thought of one in my hair? Yikes. Let's just say I washed my hair 3 or 4 times as soon as I got home. Just tomake sure....

    @Travel & Amp - I'm very lucky to know her, that's for sure. And so lucky that she doesn't need glasses otherwise that damn thing might still be lurking amongst my folicles!

    @SuziCate- You should have seen some ofthe one knew what the heck was going on. INcluding me!

    @DrSoosie - U of M! I grew up in Toledo right on the michigan state line. Some of the poeple were Michigan fans and the rest Buckeyes. I'm a fan of both so as to not make enemies....:-)

    @CatLady- true...3 minutes? It IS ridiculous. I spoke with Chrissy yesterday, she's doing okay. Bernie's keeping her busy. :-)

    @ Pat - Each time I'd try to heft Boo's pack into the car I was always amazed by the weight of it. I'm SOOOO glad they are changing things up a bit. Either that or I'd have to invest in a backbrace!

    Thanks for the awesome comments! I'll pass along your well wishes to Christine when I call her this afternoon.


  20. I'm so glad that the kids can use rolling backpacks. I can't believe there was ever a problem with that in the past. And, expecting these little kids to carry such heavy packs everyday is ridiculous.
    I too just went to a memorial service for a friend's mother. We are getting to that age.

  21. Thoughtful and moving post. I feel your love.

    Hugs to you,

  22. A lovely blend of warmth, respect and humor...just what is called for to keep us sane in life, eh? Your description of the church and service reminds me of attending my sister's wedding, and subsequently her children's baptisms, in the Greek Orthodox church (her husband's religion). EVerything seemed strange and a tad bit scary.
    Your friend Chrissy is lucky to have you! Boo Bear too!

  23. I hope your daughter is having a good year so far- my son also started 6th grade, Last year they tried some crazy 5th/6th combo and had dthem changing classes and whatnot. he was totally lost. They don't bring books home at all- it is good for their backs- but bad for the parents when we try to help with homework.

    I am sorry to hear about Chrissy's dad. I agree she is luck to have you for a friend.


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