taking the passive out of passive-aggressive

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Well, the holidays are over, and I'm over them too. No more wine hangover, no more trips to Target, no more friends from out of town. No more endless meals consisting mostly of meat.

I went to my Dad's grave yesterday. It's not actually a grave, it's this vault in this big building in the middle of a giant cemetery. It's not even a vault, really, it's a slab of marble behind which his ashes rest. Well, some of them anyway--the rest we scattered in the Atlantic, from the side of a big fishing boat. Anyway, imagine a giant building with many halls, with lots of slabs of marble stretching to the ceiling on either side, all with names in them in a terrifically serious serifed font, and dates. BAGBY, his says, JOEL MARSHALL, 1934-1999. I thought at first it was awful, to be put in a wall, but really is it any worse than anything else?

But the part that made me sadder were the double-slabs. They're twice as wide, double-wide you might say, and they have the last name at the top, and on one side is the husband and on the other the wife. Except on a lot of these, only one person is interred, waiting for the other spouse to die. So on one side it will say, you know, "JOSEPH MICHAEL, 1908-1988" and on the other, "EDITH JANE, 1910-" and just a blank for the death date. Now, how must it feel to know your grave awaits you? I mean, more so than we all already know this. Having your name up there in brass represents passivity, this acceptance that your life is like a book and you're reading the final pages. I could never do this, not yet anyway. I can't even buy a life insurance policy. I mean, I don't want to be prepared for death--that's halfway to saying it's okay. It's not okay. As old DT said, "Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

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