Monthly Archives: March 2009

Eli Achieves Sentience

“So I press Tivo Man and that brings up the menu. Then I do ‘Now Playing’ and press select. Then I find ‘Wow Wow Wubzy’. Then I press select. Then I pick a show and press play.”

It occurs to me that Eli will never know a time when you couldn’t choose what TV show you wanted to watch when, or when you couldn’t pause and rewind TV. He also is used to the idea that you can listen to whatever songs you want anywhere in the house, or even if you’re riding in the car. And for him, phones aren’t things that are fixed in place.


I am waiting in the funeral home foyer, listening to the grandfather clock across from me tick, tick, tick. I am standing with the other pallbearers. The clock’s big hand points to the phrase TEMPUS FUGIT.

I’ve been a pallbearer at three funerals now. When the time comes you lift the casket, marveling at how heavy it is, as if it is lined with lead to make you feel you’ve gotten your money’s worth. The body inside is the person you knew minus what made them them, so why does the entire thing weigh so much? It settles in your hands and you think hard about important subjects, like how stupid you’re going to look if you trip over your own feet.

In a little over a year I’ve become a connoisseur of funerals, which is a lot like drinking shot after shot of vinegar until you can identify specific brands. Funerals are stitched-together affairs, and have so many parts that can go wrong. Songs especially are a minefield. I’ve now heard several of them whose conceit is that they’re being sung by the deceased and whose message boils down to, “It’d be great if you were dead like me.”

Pastors handle funerals with varying degrees of grace. Some have described someone I didn’t recognize, as if they had accidentally grabbed the Cliff’s Notes to someone else’s life. Worst are the ones who see funerals as an opportunity to convert mourners to Christianity, barely stopping short of slapping a GOD IS MY CO-PILOT bumper sticker on the casket.

This all started several years ago with a few funerals, drops of water that foretold the coming rainstorm. Now it feels as if I cannot go a month before I need to pull out my suit and somber tie, the one without crayon drawings of kids riding rockets into outer space. I have so much knowledge I have no use for, and no real knowledge of the heart of the matter. I now know that funerals for those who served in the military are hard: the service is longer, there may be a three-volley rifle salute, and the flag draped over the casket makes it harder to find the handles. And every time — every time — the flag is presented to the family, I lose it.

Like pastors, other people handle death in different ways. The usual Christian clichés give no comfort. “He’s in a better place.” “She’s at peace now.” Sometimes people go beyond clichés when they really shouldn’t. Misty’s grandfather died barely seven months after his wife did. At one point someone said to us, “There was a study, it showed that if someone dies within a year after their husband or wife dies, they were soul-mates,” and I thought of my two grandmothers, both of whom have outlived their husbands by more than a year. People say the most unkind, unthinking things, shoveling words into the empty space the deceased has left.

There are other clichés that are trotted out. “Why do we only all get together when someone dies?” someone always asks, and it’s always asked by those who flee the soonest from the funeral. Then there are those who understand, who hold you for a moment and say, “I’m so sorry.” Those who share their stories and rememberances of the dead, shining a light into parts of their life that you’d never really seen before.

Funerals are all about waiting, as the grandfather clock in the foyer reminds me. It finally chimes ten with muted, rounded tones that might announce the arrival of the Ghost of Christmas Past. We line up behind the funeral director and file into the chapel.

Kutiman Bricolages YouTube Videos Into New Music

As usual, I’m about a week behind the Internet, but in case you’re further behind than me, you really really really need to look at Thru You. Israeli musician Kutiman has created an album of songs spliced together from YouTube videos, and the result is astounding. Please understand, I’m talking about honest-to-goodness songs, good ones, with compelling video tracks to go with them. The whole experience has the same kind of joyous feel that Matt Harding’s videos do.

Here, watch the first track.

Then go to the album’s site and watch them in order. I’ll help search the floor for your jaw afterward.

I Like My Coffee Like I Like My Post

I like my coffee like I like my women: in a plastic cup.

I like my coffee like I like my men: rich, strong, and hot.

I like my coffee like I like my men: tied up on the back of a mule led by Juan Valdez.

I like my coffee like I like my exes: finely ground and dark-roasted.

I like my coffee like I like my emotional crises: bittersweet.

I like my coffee like I like my comedy: black and full-flavored.

I like my coffee like I like my hair: black and in excess.

I like my coffee like I like my workplaces: cold and corporate.

I like my coffee like I like my news: white and bitter.

I like my coffee like I like my first person shooters: covered in bees.

Taking Care

I’d like to be able to say that it gets easier to prepare for a trip home to go to a funeral. In some ways, the packing and managing of our lives to get ready to go has gotten easier with practice. Remembering to take Liza’s sound machine and to hold the mail before we leave has become a bit of a routine. It’s a day-long routine for me, getting the four of us ready to go, but I start to cope during that time. I take comfort in handling our clothes, our books, the snacks we’ll eat on the road. As I am packing, I project out to the day after the funeral, when the kids will have time with the grandparent we’re there to comfort. I pray for the smile Eli and Liza’s presence might bring to them.

My dad called two weeks ago to tell me that his dad had pneumonia and they were taking him to the hospital. I could tell by the things he wasn’t saying that he was worried. All I could do was tell him that I was sorry.

I’ve never been comfortable around my dad’s dad. When I was young, he seemed mean to me. When I was old enough to understand that he was of a generation used to back-breaking labor and few words, I hadn’t spent any time around him for more than a decade.

My feelings for my dad’s parents have always been complex. I loved them as family and resented them for how they treated my dad and, by extension, me. It’s been tough to forgive things that were said and done, but I feel like I’ve done a decent job of forgiving them and the decisions they made that they thought were right. All the forgiveness in the world doesn’t get back all that lost time, though.

When I called my dad last Thursday to check on Pawpaw he was already gone. My dad’s sadness was so very much more overwhelming to me than my own.

The same second cousin that performed my Grannie’s funeral performed my Pawpaw’s. Once again, I was struck by how he had memories that I didn’t have. It’s hard for me to not feel cheated. And each day since then, I have been practicing falling back on that forgiveness that I’ve been working on for so many years.

In January I had a cold. At the beginning of February it was a sinus and ear infection. I ended up in the ER on the way home from the funeral because I was having trouble breathing. Pneumonia kept me in Arkansas for an extra day to rest before heading back to Alabama. My dad and step-mom took care of the kids while I slept in my Vicodin-induced, no-coughing haze and Stephen headed to DC for business.

My dad has called several times since we’ve been home to check on us. I keep mulling over how we went there to comfort him and he ended up taking care of us instead. I’ve been thinking that sometimes caring for our family is all we have and why we are here. I heard my dad say once that he didn’t want to take care of his parents. Watching him doing it anyway has been very powerful for me to watch.

I’m sorry my Pawpaw is gone. It hurt a lot to watch my dad grieve for him. I am frankly a bit surprised to feel the hole that his passing has left. Should I have tried harder to have a relationship with him? Undoubtedly. I am counting myself blessed, however, for having watched my dad care for his dad and seeing how that has strengthened the bond between the two of us.

The Robi-Robots Story

by Eli

Once upon a time, there was a green-headed robot. He was lonely and very sad. But…he had no friends. But then one day, he met a purple-headed robot, Joe.


“How do you do, Joe?” said Sparky. (Mom, the purple-headed one is Sparky.)

“Good!” said Joe.

“Good!” said Sparky.

“But we don’t have any more friends!”

“You’re right!” said Sparky.

“We better go to the enchanted grove to get one.”

“Let’s go!” They said. And off they went.

When they got there, they found two other robots. The yellow-headed robot was Speedy. The blue-headed robot was Eddie. So they became best friends. Really best friends.

The End

Thanks to Kat for the cool make-your-own robots. (Boy do you know this kid or what?)