November 28, 2009
The Marathon Continues
My Cousin's Funeral
Well, I'd solved Grandpa's mystery thanks to Eva.
Now I wanted to find out what I needed to know in order to attend my cousin's funeral. That might prove a little harder since Wilhemina disappeared without even telling me his name. From my personal experience these days, I figure that there must be thousands of men in their sixties who died in Toronto recently.
"But not so many who will be buried on Monday."
"Mom!" I hadn't heard a word from her since she died in 1975 and the words we exchanged before that weren't terribly friendly.
"Why didn't you tell me I had cousins and an aunt?"
"You know how I feel about children born out of wedlock," she said almost primly.
"Yes, I remember," I said. "You were not very pleasant to me when I got pregnant with Kay."
"No, I wasn't," she said.
"I always thought it was a bit hypocritical, you know."
"I never had a bastard," she said sharply.
"Neither did I," I replied in the same tone. "But the reason I ended up with no parents at all was because you were sleeping around ..."
There was a sharp intake of breath, but I didn't give her time to protest. "I knew about the milkman, the dry cleaner and the man whose cock you washed in the kitchen sink. How many others were there?"
"How?" The question dangled in the air, a palpable presence between us.
"I saw things. I wasn't stupid, you know, just small and young."
She began to apologize and I said, "Oh and then there were the guys you and Chris dated ... the ones you got into an accident with and it was all over the papers. That must have been nice for my father to read about too. He was busy working his ass off and you were out playing with boys in convertibles. No wonder he didn't think you were a fit mother. You sure weren't a very good wife."
I looked up finally and stopped spewing forth the ugly words. Tears were streaming down her face. "I'm sorry," I said. "I don't know what came over me. I forgave you years ago. You were just a poor little rich girl raised without parents by a gentle grandmother who adored you. What chance did you have?"
"I wish I could have had a chance to make amends," she said, "but no one gets a chance to relive the past."
No one but me, I thought ... and I get to relive everybody's.
"His name was Joseph," my mother said before she left.
Great ... Joseph ... Why couldn't she have uttered the surname?
I phoned Danny. "How do I find out where a Joseph is being buried on Monday in Toronto?" Danny loves to solve any kind of puzzle involving dead ends and dead people. He is a genealogist.
"Try the death notices in the Saturday papers. If that doesn't get you anywhere, start calling funeral homes. You can probably get a list from a Toronto website."
"Thanks," I said. "Did you get the photo I sent? The one of Pat and Claire and me at the hospital?"
"Yes," Dan said "Oh. Don't forget that Toronto is a metropolis and you might have to go outside the city boundaries to get the information. No one lives in that city any more. They all commute for hours. Look as far away as Barrie or Orangeville."
I spent most of the next two days tracking down the information. I finally found twelve Josephs, 6 of whom were in the right age range. I began to feel like an automaton as I asked each funeral parlour employee the same questions beginning with the preamble "I know this will sound strange but I don't know the surname of the Joseph being buried on Monday ... and No I don't know his address ... or age ... or wife's name ... no not the children either ..." Some were exasperated. Others suspicious. Did they think I was going to rob the house during the funeral?
Finally I had narrowed it down to three men. One had already been cremated and the service would be held at St. Andrews United Church in Orillia. The second was having a closed casket with cremation to follow the service at Hogle's Funeral Home in Mimico. The third was having a very traditional service with an open casket, viewing to precede the service at St. Basil's Roman Catholic Church in downtown Toronto. All three services were being held in the afternoon between 2 and 4. I couldn't possible attend all three without sprouting wings myself, and, although I really wanted to attend my cousin's service, I wasn't dying to go.
"Do you know the names of the next of kin?" It was Danny. He must have been psychic so he called.
"There are three siblings. The sisters are Mary Jane and Sarah. I don't know what the brother's name is. And his mother was Wilhemina. I don't know the father. Wilhemina's dead."
Then I wailed, "But I can't call those funeral homes again. They think I'm a burglar."
Dan hung up without comment.
An hour passed before he called back. "It's the one in Mimico," he said. "4 p.m. ... you can get the train to Toronto and then take the Go Train or a streetcar to Mimico. It's on Mimico Avenue not far from the Lakeshore Road."
"How did you do that?" I asked.
"I've got High Speed," he said. "I cut down some trees."
Only someone who had lived with the man would have understood the cryptic message. I told you Mark wasn't the first strange man I'd fallen for. I was pretty sure Danny had Asperger's and had learned how to cope despite being unable to read social cues. Like Mark ... and like me ... he lived in isolation ... but unlike us, he needed to have a woman living with him ... someone to play with, eat with and go to bed with. This latest one was probably the best one yet. She was pretty and uneducated ... malleable in most things but rigid in the ones that mattered. Dan was kept on a very short leash as far as other women were concerned, but was allowed to make all the other decisions in the household. I operated exactly in reverse ... and it didn't work well at all. Smart women are not necessarily intelligent or educated.