Not remotely food related: A little bit of crazy.

I’m going to tell you a little story, all of which is true and kind of not funny; but in a way it is ridiculous.

Back in the early 90s, my French grandmother, who had not been in good health for a number of years, went to visit my mom’s oldest sister in Texas. When grammy’s health declined rapidly, she got rushed to the hospital, where Texas Aunt got into several ridiculous arguments with the doctor and nurses, subsequently firing them all and banishing them from the hospital room. When grammy eventually passed away, my mom and her two other sisters were discussing funeral arrangements and transport of the body to California, where the bulk of my family lives (and where grammy wanted to be buried). Texas Aunt did not approve of this plan, went on a rampage and attempted to steal grammy’s body from the hospital.

Sound familiar? It is strangely reminiscent of that scene in 9 to 5 where Lily Tomlin tries to maneuver a gurney with what she thinks is her boss’ body through a hospital and then chucking the body into the trunk of her car. As I wasn’t there at the time, I don’t know how far Texas Aunt got with my poor grandmother’s body; but I’m led to believe by other family members that her presence is no longer welcome at that particular hospital.

When my mom’s youngest sister passed away, I flew out to California; and as soon as I got picked up from the airport, my mom drove straight to the funeral home in Sacramento. My aunt died of cancer; and folks, perhaps this is immature of me but I don’t do well around dead bodies. I was completely unprepared to walk right through the front door of the funeral home and immediately see the gaunt body of what was once my aunt in a casket not 15 feet from me.

I have never been to an open casket funeral before, so I guess in that way I’ve been sheltered (or as my mom puts it, I’ve been living in a cotton ball my whole life). My dad, who was born and raised in the South, told me that it’s fairly common practice in these parts to have open caskets at funerals, and as a child he was forced to kiss the corpse. DUDE. THAT IDEA FREAKS ME OUT. So you can imagine my horror as we walked through the door to the funeral home when my mom rushed over to the casket and threw herself upon my aunt’s body. After hauling her off, my mom grabbed my aunt’s shoulders and shook her.

“Tu dors? Mais, reveille- toi!” (are you sleeping? Wake up!)

Things eventually calmed down, but I’m still haunted by that vision of my aunt’s body in the casket. That is not how I want to remember her. She’s not there; the body is a shell. But it’s still a dead body, and it still freaks me out.

The highlight of that day was explaining to the funeral director that he was to seal the casket as soon as we left, and under no circumstances was he to open it again. Why? he asked with a puzzled look on his face. Because Texas Aunt was on her way there and wanted to steal the body.

Texas Aunt firmly believed that my aunt did not die of cancer. She thought my cousin had slowly and meticulously planned my aunt’s demise by poisoning her to death. And she wanted to snatch the body to bring back to Texas where she would have someone do some analysis to prove her theory right.

She did show up at the funeral home and demand that the casket be opened, but her request was firmly declined.

I’ve been thinking about all of this during the past week because Texas Aunt’s husband had a heart attack and underwent triple bypass surgery. He’s not recovering well. Last night his intestines were failing somehow, so he underwent surgery where he was not expected to recover (he did, thankfully). Texas Aunt then got into huge arguments with the head nurse, banishing her from the hospital room, and then got into it with the doctor. The family is already joking about yet another body to be stolen from the hospital.

I don’t know why I’m telling you all this. Perhaps I want to justify why I live so far away from my family, why it’s a deep desire of mine to live a quiet life. I get a lot of crap from my family for not living closer to them. But when you grow up in this environment, you either turn into one of the crazies yourself or try like hell to distance yourself and be normal. I can poke fun at them because they’re MY family, my people.

Oh, the stories I could tell you. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

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