Isn’t it true that at funeral services, many mourners, especially family members, are so overcome by grief that everyday activities fall by the wayside? Not for a stuper (short again, for that irritatingly stupid person).
When my 90 year-old grandfather passed away several years ago, Grandma and her 5 children gathered together on the evening of his death. None of the siblings brought their spouses. But when Uncle Larry left wife, Fran, at home, she was miffed.
Before I continue, let me give you some background on my relatives and on Uncle Larry: Firstly, my relatives, counting all the way down to 6th cousins and abundant in-laws, are numerous. The chapter on Relative Stupidity in my book is my favorite as I had plenty of idiotic material to work with. Secondly, Uncle Larry lived a few miles away from my grandparents’ and visited them practically every weekend. His wife and kids did not accompany him on these visits as they were usually busy. Shopping. Tennis. Shopping. Starbucks. Shopping. And so on.
Fran told Larry to tell Grandma that Fran should have been included at the sibling get-together. Fran wanted her say on the caterer, florist, casket and guest list. Larry announced this at the sibling gathering. He was told by all in harmonic unison, “It’s none of her business.”
Why did Fran, who paid scant attention to her parents-in-law, suddenly feel like a member of the family come funeral time? Because she thought…ouch! There I go again. I think I twisted my index finger on that one. Yet again, there was no thought! Fran saw an opportunity to grab a bit of attention as the good daughter-in-law while having some fun at the same time. Picking a caterer and flowers ranked high on her repertoire; arranging a guest list would ensure she’d have other stupers present, and for some reason she relished the idea of an open casket. Stupers are gawkers, after all, and are fascinated by other people’s pain. Anything that generates gossip. That way they have something to talk about.
My grandma called upon Aunt May (the wife of Grammie’s bro) for help at the memorial following the funeral. She asked Aunt May to arrive earlier to assist with set-up. Aunt May told Grandma that would not be possible. You see, Aunt May had a hair appointment with Jean-Claude-Raymond. Wasn’t that sort of…preposterous? A hair emergency during the funeral service of a so-called loved one? I spotlight Aunt May because she takes great pride in being the most thoughtful, considerate and kindly member of the family (how do I know this? She keeps reminding everyone; probably so she doesn’t forget it herself.)
My grandparents were affluent, yet modest people. Grandpa was a well respected University Professor who amassed important friends. As well wishers gathered at his memorial reception, I noticed something strange and discomforting. A parallel universe, if you will. For some reason, the stupers in my near and distant family thought that they were attending a taping of the MTV Awards. Fran came in a black leather outfit, reminiscent of Madonna’s formative years. Aunt May chose a flowing black lace number a la Stevie Nicks during Fleetwood Mac’s heyday, and I saw several strapless, satin get-ups. Had Fran gotten a-hold of the guest list? One aunt even flagrantly displayed her Chanel handbag’s Certificate of Authenticity lest anyone think she carried a knock-off – do you see what I’ve been dealing with?
If you’re thinking, “What shallow relatives Keli has,” you’re wrong. Shallow implies a smidgen of depth. Fran and Aunt May have zero depth. They are one-dimensional surface dwellers, not unlike the paper dolls my sister and I used to play with.
How did I overcome the wall-to-wall stupidity that seemed to overflow at Grandpa’s memorial? First, after scanning the stupers and rolling my eyes skyward for about 11 1/2 minutes, I decided to seek out and focus on the intelligentsia present. I very much enjoyed speaking to Grandpa’s former colleagues and students; then I retired upstairs with some keen-minded cousins and shared cherished photo albums and personal memories. How can you go wrong when you surround yourself with genuine, thinking, caring humans?
Think first, last and always!