“Raunchy Sweethearts” from Overripe Fruits

6 Jan

My family is sending emails back and forth entitled ‘Funeral Costs and Mountain Hiking’. Who will sell the wheelchair on Ebay and who wants go hiking on Sunday? There’s great weather in the Alps, but oh, his widow refused to pay for the coffin…

Last time I saw them, they were dividing their time between playing Bach and tending to the dying Grandfather. I walked into the house one afternoon and realised the luggage had made war trenches. The family siege had begun.

I knew it was serious when they bought an the oxygen machine and put it in my room.

It was comforting, really. The machine breathed. Regular bubbly inhalations and wholesome exhalations. I didn’t dare look at the Grandfather so I stared at the machine instead. Looking at it reminded me of the reason for the cluttered hallways, busy telephone lines, cigarette butts in the garden, and the exchange of musicians. The aunts handed the Bach and Mendel notes back and forth as regularly as the Grandfather’s chest rose and sank. It seemed either proof of his life or it kept him alive.

It was only after his death that the cello cases were joined by the blaring of car amps. Guns and Roses, beer, joints, and hoarse tales: “Didn’t you know, you’re supposed to have your first experiences with your cousin!”

My cousins had arrived. Raunchy sweethearts, drunk Christians, purring bisexuals, scarred virgins, burping laughter. Family crushes nurtured, lusty hugs greedily offered. As half my family played piano, cello, and flute, the other half joined beers with belches, dirty tales and sexual frustration. And we exchanged places between either group often: no raised eyebrows, simply understanding nods that now was the time to leave and play Beethoven. So I stumbling merrily between culture and decadence many a night. It became a way to hang on in times of siege.

Under the siege, each room became a littered confession of personal artefacts. Washed out bras, tampons, tobacco, sleeping bags. All stairs creaked under the continuous thump of aunts pacing on errands. The dog barked, the machine exhaled, the virgins listened to Guns and Roses, the Christians played cards, and the black sheep huddled under a blanket to share cigarettes and look for shooting stars.

At the funeral, one aunt sobbed into wrinkled tissues and wrinkled shoulders. One played the cello in the corner. One initiated her smoking habit. One called from South America to sing along to the funeral service. One visited her ex husband’s mother religiously.

I missed the oxygen machine.

We filed to the hole in the ground, one after the other. I carried a rose and waited for my turn. “I hear you were a funny man…” You’re in a coffin now. The siege is ending and I still hadn’t understood any of it.

The night before the funeral, I had looked around the circle of cousins as we toasted our beer to the Grandfather. I had seen these people only a handful of times before. Who were they? What were we doing, cigarette butting up the pavement, piggy back riding each other, stoned out of our minds? Who are they and why am I laughing so hard? Why am I laughing and rolling in the grass, sharing my secrets as I tear grass blades apart and hide my tears. Why, indeed.

Without knowing these people I understand there is something very charismatic about them. There is no ordinary way to tell of them. So please excuse the hungover bodies littering the road to the cemetery: I need to get to the chapel. Please excuse the mess, this orgy of binge drinking and classical music: my family has arrived to love a man to his death.

Bewildered. Who are all these people?! But you notice the cello cases when they’re gone, and when your father curses loudly about the cigarette butts hidden carefully between his imported orchids, you can’t help but smile.

No matter how hedonistic and confessional, intimate and entertaining, I am still bewildered, still coming down. Still unsure who the hell those people were. Those tall men looming in the chapel, hungover, rocking slightly. Those reeking women, heavy with lace underwear, make up and perfume.

Whoever that was, I was hung over that day too.

A wild family portrait, a strange saga. An updated, edited version. I’m not entirely sure what to say about this piece. I dedicate it to my family and to the memory of the Grandfather. I hope you got the impression of people too bizarre to explain. Family is a strange phenomenon: we’re total strangers, but we’re also one species. A pack of wolves. However wild, you will know our howl. Whatever your secrets, we’ve done that too. If you have any questions, we’ll go for a beer. I can explain everything. You just can’t keep your sanity when the whole family is around. (If you have experienced a different breed of family, please share. I can’t wait to hear all about it.)
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5 Responses to ““Raunchy Sweethearts” from Overripe Fruits”

  1. T.R.Leigh January 6, 2011 at 11:21 pm #

    Very interesting portrait of your family. Fun to read. I look forward to reading more when I get a chance.

    • rittisoncco January 8, 2011 at 1:04 am #

      Thank you very very much & thank you very much for the subscription! I look forward to your work too…

  2. ThatOneGuy January 7, 2011 at 11:01 pm #

    Wonderful, as usual! My family experienced a funeral recently as well. It was a little different, with my grandfather (from the other side of the family) complaining about having to walk so far to the chapel alone (after having gone off to pick mushrooms in the nearby forest before the funeral service) and my step-grandfather’s daughter decorating the graves of existing tenants with small, burnt, orange, paper cylinders.

    • rittisoncco January 8, 2011 at 1:04 am #

      What an intriguing reply… What kind of mushrooms? And how nice of your step-grandfather’s daughter to think of everyone else in the cemetery. I would really like to know more! Plan on writing a piece about this? It really seems a worthy experience… But, o dear, I don’t mean to sound disrespectful and I’m sorry about your loss. I’m just very fascinated by family portraits, and the endless oddity of genes.

  3. Rachel February 9, 2011 at 12:08 am #

    “My family has arrived to love a man to his death.” — Very touching line, Ritti….Although i loved my grandfather, i never really knew his value or felt the absence of his love and presence until he was gone… He was the only grandfather i knew, from my mothers side. I don’t know my grandparents from my fathers side as they passed away when i was still too young to remember…

    I loved the piece… interestingly insane… i suppose all families have their own “versions” of insanity when congregated… As you said, wolf packs who each know their pack-mate’s cries and scents… We are all animals, really, who think and talk… and howl some 🙂 lol

    *Still watching in the midst of the darkness of sleepless nights…*

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