Sunday, January 18, 2009

Did you know?

I was sitting around thinking about how, soon, the Seattle P-I is folding in a couple weeks. I'd bet, before this recession is over, The Times will follow suit and be an online only publication. I was wondering what the effects will be since there are TV web sites devoted to every inch of a newspaper, including classified ads, crossword puzzles, and comics, but then I started wondering about obituries.

Did you know you have to pay for an obituary. I always thought it was free, at least cheap, but according to The Seattle Times and P-I:
Cost = $94.92/inch for daily and $109.20/inch for Sunday
Includes header (name of deceased) which is 2 lines tall.
You will see approximately 12 lines per inch including the 2 line header.
Photos on week days are $142.38 and Sundays are $163.80.
And that is the cost of a single newspaper. What if you wanted to also place an obit in the deceased home town newspaper? Or the city they went to college in or where a lot of their friends live? At least my alumni newsletter is free, if anyone bothers to tell them.

There are a few online services that take existing obits from the newspapers, you know, the ones you already paid. There is also a site that for $3 you can look up any birth, death, divorce, cemetery location and any other public record (kind of scary). These are really just connected to genealogy (Family Tree) sites.

Through an ex-roommate, here at the home, and his very helpful brother, Derek, last year I was put in contact with my Aunt Jeanette (she's actually two or three years older than me but I'll allow her the title). She is my Mom's half sister on my mother's father's side. She is deeply into genealogy. Between Jeanette and Derek I learned the father I knew died almost ten years ago in Arizona and is buried in Olympia with some woman I barely recollect (perhaps two wives after my Mom). I also learned that my Mom's father died recently. The guy who got my Mom pregnant but wouldn't take any responsibility died about four years ago and was "devout Red Wings fan" (thank God that didn't work out, I would have grown up in Detroit or Flint). And I learned that my Aunt mother's aunt Florence, who I loved more than my grandmother, died a few years ago too. Florence's passing ranks a close second to the loss of my Mom. I had two opportunities shortly after my Mom passed to visit Florence, but I let fear get in the way. It had been more than ten years since I'd even seen her.

Ever since I was a kid neither my father or anyone on my mother's side of the family ever wanted to talk to me on the phone. They would call my Mom on her birthday or Christmas, and my mother’s family would say "Can I speak to Peggy Sue?" My father was much more direct "Let me speak to your mother." Except for my Mom, her-half sister Jackie Holybee (who I have been trying to find for 18 years) and my mom's mom and her second husband, both whom died within a year of my mother's death, I felt as I had no family. As I write this, I can only imagine how much Jackie must have felt losing both parents and her only sister in less than two years. The last time I saw her was when I took some of my Mom's stuff over to her place. She seemed like she was in bad shape but also disinterested in talk.

Conversely my Dad's passing would mean more to me if the son of a bitch ever wanted to have anything to do with me. The last time I spent any time with him was in 1983, I went to Livingston, Montana for two weeks, because he came to Olympia because he wanted me to visit him. It was pretty fun. I got to drive his T-Bird and after the first night there we went out fishing and I caught a couple big trout (I always seem to catch trout). The next morning he left me with the keys to the T-Bird and some money for food and gas and then he took off on his trucking job. The ten days I was there he was actually around for four days (not all that different than when I was growing up and he was in the Navy). While he was gone I explored Bozeman and drove down to Yellowstone Park. I saw Christine in the worlds smallest movie theater and then preceded to read every Stephen King book from Carrie to Cujo. As far as food, except for a hamburger here or a pizza there I very carefully cooked dinners of NY steak, fries, mushrooms, and spinach (my favorite) or Pork Chops with Kraft Mac & Cheese (comfort food du jour). I meticulously cleaned so not a speck of grease or dirt was on the counter or floor. I folded up all the trash and put it in the waste bag, and then at the end of the day I took it to the outside bin. When he got back from his trip he was livid that I hadn't taken the trash out to the curb and the bath tub wasn't as bone dry as he liked. His anger reminded me of all the times growing up that he punished me for not living up to his standards. I let things cool off for awhile then made an excuse that Mom wanted me to come home because I had a job interview at the end of the week. Surprisingly Dad seemed sad, so we went out to a bar and had Harvey Wallbangers and the next day je put me on a bus back to Lacey. (And ironically I got my first job about a week later). The last time I saw him was about a year later. He hung around for a minute but refused to stay because my dog would not stop barking. He just turned away, got in his car and left. No "Hey let's got to lunch, or go to a bar." He just left. The last time I talked to him was in 1991 (I'd also called him the year before about my Mom's funeral and my graduation but he had already made plans to do something else). He actaully returned my phone call. I had tried to call him several weeks before in one last ditch effort to build a relationship (all my friends have great relationships with their parents). My roommate Paul answered the phone and handed it to me and the only words I remember my father saying was "Is that your boyfriend?" And then eight years later he died in Arizona.

As far as the passing of the man who gave me his name, so says my christening photo; a man from a time when "No" meant "O.K., got my mother pregnant, destroyed her Naval career, but when push comes to shove wouldn't take responsibility for it because his mother didn't want any half-breed grandchild (Grandma, does your family tree have news for you). I don't really care about "Captain Red Wing." However Derek has traced that part of the family through French Canada and back to 1600s France and, if he is still working on it, maybe farther (it has been many months since I've spoken to Derek so he may have his hands full with another project).

So back to obituaries. I don't have a copy of my mother's obituary. I was a bit overwhelmed with the whole thing and she had friends at work who organized a wake at the Thurston County Fairgrounds and either I assumed obituaries just appeared or that one of her friends would take care of it. There is no memorial to visit.

Per her instructions I took her to our favorite place to fish in Shelton. It had been there since 1972 (age 8) and obviously never driven there before, but in 1990 I managed to drive straight to it. You drive through Shelton, past the big Paul Bunyon statue, then turn left at a fish hatchery, drive a ways own the road was a vey small one-story church. In'72 we'd park at the church then walk across the street, through endless brush until we came to the Skokomish River. We would fish for hours. My Mom (and sometimes Dad) would drink ice cold beer and I be drinking Cragmont or Shasta (they always bought the cheap stuff) in bulk.

In '90 I was able to drive straight to the church, but everything else had changed. Through nature or design the river was rerouted to where it was right up against the road. No more brush to wade through. No privacy. I said something to my mother and to God and tried to fling the ashes out of the maroon plastic box into the river. The heavier chunks sank right to the bottom of the clear water. It couldn't have been more than ten inches deep. The lighter material just kind of floated on the surface and sat there. I looked around for a stick to stir things up but couldn't find one. I peeled my Mom's name off the box and chucked it as far as I could into the middle of the river then went home.

The reason I brought up obituaries is because I was curious about my former roommate Dan Brady, who when he left here seemed resigned to die. There is no point in hoping he gets better, his disease is fatal and more painful each day. I hope his brother or someone would see fit to get an obit published for him. He has a lot of friends here, but once people leave here the just soon forget everything even the friends (not much different than a lot of jobs I've had).

Since 2000, I have had, three angioplasties, a kidney biopsy, been diagnosed with chronic renal failure, arterial heart disease, have had numerous cardiac ablations, had an arterial flutter, have had two staph infections, endocarditis, septicemia, had to have a fistula put in my left wrist for dialysis then have it redone, kidney transplant, kidney rejection due to not being able (at the time) to afford the drugs, edema, calciphylaxis (which causes so much pain a feather toughing me makes me beg someone to kill me), atrophied muscles so now am in a wheelchair until I can walk again, and, most recently double bi-pass surgery (three months ago), and three weeks ago I had two different nasty types of bacteria in both of my lungs, septicemia (again). There was other ailments that occurred during that time that are slipping my mind I am sure. The point is on eight of those occasions in a little over eight years I was told I might die. And calciphylaxis is fatal, there just isn't a time line per se. I don't want to die anymore than I want to spend much more time in the nursing home. If it wasn't for these setbacks, especially this last one, maybe I would be out now. But if I do die, I still want to be cremated, I almost don't care where the ashes go, but a plaque somewhere would be nice. Or at least an obituary.

POSTSCRIPT: I couldn’t figure where to put it in this post, but I was going to mention how I found out the circumstances of my conception and why it makes me feel that it is the reason that none of my family ever cared much about me, even though I was a nice little boy, if I do say so myself.


Fnarf said...

Hey, Elswinger: to get around your internet blocking, try proxies. Google "myspace proxy" and see what comes up. Webpages that aren't blocked that let you browse unimpeded to blocked websites.

Anonymous said...

I hate to burst your bubble, but the Web site publishes more than two-thirds of all obits out there. It contracts with 650 newspapers nationwide, as well (that's nearly all of them) and is one of the Web's most-visited sites, according to Forbes magazine. I'm not sure how you missed it ...

ray said...

man, this entry almost made me cry at my desk.

did you see the inaguration? that almost made me cry too. and i never cry! i'm as tough as nails bra!

Larry Davenport said...

Fnarf, First, thanks for reading. Second I get the following message:

Request denied by WatchGuard HTTP proxy.

Reason: one or more categories denied helper='Default' details='Proxies & Translators'

The Nursing Home is hard ass about security. I tried looking up Pearl Harbor on Wikipedia and I was told it wa blocked for potential racially insensitive of obscene material.

Larry Davenport said...


Thanks. I thought I had linked to Legacy. I fixed the link.