Monday, April 28, 2008

Ok, but the cab thing was just gratuitous

I am generally not the type to look for validation in the weather, or even for coincidences. But I do have to admit that when the first, heavy, cold, but still infrequent rain drops started to fall as I made my way across the other campus to the shuttle stop it sort of figured. Because this morning it looked like it could go either way and because if there is sun, driving without sunglasses ranks very low on my list of fun things to do, I put on my new oversize sunglasses. But I didn't bring the umbrella for the other eventuality. So I was standing at the shuttle stop, with my sunglasses on and no umbrella when it occurred to me that while last time I was on this campus I caught the shuttle back from this exact spot, the same stop I used to get off the shuttle earlier, this wasn't the endpoint stop on the route, and that, therefore, since the shuttle wasn't sitting at this stop at the time of its designated departure for the campus containing my office, I missed the sucker. As I walked towards the endpoint stop by the library so I could wait out the thirty minute interval in the presumably dry lobby thereof, raindrops falling on the outside of my fancy new oversized sunglasses, crying seemed both redundant and overly dramatic.

This is a good time to mention that missing the shuttle was in no way causing me to consider relative merits of crying anyway vs. toughing it out-- I wasn't running late for anything, so it would've been ok to chill for extra thirty minutes. What was making me teether on the brink was feeling that if I let go I might not stop. And that, that would be embarrassing. On the street in broad daylight and all that. That feeling was in turn brought on by a phone call with an employee of the cemetery we met yesterday when we stopped by the office to inquire about the particulars of the regulations on the grave markers.

The guy, let's call him Mr.Awkward, started by batting 1000 on the open mouth insert foot scale when he answered my question on the permissibility of a free-standing vase above the marker with "I am just letting you know that free standing vases are about a thousand dollars." That led me to immediately inform him that he was being highly inappropriate. He didn't apologize. Whatever. So while he is looking up our information in the computer, I decide to ask, just to make sure, about the proper position of a grave marker. Does it go over the head such that if you are reading it you are looking at the feet? No, the other way.

Cue panic. Because, see, three weeks ago, A's marker was moved. But when I went to the office and the lady came out to look at it with me, she moved it back. After consulting the map of the section in their book, Mr. Awkward says he will go look in the morning, but assures us the marker must be over the correct space, just the wrong part of it. Five minutes later, as we are standing in the section, it sinks in for me that no, it's not over the right space. It's over an empty space. The right space, I become convinced, is next to the new baby, and has been unmarked for nearly fifteen months.

This morning's phone call, the one that had me tethering on the brink, it proved that I was right. Mr. Awkward told me he moved the marker and the flowers we left yesterday, but again he couldn't find the word sorry. He kept saying "ok." I asked him whether that was all he had to say, told him that I was extremely upset, that I do not understand why the call didn't start and end with apologies, that it is unconscionable that people have been walking over my son like there is nothing there for the last nearly fifteen months, and demanded a meeting with the president of the cemetery. Mr.Awkward promised that the president would call me back. By the time he did, near the end of my sojourn in the library lobby that was, as predicted, dry, I was just about ready to loose the whole not crying battle. Mr.President, however, both started and ended with profuse apologies, volunteered that he already told Mr.Awkward that his remark about the cost of the vase was out of line, and otherwise tried to assure me that at least he, and actually the whole entire organization, do not think my son is unimportant.

I insisted on a face to face meeting because I have way more to say. About that lady who just moved the marker back three weeks ago without checking the map before or after she drove out with me, and who never called me back even though she promised. About how the thing so many of the bereaved parents struggle with is how our children don't seem to matter to most anyone, and about this is one place that should never ever reinforce that feeling. Speaking of which, I have things to say about the general state of that section. The lawn is distinctly sad in parts of it, and it is luscious everywhere else in the cemetery. So Thursday, when we see Mr.President, I am going to be reminding him that grieving is for the living, and that dignity is not optional in his line of business. And if I have to, I will mention my willingness to contact both the Jewish and the general circulation publications in the area about the story.

Here's the thing I am still working on in my head, though. Monkey has incredible spacial memory. The second time she was ever at the cemetery, she headed straight for where A's marker was. I will now have to explain to her why it's not where it used to be. I can't see telling her how badly the cemetery people actually screwed up. So I think I will take my sister's advice and tell her that it got moved from his head to his feet. This will be the very first lie I ever told her. Ever. You better believe Mr. President will hear about this as well.

So you think this might be enough for one day? I thought so. Got back to my office, met with a student, picked up my newly arrived new printer, stopped by the boss's office for a few words. And then I missed the shuttle to my car. By a hair. I mean I ran towards it, the driver saw me, and he still pulled away. The next shuttle was in thirty minutes, I was going to miss the school pick up. So I hatched an intricate plan. I took a city bus to where it diverges from the shuttle route, by a mall. I figured there is a supermarket there, so there will be cabs, and I will make it to the garage and my car soonish. Unfortunately, my plan didn't account for finding, upon getting off the bus, a lot of rain and no cabs. I tried to catch one for a while, fought self over the crying thing again, then called JD to call me one (and to call the school to tell them I will be late). They said ten minutes. Twenty minutes later they told him any minute now. Five more minutes later they told me "I won't lie to you. I have no cabs. I have your order, but no cabs." Excuse me? You won't lie to me? So then I did what I should've done in the first place, and would've definitely done if it wasn't for the rain-- I walked. After all, it's less than a mile.

In the middle of the wet and crazy things started to look up when Monkey's classmate's mom called to ask if she should pick Monkey up. I could also hear the kindergarten cheering section's hearty support for this particular idea. When I finally arrived at their house, still pretty wet, there was tea and adult conversation, seeing as Monkey was hiding upstairs to avoid having to leave. The host kid came downstairs to ask if Monkey could spend the night. Instead, eventually, I left with both girls. Some errands later we were all home, them playing, JD and I cooking.

This morning, what seems like eons ago, I freaked him out by sending him an email asking him whether he knew what today was. Not exactly my fault-- I myself only realized what it was after I wrote the date down. Eventually he remembered too-- fifteen years since the morning after the evening he arrived in the US for the first time, when we met, as agreed, by my dorm, three and a half years and an ocean after seeing each other last. The food tonight was really good, and after the girls went to bed there was desert. I even had a few drops of wine. But I still maintain the cab thing was gratuitous.


k@lakly said...

Oh, how I hate stupid people, stupid insensitive ones that refuse to even try to understand the grief of a parent. You shouldn't have to deal with that, not ever. I am glad the president was more sympathetic and I hope he makes good on his assurances to you. A children's graveyard should not be neglected, should not be an afterthought, it should be a beautiful place where parents and siblings can come to seek peace and comfort and see things of beauty when they remember thier child, nothing less.
I don't think you need to lie to Monkey. I think you can tell her that the people at the cemetary made a mistake in where they put the marker and that you have had them correct it. It doesn't mean that she has not been leaving flowers for A or has not been visiting him, it means they made a terrible mistake and it is now fixed. Monkey is so smart, I can't imagine her not understanding both the mistake and your anger and sadness at it. I hate for you to have to lie to her, ever, especially about something like this, but I understand why you would want to...
At least the end of the day sounds lovely and warm oh and happy too. You deserve happy, you really do:)

Anonymous said...

what a long long day. I never could or will comprehend why people who are terrible around and with other people get jobs dealing with people. It's like becoming a teacher knowing full well you dislike children. why? I am so sorry that you were treated that way and that you had to deal with all that. I am glad that dinner was good and the end of the evening seemed like a lifetime from the rest of the days tribulations. big hugs!!

Amy said...

I am dismayed by the fact that the funeral home seems so non-chalant about all of it. How dare they even consider moving a marker and NOT putting it back. This is not a place to move "things." We have lost our children and no, we don't want them to lose their "spot" in this life. It seems to me that they may need more of a tongue lashing from others too. I wish you luck in setting them straight.

I agree with Kalakly, I wouldn't lie to Monkey either, tell her the truth. You know kids, once you tell them a lie, if they find out later they hold it against you.

I am thinking of you and hope that all gets resolved appropriately for you and A.

Magpie said...

Oh, Julia - what a day.

I'm glad it ended well, and I wish you luck when you skewer the cemetery director on Thursday.

Tash said...

The cemetery thing has my blood pressure up. "grieving is for the living, dignity is not an option." This should be their motto, their creed. How they can go by any other standard and blindly take your money makes my hair stand on end. Reams have been written on this industry, but I think this is a fresh niche of insult that demands further investigation. I know your emotional reserves are taxed, but I would take this public starting with the Jewish news. This isn't just about them treating *you* like crap and just another customer, it's about society treating the scourge of deadbabies as something we can flippantly throw in the back because it's not the big money-maker -- they don't need the big coffins, the big markers, the big funerals. Kinda like we're treated by everyone else. Who cares about mowing? Move on already.

As per Monkey: frankly, I think if you don't make a big deal of it, she won't either. (and here I mean, don't make a big deal of it in front of her. Make as big a deal of it as you wish to elsewhere!) A simple "*we* thought he was here, keeping this child company, but it turns out he's here, keeping this other child company. And it's all ok, because he's still here, in this area, with all of these other lovely children, and when we remember one, we pay respects to all."

My dad's car died on the freeway last week, and after a flurry of phone calls, realized it would be hours before AAA could come. Rather than sit on a narrow shoulder, he walked home six miles. Must be going around. I'm so sorry for your long day, and your blown anniversary. Maybe the metaphor is simply something about long and convoluted roads eventually leading us home.

Snickollet said...

What an awful day.

I cannot get over the cemetery people. Good for you for insisting on a face-to-face.

c. said...

I can't believe you were able to enjoy dinner after all that, Julia.

Mr. Awkward needs a kick in the teeth. How dare he say the things he said. And does he believe apologizing makes him a lesser man? What an awful, awful person to have fronting the biz. It makes me so sad to even have to call it a business, but that's what it is. Tash is so right when she says deadbabies aren't the money makers. How incredibly sad is it that it always has to come down to money? Even dignity.

Can't wait to hear how the meeting with the president goes. Seriously.

Beruriah said...

Ultimately, I'm glad you had a sweet ending to a bad day.

I can't comprehend the bizarre behavior of the cemetery employees. Insensitive seems not quite to capture it. Unprofessional? Clearly they don't perform the duties of their job properly. And in their role, being unprofessional doesn't just mean doing a bad job, it means insulting and hurting people.

I am glad you are meeting with the president. I didn't bother after our debacle last year because honestly she seemed to stupid to comprehend anything I had to say and I wanted to slap the condescension right out of her.

I am glad you are working on the marker.

Lori said...

What a day! Your day contained about a hundred of things I like least in the world. Talking with people I don't know on the phone... talking with clueless people about my dead babies... trying to make a clueless person understand something personal... trying to get places on time and not succeeding... on and on and on...

I'm so glad you had a peaceful end to such an awful day. And I am hopeful that your meeting with the President will yield some much needed changes and greater understanding. If anyone can make that happen, it is you. I'm so sorry it is necessary.

slouching mom said...

what a terrible day.

i'm so sorry.

and God! could those cemetery workers have been ANY less sensitive?

Mrs. Spit said...

I'm sorry, about every single bit of your day, except the end and the bit of wine. I hope it was consolation for a day that was terrible, awful and horribly unfair.

Bon said...

gratuitous indeed.

i am so sorry about that guy, and a part of me very snidely hopes he perhaps finds work in another, different say landscaping, or something not requiring apologies of quite so serious a nature.

i agree with the others about not needing to lie to Monkey, necessarily. but what you think will sit best with her is up to will do right by her, one way or the other. and by A.

i am glad you & JD had a minute or two for a happy remembrance at the end of a day like that. but yuck...a day like that.

thrice said...

Ack. I'm sorry that you had to go through all that. I'm thinking of getting a t-shirt made up "Don't Fuck with Me!" Would you like one?

janis said...

Sheesh, that Mr Awkward!! I am so sorry about this crazy graveyard business, I hope the meeting with the president sets things right, once and for all. Do they think they can take liberties with the dead?!
I am glad though, that the day did end on a nice note. Phew.

Amelie said...

Oh Julia, what a day you had. I'm sorry for the stupid cementary employees, and I hope you feel better after the meeting with the president.
Glad that it turned into a good evening, though.

STE said...

It amazes me that people get away with such behavior. Doesn't anyone get *training* anymore?

And more power to you on your meeting with the director. I've been procrastinating on calling the "office of decedent affairs" from the hospital where I delivered with my questions and complaints. I just don't know if I can stand more of the same.

We got the invitation to the local hospital's service at the town cemetery, in the "babyland" section in the back. I'm afraid to even look.

p.s. Freaking shuttle driver! It's always on the rainy days, too. Glad the day ended on a good note, after all that.

sweetsalty kate said...

That really was one heck of a cluster. You win for today. Heck: for the week. Never have a few sips of wine been so earned.

love to you... and a good night's sleep and yummy food and homey times and all those things that diffuse crap days like this one.

wannabe mom said...

i was so upset reading about that stupid cemetery jerk. obviously an insensitive idiot. i'm sorry you had to deal with that and the rain and trying not to cry and the shuttle.

i'm glad the day ended sweetly.

Anonymous said...

I hope today was better than yesterday. I hope the people at the cemetary realize how insensitive they are.

m said...

I am so stuck on the fact that the guy didn't not utter the word 'sorry' - absolutely flabbergasted. This just should never, ever happen; good luck for Thursday.


kate said...


That is so insanely upsetting about the cemetary. I mean, WTF??? That awkward guy should be FIRED if you ask me.

I hope for some easier days for you coming!

The Town Criers said...

It's too much. It is the opposite of the Dayenu song--if it were only the loss, if it were only the child, if it were only a family separated--with one sibling above ground and another below--but to not have the things within control: the grass in the cemetery, the placement of a marker--it is just too much.

I will be sending so many empowering thoughts to you tomorrow during the meeting.

Casey said...

Surely that fills up your quota of crappy days for a while.

LAS said...

I loved the end of your story - about meeting JD by the dorm after all that time. I'd love to know more - it sounds like an interesting story.