That talk


A long trip north to my ancestral home for an unexpected funeral, gave me a bittersweet chance to reconnect with the Yankee half of my family after a 20-year absence.

Amazingly, I recognized them all. Everyone had changed physically, but I knew immediately who they were once we hugged. It was like we are all kids again… but not.

During the service, sitting next to a cousin, one who still has the mischievous smile of a little boy who just did something naughty, I enjoyed calling him “old man.” Especially since he is a couple of years younger than me, and is already a grandfather.

I could have hugged him again when he acted genuinely surprised when I confessed to turning 50 last year.

Seeing my dad with his surviving brother and sister, made me realize that if my cousins and I are now the grey-hairs, then our parents are ancient. It was as if I suddenly recognized that my father, being the oldest remaining sibling, could be the next one we gather to celebrate.

None of them are in the best of health, and it was unsettling to face their mortality in such an undeniable way.

As uncomfortable as it can be for parents to have “That Talk” with their small children about sex, it’s even more uncomfortable for kids to have “That Talk” with aging parents about funeral plans and drawing up wills. (Incidentally, the only thing regarding any inheritance I’ve asked of either of my parents is that they spend it enjoying themselves now.)

Fortunately, both my parents have already made their final arrangements, and have them written out in fine detail. As grateful as I am for their forethought, I have serious doubts that it will be all that comforting when we’re summoned together for their funerals.