Sunday, March 30, 2008

The "Fune-cation"

Here I am with my 3 oldest friends: Chalene (since birth), Amy (2nd grade), Stephanie (3rd).

Matthew, my nephew & Helen.

Stephanie attaches Dave's bouttonier.

My mom with Lydia & Jason.

I thought I'd post a few things from the funeral. As far as funerals go, it was a lovely experience. All four of us spoke, and I took it upon myself to be comic relief. My dad, while not a huge producer of humor, was a giant consumer. He loved a good story and loved to laugh. The first story is from a time I visited them on their mission:

"My favorite food story with dad took place on their mission to inner city Detroit. They were scheduled to do their weekly shift at the soup kitchen and mom insisted that I go with my father, feigning fatigue, shoving us out the door. We get there, in the middle of the ghetto, with all manner of homeless people from the purely down and out to junkies and hobos. As the people came down the line, dad would greet each one uniquely, such as “Yo brother, what’s up?” or “Word to your mother” or “Give me five my man,” with accompanying hand gestures he’d probably memorized from thugs on Law & Order. I couldn’t watch. I admit I volunteered for kitchen duty so that I wouldn’t have to witness the looks on the faces of the people that my sweet dad was trying so hard to connect with. Truly the Lord was watching over him and keeping him safe."

Aside from the church (and Law & Order), my dad was passionate about Toyotas (a trait I inherited. He once said, "God gave us Toyotas so we'd know what 'forever' meant."). Here is the story I shared:

"Let’s talk about Toyotas for a minute. It seemed we always had at least 2 parked in our driveway. The most infamous was the fabled Corolla station wagon. He bought it used (do cars come any other way?) and its brakes made the worst sound imaginable. Pedestrians covered their ears at crosswalks and other drivers turned to stare at red lights. This was poor Angela’s primary mode of transportation. It was stolen one day when she was at work, and though there was panic, there was also relief. So if a car goes missing for a certain period of time, say two weeks, then the insurance company has to pay out. So the very day the time period was up, Dad got a call from the insurance company, “Mr. Bickmore, good news, the police found your car. It’s pretty thrashed, but the engine is fine.” To which he replied, “Excuse me, but they found YOUR car.” He collected his money. The end. Or so we thought. The next week he went to the police auction, bought it back and inflicted it on Ange until she went back to college and then it became mine…"

His Toyota legacy literally goes with him to the grave. My brother Dan picked out the casket, a brushed nickel that he chose it because it reminded him of a silver Toyota Dad once owned. On Friday when I went to the funeral home, I looked at it I thought, “Oh. My. Gosh. Dad’s in a hatchback…”

Being raised Mormon, there are certain funeral rituals you take for granted. On the way from the cemetary to the chapel for lunch, my girlfriend Stephanie (not Mormon) wondered aloud what they'd serve. Without missing a beat Amy (LDS) replied, “Ham, funeral potatoes, salad with creamy dressing, lots of jello, rolls and then cake slices on plates.” Of course she was right on the money.

Another interesting thing for me was to hear cousins compare and contrast my dad with his older siblings. As I chatted with one cousin, I remembered her dad's funeral so well, being struck at the contrast between the Bickmore kids who had either Mary Jane or Lettie raising them, and the ones who spent formative years motherless as this uncle did. He was short, toothless, uneducated, earthy. The exact opposite of my father. While I, dad’s youngest, was heading off to grad school, his youngest was heading off to Florida to train horses for a circus. One of his daughters grabbed my hand and said, “I always loved your dad and imagined that my dad would have been more like him if he hadn’t been a drinker.” How do you respond to such an honest, painful comment like that? I just squeezed her hand as she made her way to the next person in line…

Another revelatory comment came from my dad's oldest brother Lee’s daughter. She said that the funeral helped her feel proud of being a Bickmore, that the funeral service had been very healing for her in how she interpreted her childhood. Hearing all the stories of my dad, loving but remote, proud but demanding, made her understand that how her father was, was NOT about her, but how the Bickmores just are. I understand how hard it can be to not personalize the non-warm and fuzzy Bickmore parenting style, and I am so glad that the funeral helped her make some peace with her own upbringing. Anohter cousin made some similar remarks to me, that hearing all the stories reminded him of his mom, and that they were “brilliant but socially challenged Rain men” in a way. I laughed and amended that they were more like “mist-men” in that they could pass as normal in front of non-family members.

It all makes you wonder what your own kids will say when your time comes: "Mom took sure did document our childhood. If only she'd made dinner once in a while..."


Betty Grace said...

Sorry to hear about your dad. Glad you had such a nice experience at the funeral.

SLP said...

This was a wonderful and thoughtful post. I learned so much about you...
Thanks for sharing...
Stacey P

mike and maren said...

Great stories - I LOVE the soup kitchen one. High five, my man!

Stefawn Von Gordon said...

Mmmmmmm....... Funeral potatoes. Can I make them, and call them "Monday potatoes"?