Wednesday 11 October 2017

Funereal Thoughts

City Boy's father died last night, the day after his 71st birthday.  I'm finding the situation weird because, even though City Boy and I never married, he was essentially my father-in-law for 13 years.  I've spent the last few days, since I learned he was on his death bed, reminiscing and sorting out my feelings.

City Boy and I split up over two years ago and I've had little contact with his family since.  I emailed his father twice about money that City Boy owes me, in the faint hope that he might be able to put some pressure on him to pay up, and perhaps give him the money to do so.  He never replied, which angered me.  It's a legitimate debt, which I can back up with records and receipts, so it's an issue of personal integrity and I hoped futilely that his father would urge him and help him to do the right thing.  So, I have some unresolvable anger at his father for not backing me up there.

Also on the negative side, many of City Boy's flaws can be traced to his father.  That's true for everyone so we often blame our parents for our shortcomings.  There comes a point when we must take responsibility for ourselves and stop blaming them but that doesn't mean that other people can't look at us, look at our families, and make connections.  So, I've felt some frustration on that score when I observed his father modelling some of his worst characteristics.  Likewise, those flaws sometimes made it embarrassing and stressful to deal with his father in public.  I don't want to say anything too identifying on my anonymous blog but he was a Jewish lawyer from Brooklyn, and the embodiment of certain boorish stereotypes that, in environments such as restaurants, were cringe-inducing for this uptight WASP.  E.g.: In a vegan restaurant, he kept saying to the waitress, "Honey, could you go next door and get me some butter?" & repeated this routine about cream for his coffee, eggs, etc.

But he was also kind and generous.  He loved his family unconditionally.  He taught school before he became a lawyer, worked for the city until corruption drove him to leave, and he never got rich because he stayed in his working class neighbourhood, even as the demographics changed radically from Jewish to Asian and Latino immigrants, to serve local clients who needed him.  He was highly regarded by everyone that knew him for his warmth, cheerfulness, generosity, humour, and positivity.  He accepted me into the family even though I am not Jewish, and joked about our pets being his "granddog" and "grandchickens".  He took City Boy and me to Pavarotti's last ever performance at the Met.  One Thanksgiving, he overheard me say I had never gone to see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall and he immediately got us tickets to the Xmas Spectacular.  He would make the long drive up to see us just for one night when he had a busy work schedule, take us out for dinner and brunch the next morning, and secretly buy us a gift certificate for more meals at the restaurant.  He was a kid at heart, sometimes giving us toys for Xmas—I remember getting a Mr. Potato Head one year.  Once when we were showing him around the area on a beautiful fall day we stopped for ice cream and later passed another ice cream place where, knowing ice cream is my favourite food, he insisted we stop for a second helping.  He couldn't eat ice cream, so this was all for us.  He simply enjoyed being generous to his family; it gave him pleasure and satisfaction.

I've been reminiscing about him today, and more generally about City Boy's father's side of the family.  City Boy's aunt, his father's beloved sister, died of breast cancer on City Boy's 16th birthday (awkward timing).  His cousin, son of his father's brother, died last year of a drug overdose.  His father talked frequently about losing his own parents, and about the deaths of his own aunts, cousins, etc.  He was always conscious that time was limited and he strove to make the most of it, traveling frequently to see relatives around the country.  He came to visit us when City Boy had a Fulbright in Paris, renting a car and driving us to amazing historic attractions all over northwest France.  Since he ended up dying so young, he was right to make every moment count.

When I heard he was in hospice, I toyed with the idea of asking City Boy's stepmother if he'd like me to visit, but by then it was too late, he was no longer responsive.  I will send a condolence card to his uncle (as I did when his cousin died) and to his stepmother.  I considered going to the funeral but I don't want to create any unnecessary drama.  I may make a shiva call, if it seems appropriate.  I could bake something and bring it.  I keep making mental lists of the many practical things to be done now.  His father's law office will need to be closed up and cleared out, his car sold.  Some of this can be done by his uncle and stepmother but City Boy should take some responsibility.  He is now stuck down in NYC for all of the Jewish mourning rituals and he may not have brought enough clothes when he rushed down to his father's bedside in hospice—wait, what?!?  Why do I give a shit?  None of this is my problem anymore.  These people aren’t my family and they certainly don't give a shit about me.  City Boy has said and done such reprehensible things that he doesn't deserve a shred of consideration or help from me.  He is not a good person and the death of his father doesn't negate that.

So, why does my mind even go there?  I think I have figured it out: It has nothing to do with City Boy or his family per se.  It's just the natural human resistance to feeling peripheral in a familiar setting.  It's not rational; one of my greatest joys in not being stuck in a miserable relationship with City Boy was no longer having to deal with his family.  In the years before we split up, when the relationship was long dead, I stopped attending family events.  I was thrilled that I would never have to see them again.  I don't want to see them again.  But I felt a part of something when I was in the family, as I had when I was with Country Boy.  When you end a relationship, for better and worse, you lose the entire family, and the sense of being an insider.  City Boy and I were together for 13 years so I got to know his family well.  He'll be at the funeral with some random current girlfriend who won't know anyone.  I have no sexual or romantic interest in him (on the contrary, I don't respect him and thus find him repulsive), but I have this residual sense of belonging, like I would know exactly what to say and how to handle each relative and situation, what disputes to stay out of, how to counteract City Boy's immaturity and myopic selfishness and prod him into acting dignified (I might have failed at that), what to say to his stepmother to mitigate whatever he said that was tone deaf and insulting, etc.  It would not be a situation I'd relish, but it's one I could stage manage from years of experience.  It feels odd not to be part of it, although I am resoundingly glad not to be.  I don't want to be involved with him or his family, it just feels weird when something like this happens.  I'm sure it will fade with time.


  1. City Boy is fine. His family loves that he has love and support in his life now. He was held and comforted, as was his family, by those of us who care for him. You are a cruel sociopath for continuing to write about him knowing he knows about this blog, especially during his grief. MOVE ON! GROW UP (it's a blessing you can't breed, you're heartless)! Even his really bad mistake with Natalie is seen as a blessing by everyone because it got him away from you, a cruel, bitter person who brings out the worst in him.

    1. I don’t know who you are but you’ve made a few errors in your comment and it’s not in my nature to let that stand (“Someone is wrong on the Internet!”).

      City Boy had zero interest in my blog back when we were together and it would have meant a great deal to me so I couldn’t be more surprised to learn that he is reading it over 2 years later.

      I use my blog for venting, humour, politics, and hashing out feelings about work, family, relationships, decisions, goals. Writing is a good way to process things and the blog is anonymous. The death of City Boy’s dad raised a lot of mixed feelings and memories that I have spent a sad and contemplative week processing. If that doesn’t sound perfectly natural to you then I suggest that you might want to look in the mirror when you describe someone as “heartless”.

      It’s only partially true that City Boy and I brought out the worst in each other. In the early part of our relationship I showed him support that was helpful to him & he was helpful to me as well. But you are correct that we certainly brought out the worst in each other in later years.

      N was not a mistake. She served as a catalyst to end a relationship that needed to end. I wouldn’t have left & he wouldn’t have left without someone to leave to. She was his ideal, the literal embodiment of everything he would have designed in a fantasy of the perfect woman. Even though he didn’t get to keep his dream girl forever, I doubt that he regrets having his fantasy come true for awhile. A few months is better than never. Also, at the time, I resented that he had a distraction so he didn’t have to give me a second thought whereas I was alone & having to work through every stage of grief. But, in retrospect, that served me well as I was able to process everything, mourn, get some perspective (and therapy) & truly move on. I have difficulty letting go because of my OCD & I was forced to work through all that. Not that you care about me, but you said I needed to move on yet you didn’t seem to find it odd that City Boy would still be reading my blog. Moving on doesn’t mean that, when something like the death of someone who was essentially your father-in-law for 13 years happens, you won’t have feelings and memories come up that you need to process.

      As for being cruel or heartless, I have many faults, but they don’t include either of those things. Bitter? That may be true. I generally see myself as cynical, but there is a fine line. Bear in mind that, although you hear my voice in my blog posts, everything you have heard about the relationship is one-sided, and filtered through your loyalty to City Boy. Once I had gotten over him and we could speak in a friendly fashion, he was lamenting to me that girlfriends would be really charmed by him at first but after they got to know him better they would lose respect for him and break up with him. I gave him a piece of advice: Be someone that they can continue to respect. I hope he has done that — you might be the one he called “permanent Jen” last December, who was going to move here from somewhere in the midwest, OH or PA. If so, good luck to you both. I’m not going to trash him by detailing his faults—you wouldn’t believe me, and you might show this to him and I am certainly not desirous of kicking him when he is down. But it is times like these that we think of who we are as people and how that has been shaped, for better and worse, by our parents. I am glad he is being comforted by family and friends.

  2. You saw me once, but who I am is far more complicated than you can imagine. Anyway, he’s fucked up in his own way. So are you. So am I. So is everyone. (Sometimes people’s fucked up-ness... and yes, I know you’re judging my grammar... simply works well together.) I wish you love and peace in your life. I’m sorry I was hurtful. I hope you find the things you seek.