Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Crazy Week-Long Trip To A Funeral

My grandfather, George Furtado Simas, passed away on Christmas Day in the morning.

He was a good man, self-educated, constantly reading. He had Alzheimer's disease and in the end just forgot to eat. He had a living will that specified that he was not to be given a feeding tube, so we let him go. I don't know why God calls some people to this sort of experience at the end of their lives. Perhaps it is a time for quiet reflection, to go over all the events of your past, a sort of "life flashing before your eyes" in slow motion as you regress back through your memories. Perhaps there are lessons we know not of, that can only be learned when in a mental state that seems strange and pitiful to us. Perhaps it is for the benefit of others that the elderly are asked to sacrifice their lives, to teach us about caring and unconditional love. I'm sure God must have a very good reason, because so many of our elderly have this experience. No matter why he had to go through what he did, I have no doubt that he had the best Christmas of his life, spending it with not only Christ himself, but also all his long-dead relatives and ancestors welcoming him to the next life.

We decided to go to the funeral despite my advanced pregnancy and gestational diabetes, because we wanted to be there for my widowed grandmother. San Diego is a two-day car trip from northern Utah. It can be driven straight through, since it's only about 13 hours' drive, but if you have kids, can't drive all night and/or get up very very early in the morning, or need to get out frequently, it's best to do it in two days. Since all of the above applied to us, we knew we'd have to do the drive in two days instead of one. So that's four days of nothing but travel. Add a day for the funeral and you're already up to almost a week. We decided to tack on an extra two days to visit FH's folks in the L.A. area while we were out there.

The trip was a horrific ordeal worthy of at least the third circle of Dante's hell, replete with screaming demons children squabbling over the least little sip of water or mouthful of bubble gum. We didn't have the time I usually put into planning this sort of trip, so we just sort of threw everything into suitcases and left. Some of it we just threw directly into the van. The kids fell into that latter category. We had brought a DVD player and a small screen, but FH had only brought the least favorite and most scratched of their DVD's and had not made provision for the screen to be firmly affixed to the back of the seat in front of them, so we spent most of the trip fielding complaints about the movie selection and the quality of the car theater experience. Bagel liked the extended ride, though. He spent every waking hour of the trip staring out the van window. He even learned a new word, "noise," just to complain about the noisy heater in the first hotel we stayed in.

We left after dinner on Tuesday and made it to Mesquite, Nevada, where we had reservations, and arrived in San Diego on Wednesday. FH still had a lot of unused hotel reward points, so we were able to get a free room at a nice place in Downtown.

The funeral went well enough. Bagel provided some comic relief when he somehow managed to get his diaper off without removing his pants. The diaper was clean, so it didn't make a mess, but I just couldn't help laughing out loud when I discovered the diaper hanging down one leg of his pants. My brother had a nerve-racking experience. He ran out of gas on the way to the cemetery. He immediately called a cab, because he was a pallbearer and his car also contained two other pallbearers. The cabbie took him for a long, long ride, first around and around the cemetery without finding the entrance, then to everywhere in the cemetery except the place where we were. He eventually gave up and went back to the reception. In the meantime, my brother-in-law who had stayed with the car to wait for a friend to bring gas had gotten the gas and went on his way. Had my brother stayed with the car, he would have gotten there much sooner; but he had no way of knowing that he'd get a dishonest cabbie. After the reception, my brother spent a couple of hours on the phone with the power company, which had decided not to credit any of his online payments for the last three months, wouldn't take his debit card, and was threatening to shut off his power while he was down at the funeral, all the time accusing him of being a deadbeat who refused to pay his power bill. I am impressed that he managed to hold it together through all this frustration. I would have exploded in a way that would have made people cover their children's ears.

After that, we went up to Los Angeles, where we stayed with FH's sister and her family. They are an island of American sanity in a sea of Filipino craziness. They were happy to see us and glad we could stop by. Our other, more traditionally Filipino relatives were actually upset at us because we did not visit on the dates and times they would have preferred or stay as long as they wanted us to. Perhaps they would have preferred we not stop by and see them at all?!? As it was, we were able to attend an hour or two of my mother-in-law's New Year party, but only at the cost of arriving in St. George at 11:30 pm.

On the trip home we discovered that we were missing a headlamp lens. Of course, you can't just replace the headlamp lens; you have to get the entire headlamp assembly, which is expensive. And naturally, it wasn't the older and more opaque of the two headlamps that broke; it was the newer one, the one we replaced a while back when a rock hit it and shattered the headlamp lens. And of course it is a special-order part at any auto parts store, so there was no chance of us replacing it until several days after we got home. Without a lens, the bulb was exposed to the elements; and since it rained the entire day, it didn't have a snowball's chance in hell. Thankfully, the part is an easy one to replace; even I can do it, if I have a Chilton manual to look at. I got a nice deal on an aftermarket headlamp on eBay. We've had good luck getting parts on eBay, when we buy from reputable sellers. But even at half the price Autozone wanted, it didn't come cheap.

All in all, I'm glad we went. It meant so much to my grandmother. But I really, really wish we could have gone without actually going, because it was the actual going part that was really miserable. There's nothing like a family car trip, complete with midnight earaches, gross casino bathrooms, and the smell of rotting hamburgers that have been dropped under the seat. And it's a good thing there's nothing like it, or it'd be much, much more difficult to avoid.