I was in Washington that morning, wandering around in the streets after getting thrown out of my building, wondering if I was going to die and if not, how in hell was I going to get home with all the trains shut down. And thinking other private thoughts that I’ve made known to the couple of people they concerned. And all the time I was doing that, Dan was already dead.
His family happens to live near me so I went to the wake. I didn’t go to the funeral and I didn’t go to the special memorial service for Georgetown MBA people. The wake was about all I could stand. I didn’t like the MBA program, which was in a state of administrative flux when I went through it and consequently was mondo screwed up, like a cross between boot camp, math camp and those salesmen pep rallies where they don’t let you go to the bathroom and shut you up in a coffin all in the name of motivation. Furthermore, most (though not all) of my MBA classmates were not people I’d ever want to lay eyes on again. Some of them I actively disliked for being shortsighted, moneygrubbing jerks; the majority were neutral people with whom I felt very little in common. Dan, who was always nice and friendly to me even though I was in a continuous bad, snarly mood during that entire effed-up program, was one of the very few for whom I would have bestirred myself out to that funeral parlor, especially given that it was crawling with neutral-to-annoying fellow classmates.
Dan’s wake was packed. He had so many friends. I did not understand why he died and not me. I’m not a “people person”, and while I don’t wish to do anyone harm and will sometimes step in if I see harm being done, I also prefer to maintain my distance from most people. Therefore, compared to friendly fellows like Dan, I have relatively few friends and thus fewer people to miss me when I go. It would seem more logical, more economic, that I go and inflict less emotional cost upon the planet, but death is not logical. Dan’s mom, who is 10 years younger than my mom but looks the same age (my mom never went completely gray), was at the wake, in the state of emotional distress you’d expect. I found out today at the cemetery that Dan’s dad died that same year. I don’t know how his mom managed to keep functioning, losing them both all at once like that, although I think she has other children and no doubt they help. Every time I’ve thought about dying since then, one of the things that stops me is picturing my own mom at my wake, looking like Dan’s mom. I wouldn’t wish that on her, or anybody.
Anyway. Because I didn’t go to Dan’s memorial services or actual burial, I had never been out to the cemetery where he was buried. (I haven’t even been to my own father’s grave since he was buried, but that’s another story.) While I was laying around this past summer, barely able to move due to my bad leg, and with my job going bye-bye, and keeping a stiff upper lip because I had to, I promised myself that when I got a job again I’d go visit Dan’s grave, and say hello, and remind myself that other people go through bad times too, and given that it’s Dan in the ground and not me, I guess we’re both supposed to play the hand we were dealt. Even if it seems kinda stupid.
Well, it took us four, count ‘em, FOUR, trips to that damn cemetery to find Dan’s grave. The first time, I thought there would be some kind of directory in the central mausoleum. Nope. You had to ask at the office, which was not open on Sundays. I thought that was stupid because most people have weekday jobs and Sunday is one of the only two days they have free to go bopping out to the cemetery. We returned the following Saturday, only to find that the office closed at some ridiculous early hour, like 3 p.m., and we were a few minutes too late. At that point, I got rather cantankerous with the office worker who had just closed up shop and was hopping into her car in the parking lot. There’s probably a customers_suck post somewhere about me yelling at her rudely, but fuck, grieving people like me shouldn’t have to put up with a cemetery office closing before 5 especially when there’s no directory, not even on the Web, and they’re closed all damn day on Sunday and like I said I work the rest of the week.
The next business day, I put my nice polite voice back on, and called the cemetery office and asked them where Dan was buried. They told me he was in the Field of Honor section. I said, are you sure? Because Field of Honor is for veterans and Dan was a civilian. They said, oh yes, he was there. Plot 93-C. I wrote it all down.
We made a third trip and discovered that the Field of Honor section is humongous and spreads over about three separate parts of the cemetery, and that not all the graves are numbered, just the newer ones, and that the numbering jumps around and is really, really hard to follow. We finally found Plot 93-C and there was some other family in it. By then it had gotten to be dusk, so we had to leave.
We made a FOURTH trip, determined to look in all parts of this Field of Honor. And discovered that there were at least four different plots in different parts of said field, numbered 93-C. None of which contained Dan. We did run across the tree that Georgetown MBA had planted for him on the September 11 anniversary. In desperation, I decided to just wander around the area near the tree in hopes of stumbling upon the grave. And stumble upon it I finally did. Dan was in plot 73-C. The office lady misread the number.
Our story concludes with me drinking part of the Killian’s Red I took down there and pouring the rest on Dan’s grave while yelling about how finding his grave was just as much of a disorganized clusterfuck as everything else associated with that damn Georgetown MBA program. I’m sure Dan was laughing his ass off, in his “oh my god, there’s always something” headshaking way, at all the trouble I had finding him. Of course after I was done yelling I prayed and shed a few tears in the car coming back. The Charlie Brown theme happened to come on the car radio and I was picturing a cartoon called something like, “It’s Your Funeral, Charlie Brown!” where Charlie Brown and Linus (with his blanket) would be wandering around a gigantic cemetery looking for someone’s grave and the plot numbers would be all screwed up and wrong, and Charlie would yell AAAAUUUUGHHH!!, and Linus would make philosophical remarks, and then Lucy would show up and through some completely illogical twist of luck and reasoning would find the grave right away and tell Charlie Brown that he obviously couldn’t find it because he was a blockhead.
I told Ted that if I do happen to die, he is not under ANY circumstances to bury me in Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens. Not only are they disorganized and unhelpful and need better office hours and a directory on their website, but also Spiro Agnew is buried in there someplace. Yech. Of course, if I don’t get back to church, they’ll probably bury me wherever they put bad Catholics (there’s some sort of requirement that you punch the sacramental ticket regularly to get into many of these joints), which would upset my mom, so I guess that’s another good reason not to check out right now.