July 24th, 2007


Back from the Funeral

My sister, Zara (my youngest daughter), and I drove up to Connecticut on Monday night and got back last night. We stayed with a friend of of my sister's - the same friend who put us up last time, the same friend who had been the "mail drop" when my sister had surreptitiously corresponded with me in high school. She and her husband were very lovely and hospitable.

We both said afterwards that it went as well as we thought it could under the circumstances. In a number of ways it was less tense a situation than my brother's funeral, just for having had that experience already. We knew this time that they couldn't kick us out, and we knew that they knew it so wouldn't try. I think whatever remnant of hope I'd had that a death would lead my family to reconsider the ostracism had been killed, so to speak, with Hart's funeral, so there wasn't the tension that small amounts of hope overbalanced by years of negative reality added to the last time. And our mother couldn't pull the bit she did last time of telling the funeral home she'd only ever had three kids, since they already knew we existed (as my sister pointed out, someone at the funeral home likely said, upon getting the call that Dad died, "Not those crazy Rosenbergs again! Can't they just stop dying?" :-)) Plus, there were all the family friends and such who had been nice to us last time that we felt confident would be nice to us again. And there's the whole bring-a-cute-kid-to-the-funeral-and-everyone-loves-you effect. So, in general I approached it with somewhat less trepidation.

And in general it was okay. My mother was pretty neutral. She wasn't friendly, but she wasn't overtly hostile to me as she had been last time. She was quite sweet to Zara, calling her a "lovely young woman." The same people who were nice to us last time were indeed nice again. Everyone made a fuss over Zara. Only two people were truly nasty to me. I was warm and polite to all, including those two.

I thought the eulogy was quite good, particularly given the circumstances (the rabbi had to throw it together in the morning, having just come back from camp in Massachusetts and having done another funeral the day before). He included a lot of the material I gave him. It felt good to have been listened to, and also it ensured that my name got mentioned a few times during the body of the talk. He also gave all of our names and all of our kids' names when he listed survivors. That was better than the alternative, I think, but felt weird to hear my kids' names listed under "loving grandfather to." He was my father, but he wasn't their grandfather and was very clear on never wanting to know them.

I think my sister and I each had moments during the eulogy that were particularly difficult. Mine was a story the rabbi told that my youngest brother had told him, about our father's wise counsel on how to deal with 9/11 and the great anxiety my brother (who lives in the Boston area) was feeling. My father had a daughter (me) who lived in NYC and worked in lower Manhattan, and he had had no interest in finding out if I survived 9/11, so it really was - unbeknownst to the rabbi - a hurtful story for me to hear. Mostly, though, I feel like it was a good representation of a lot of genuinely positive things about my dad. As executrix says, we need to reverse Marc Antony - the good they did lives after them, we inter the evil with their bones. I think that's perfectly appropriate.

We had intended to go to lunch after the internment at the home of the mother of one of my sister's friends. Our other sister invited us back to our mother's place, and we went (dragging along said friend, who was a huge help and comfort throughout both funerals. He drove us around everywhere, kept Zara entertained with his goofy humor, and ran interference as necessary. He is such a doll. My sister picks good friends). It was kind of awkward, but also interesting for me. I found some books on the shelves that I had read - I mean I had read those particular copies as a teenager. I saw some furniture I recognized. I talked some more to some relatives and family friends. I showed the rabbi our family tree, which he found very interesting (it dates to around 400 CE).

We drove around West Hartford a bit, looking at our old house and schools and synagogue. Then we went to M's mother's house, as planned, and hung out there for a while. A neighbor from my childhood (who had come up to me at the funeral, hugged me and said "I've missed you so much over the years") came over for a while and we chatted with her. We got back home last night. We're having people over for shiva this evening, and then my sister is going home tomorrow.

I'm glad we went. I'm sad he's dead. I'm sad I have such a messed up family of origin and sad that my kids have to have that as a legacy. I'm learning what I can from that bad experience.