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Yes, I’m living at home and unemployed. Deal with it.

October 14, 2012

Alright, I’m just going to lay it all out there.

I moved back in with my parents and am an unemployed college graduate with no plan.

There. Now you know. A few weeks ago I would have stretched the truth and told you that I was just moving home to drop off some things while sorting through apartments or just waiting to hear back from a few job interviews before making my choice. I wasn’t really that girl who was moving back in with her parents and didn’t have a job. It never felt real to me, but there is nothing like family to make you face reality and boy oh boy do I have a lot of family.

When my grandpa died two weeks ago I had no idea what I was getting into. He was only 75 when he lost a rough battle with cancer and I expected the week in Minnesota to be full of quiet time and stories about his life. My papa was a jokester, and the guy who never wore a shirt no matter the season. The last time we talked, he reminded me I owed him an Egg McMuffin because his basketball team beat mine and he repeatedly called me crazy for not owning a car. His garage was his refuge and spoke his mind especially when it wasn’t politically correct. These were the things we needed to talk about.

But instead of time to process privately with my family, I got an education in the Midwestern funeral, which is much bigger than I ever could have imagined. My grandpa died Thursday morning and after a few choice phone calls(I found out via Facebook but that is another story) the work began. Plots and paperwork, planning and photos, the next two days were nonstop and unforgiving. Widows are bombarded with five hour appointments at the funeral home and three hour meetings with the pastor. The phone continuously rings and an absurd amount of food and flowers overcrowd the already crowded house. Those days are a blur, and the only thing keeping us all going was pure necessity.

By Sunday most everything was in place except our wardrobe; the perfectly nice black dresses in our closets simply wouldn’t do. But shopping was a nice break from the buzz of the house. That night we held a viewing, where people are invited to come pay their respects and greet the family. My grandma, mother and her two sisters stationed themselves in front of the open casket and talked with each guest as the line progressed. They hugged every crying man and listened to every person talk about the man they love in the past tense. It was brutal to watch, and I can’t imagine how it felt to have him laying behind them. I forced myself to look a few times and I’m glad it didn’t look like him. The cancer had already changed his face but the embalming made it even more wrong; when I think of him, I won’t think of him like that.

The next morning things really got rolling. There was a visiting hour before the church service where people are invited to come pay their respects and greet the family. The widow and her girls lined up in front of the casket again and this time people in the line could look at the photo boards and slideshow we made. The line was still a half hour long when the pastor herded everyone in to the pews and told us to say our goodbyes as he closed the casket. The service was simple and nice, though we all said papa would have fallen asleep during the pastor’s reading. We, the grandkids, went up and lit candles and my brother read a poem he wrote. After the service, there was a three hour luncheon at the church where people are invited to come eat, pay their respects to the family and wait to go to the burial.

We drove in a caravan to the cemetery and the honor guard shot their rifles and played their bugle. They folded a flag and gave it to my grandma. We went back to visit every day after.

But even after the viewing, the visiting hour, the service, the luncheon, and the burial there was still a constant stream of visitors and phone calls over the week to come. The house was inundated with flowers and a hundred sympathy cards filled with money(who knew?) had to be processed and turned into thankyous. That alone was exhausting, but over 150 people came to my grandfather’s viewing and another 250 came to the church service the next day and as a grandchild, and the oldest girl, I was expected not only to be present but to entertain. So for those roughly 8 hours over two days, I not only had to talk about my dead grandfather, but also had to face my own future, saying out loud the sentences that are so often associated with failure.

Every ten minutes I stuttered as I said I live with my parents and don’t have a job. My mom’s best friend from high school, a great aunt, a distant cousin, I had to tell them all that at 23, I was jobless and living with my parents.  There wasn’t time to explain that I could easily have kept working in Seattle. I didn’t know them well enough to say that I just needed a change. Who was I to tell them that I think I deserve a better job than I had? I tried other ways to get around it, asking about the other person so much that I never had to bring it up, or I’d just change the subject entirely. But it always came back to the phrase, I’m living at home and unemployed. I’m living at home and unemployed.  Yes. I’m living at home and unemployed.

It was a tough week to say the least, but the crazy thing is that once I walked through the doors of my parents’ house, I felt altogether okay. Talking with those relatives forced me to come to terms with my new life here and I’m going to be okay. And all that hubbub around the funeral showed me how loved he really was and we’re going to be okay without him.

Papa always said he wanted no one to come to his funeral because that meant he’d outlived us all. He got the opposite, dying way before his time. And while I know it wasn’t what he wanted, I have a feeling it works out no matter what.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. thelittlemerskank permalink*
    October 16, 2012 8:47 am

    I just want to mention the value placed by the Romans on ‘otium’ (the closest English translation would be ‘leisure’). They saw it as the highest and most productive thing one could be engaged in, and worthy of being protected from any busyness that would try to take it away. I would say, be proud you don’t work! Just use this period of otium well.


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