Absent For A Bit ....

I am away for a little while working on a few or more episodes for The Adventures of My Space Alien Alter Ego story ... will return (to Earth) soon!

Notice: Blogger has screwed up and lost a bunch of photos out of my blog! They are replaced with a gray silhouette of a human head. I will eventually get them replaced with the correct photo, it may take a while to find and fix everything. So some of my stories don't make much sense without their photos, sorry for the inconvenience.



Order Your Mom's Cake, Earl

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to A Funeral

(AND then more things happened at the funeral)

Photo taken in Stinnett TX on April 20, 2008 – ESBB/QSG

Open With A Joke

  • First Part: There is fungus in world.
  • Now add the plural: There are fungi in the world.
  • And finally the punch line: And then there are fun guys in the world. As well as fun gal things.

Every once in a while I like to start something with a joke, even if it is a lame punny joke like that one. But when I write a joke, such as the one above, I usually save them for either someone special in particular, some fun guy, or just whoever might happen to be the next fun guy to appear randomly as the universe sends them to me conveyor belt style. Boom! Poof! Stamp! Next! But sometimes it is a combination of the two, I don’t know premeditatedly who it will be for, but when the right fun guy (or fun gal) happens to show up, I usually know.

It has been around a year since someone in particular died that I knew but wasn’t necessarily close to and may not have even been able to pick them out in a crowd. But I go to a lot of funerals because I care about people and heavily family oriented. So this is the story of my step-father’s sister’s funeral from my perspective. It is a completely true story from my perspective, in other words, I may have got some facts wrong, but that would pale in comparison to the story overall.

Death By Phone

One day in 2008 there was a message on my telephone answering machine from my mother. In a very quiet sad voice my mother is telling me about her sister-in-law passing away and she didn’t know when the funeral was going to be but I believe she did tell me where. My wife and I played the recording several times trying get the information out of the message. And I remembered that my mother had told me on my last visit to her house how ‘Jeannine’ (my step-father’s sister) wasn’t doing very well health wise. So I patched these two events together in my mind. I tried calling my mother several times to get and confirm information but she was oddly never home. So I tried my sister who lived in the same city and was able to get the time and place for the funeral.

On The Road

Here is my piece of funny that lands right in my lap as I am driving down the road on the day of the funeral: The words on the sign of the Dairy Queen in Stinnett Texas. The message was supposed to be – Order Your Mom’s Cake Early – for the upcoming Mother’s Day holiday, but it said this instead – Order Your Mom’s Cake, Earl – like it was an imperative voice demanding Earl to get it done, now! - before it was too late. I later came back to Stinnett TX just to shoot a photograph of the sign (below). So this wound up being the funny thing I just had to tell somebody. I think I may have cell phoned someone, not sure. But I still had over an hour’s drive to go and I was going to make it just in time.


When I got to the church in Darrouzett, Texas I “had” to go somewhere and that caused me to have just enough time and be in just the right spot, so that when I left the “had to” room, I saw my favorite ex-brother-in-law Steve who I had not been in contact with for maybe a little more than 2 years. Steve! It hadn’t dawned on me that he would be there, and then I remembered all the connections and, oh, yeah, I remembered that my sister Teresa, who is really my adopted first cousin on my father’s side of the family, was briefly married to Steve, who is the nephew of my step-father (small world, low population density in our part of it) and that he was there because his aunt had died, oh, I got it then. So I go down the hall to greet him, and keep this in mind, he is one of my favorite fun guys. And I have this funny sign I just saw. And the funeral is just fixing to start in maybe 15 minutes. So just as I approach Steve, my closest step-sister Leanne, Steve’s first cousin and daughter of my step-father, is joined by my mother, the four of us in the hallway. So I greet Steve and then tell him about the sign. He laughs, but there is a strange concerned look, identical, on both my mother and Leanne. And then I head on down the hallway of the church to greet other people. This is the town I graduated from high school so I know several people and 3 times that number of people know who I am even though I left home 30 years before. I go back very often to visit.

Sit Where?

Someone had handed me a funeral announcement of the deceased person as I had walked in the door, but I had not had time to look at it until after all the family members had lined up in the hallway to enter the sanctuary for the funeral. I usually sit with my mother or father during funerals and then realized that my mother would be right up at the very front, so I decided I would courteously ask my mother where she wanted me to sit during the funeral. But I opened the announcement to read about Jeannine first. Only it didn’t have Jeannine’s name. It had the name of Steve’s mother. Oh, my. Somehow I had not got the message as to which of my step-father’s sister’s had passed away. It wasn’t the one my mother had been talking about on my last visit. I had just told a Mother’s Day Joke to a guy who had just lost his mother. I felt terrible. So I go to the head of the line to ask my mother where she would like me to sit. She points to a nearly solitary figure off to the left who is seated on the non-family reserved side of the church. Near the back. My mother says to me, “Well, if you would go sit by Zell, that would be nice”

I had no idea who Zell was. I just figured she was someone that my mother knew, most likely someone from the Darrouzett area. But again, remember I am still in an embarrassed shock state, and I just gotta tell somebody about the horrible mistake I have just made with Steve. So I slip around to the left side of the church pew and slide in and introduce myself as Patricia Meller’s son Ernie, and she smiles and acts like she knows who I am (again, this happens a lot in Darrouzett to me, people know me through my parents, but I have no idea what their name is. So I just happen to notice a second lone person on the same side of the church near the front, and I ask Zell, “That looks like the back of the head of my sister, do you happen to know her, is that my sister Terri?” She smiles and says, “Yes, that is your sister Terri” So I go scooting up the outside of the edge of the church pews and kneel right by my sister and tell her my Earl-Cake-Steve-Story and her eyes just bug out and she snickers, “You haven’t told anyone yet, have you???” “NO!!! just you right now” So I go back to the spot beside Zell and play with a cute tiny girl who I find out shortly during the funeral service is the daughter of the pastor of the church. Small world. I think she was around 1 ½ years old. But before the funeral starts, unknown to me, my step-sister Leann walks up to my mother, and asks her, “say, I just now saw Ernie sitting by my mother (Zell) and I was wondering, does he know who she is?” And my mom thought for a second, and she wasn’t sure if I knew who Zell was. And of course with Zell living in Wichita Kansas (same as both my step sisters and brother) I had never recalled seeing her nor is she a frequent enough person in the conversations that my mother and I have, so naturally I had no idea that she was my step-father’s ex-wife, but also a Darrouzett native, I believe, from her childhood.

Let the Fun-eral Begin

So the funeral starts. My sister Terri winds up singing two songs during the service. Ahhh, that is the reason she was sitting alone near the piano near the front of the church earlier. And then on into the service, the pastor makes some mention of his daughter during his sermon, I forget what the tie in to the message was now. And then he mentions that Patsy Meller (my mother) was going to now say a few words about Steve’s mother Dorothy. Now the thought that passed through my brain just then and my mother’s brain were two entirely different things. The thought that passed through my brain was, this is interesting, my mother and sister, neither one a blood relative of the deceased are part of the “show”. BUT the thought that went through my mother’s brain was quite different, one of shock, the kind you get when you are asked to do something publicly AFTER you have already said NO you did NOT want to perform the activity. The pastor had asked her if she would compile a few things to say about the deceased because he did not know her (she had been living in Oklahoma City – but like so many other people, they come back to Darrouzett to be buried with their family). So my mother had agreed to compile the list of stories for the pastor BUT had clearly told him she would not be able to speak at the funeral. It seems their wires got crossed. Or Not. Who knows. So she bravely and really quite eloquently got up in front of the church and told a few stories about some of the special things that Steve’s mother had done, her special interests and how much she meant to so many people, especially to her grandchildren. But then she ended her stories with one that involved just her and Steve’s mother Dorothy. The story took place shortly after my mother had divorced my father. She and Dorothy were on a car trip to Oklahoma City for a medical appointment for Dorothy and my mother had told Dorothy this statement: “I just feel like I have lost my family and I’ll never have another one again” Now, when my sister Terri and I heard this, we were in momentary shock with the same thought passing through our brains, “What the hell did she mean by THAT?!?!? We were very supportive of our mother’s cause to leave our father and had been very supportive of her and had maintained a close contact over the years, so just what on earth did she mean by LOST HER FAMILY??? Am I a ‘lost’ ??? ” Now all that went through my brain and my sister’s brain at exactly the same time, same thoughts, same bewilderment, and then my mother next says what Dorothy’s response was (Oh, I forgot to tell you that this road trip event was BEFORE my mother had married Dorothy’s brother) “Don’t worry, Patsy, someday you will have another family” to which my mother closed her final story with a gesture out to the packed family side of the church, “and you guys became my new family to replace my lost one”. Okay, now this is NO comfort, (as you might have guessed!!!) to my sister Terri or to myself, we are going to have to get an interpretation of what this means, when we were ‘lost’, when or IF we ever became ‘found’ again, oh, I just knew there was going to be a good story in here some where to make fun of my mother.

Retreat To Eat…(or “I Once Was Lost But Now I’m Found”)

So the graveside service happens. We come back to town. We come back to the church to eat. I am fairly close to the front of the line of people to eat so I am able to find my sister Terri and we sit together and ask each other briefly what on earth mom meant by her “lost family”. So then my mother shows up to eat at the table with my sister Terri and Terri goes first, “SO, you decided to come sit with your LOST family, heh?” and my mother just dies laughing and is trying to explain as Terri continues to tease her. Mom tells us that she was just so flustered by the whole speaking process during the service, because even though she had pulled off a beautiful presentation, she had NOT prepared to speak, and of course, essentially no one in the audience knew that. I knew my voice box would have locked up tight. So I was even more amazed and proud of her that she had accomplished that feat. Then she explained that what she meant by her LOST family was her in-laws, all the people she had known not only since first marriage, but actually several people even before her marriage, from her school days in the Darrouzett area. For after my parents bitter divorce (bitter from my father’s angle) my mother had kind of kept her distance from my father’s side of the family. And these were people that she deeply cared for and had known, and for some of them, for close to 50 years, even though her marriage had ended after only 38 years. Darrouzett is a small town, the smallest in the county at a current population of 303. So then when she had got married to my step father, she actually got hooked into essentially the OTHER half of the town as in-laws!

One More “Oh!”

So later in the day I asked my step-sister LeAnne what her plans were, and she mentioned that she needed to get her mother back to Wichita. So I asked her if she could introduce us, and where is she? So this just caused my step sister to just crack up laughing because she realized I was serious when at first she thought I was joking, “Ernie! She was sitting right beside you during the funeral, you two were the only ones on that pew and I know I saw you talking to her!” Oh, then it dawned on her that there had probably never been an occasion in all the times I had been to Wichita to visit my mother that Zell would have been around, so then she got the big picture, and it kind of all made sense to her.

Sorry, Another “Oh!”

But I wasn’t exactly sure how to tell Steve about how I came to the “wrong” person’s funeral so I decided to wait and talk to my mother first. So we talked briefly before I left the church after the meal and then I went to my mother’s house. Then I told my mother about going to the “wrong” funeral and being devastated by the realization that I was the only person experiencing this grand mistake. My mother said, at least it didn’t happen during the funeral, at least when they said the name of the deceased you didn’t go “WHAT? WHO DIED, STEVE’S MOTHER???” really loud. That would have been worse. I told her, well, then I would have been part of the entertainment committee as well, Mom, Terri, and Ernie. And I told her about meeting Jeannine for the first time that I could remember, I am sure she was at my mother’s wedding, but that was a long time ago, and you know, half of everyone at a wedding is a nervously happy stranger by default. So my mother tells me that she will tell Steve the next time she goes to the Oklahoma City area in private about me not knowing that his mother had died, the events and discussion before that had resulted in my confusion and that I had meant no disrespect for his mother. I have not checked with my mother lately IF she ever got around to telling Steve this story.

When I got home I told my wife the events of the day. She told me that she had known which sister of my step father had died, and that she had no idea that I didn’t know.

I never dreamed that someday I would be able to blame Dairy Queen for helping me mess up someone’s funeral. I am just a fun and funny guy, even at funerals.

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First poem in the series of linked poems ....

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Turn Gold Out of the Darkness

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