The cat ladies, the hoarders, the TSA, cremation and me.

17 Nov

The FamilyThis photo just popped up from god-knows-where as photos and memories are wont to do. They appear out of the vapor and slap you in your damn face like a poltergeist. It’s hard for me to look at because four of the six people pictured are dead (or dead-to-me). Let’s run it through. The stately lady with the hair and the pearls, my Mima, died 2010. The hippie-looking/could-be-homeless vet dude kneeling, my dad, died 2004. The sideways-turned, sassy lady with the bob, my aunt Kathy, died 2017. And the young, snarky-looking dude behind her, my half-brother, became dead-to-me two days after my dad died in an epic screaming match over how he’d been treating my Mima.

You’d think that maybe my heart was made of ice or carbonized, black diamond. But starting from the moment that I read this obituary (in which my husband of 11 years at the time is not listed and my name is spelled wrong…in my own father’s obituary) well, let’s just say things went downhill from there. But, that, my friends is all for the novel-in-progress.

For now, I’ll move on to the fact that this photo was in a frame at my aunt’s house and she emailed it to me about four years ago, “Cassy, I have a pic on my tv of the family taken a little after Daddy died & I’ve thought how perfect it would be if I could take Reed out & put Daddy in—do you have a picture of him (maybe from your wedding) that I could take in & see if they could take Reed out & put Daddy in. Reed’s on the end so placement wouldn’t be that hard if they could do something with the size–I know it sounds weird, but I talk to them off & on & I have to look at their wedding pic that you had done for their 50th–anyway, it’s a thought.”

So, yea. A little weird. But I understood the sentiment. Reed isn’t our favorite person. And we have so many dead people in our family, that she was just trying to keep up the connection. It must have been so unsettling for her in particular once every single person in her immediate family was gone. It’s really sad.

Which brings me to my point. Kathy had a lot of really great friends. She was a member of a social sorority and volunteered at two of the area Humane Societies. She was also eccentric, lived alone and could be anti-social, so you’d be correct in assuming that not all of said friends fell in the realm of the normal.

A lot of them were cat ladies. Not that there’s anything wrong with that per se. But. When you spend the majority of your time in the Burger King parking lot feeding stray kitties, you may rub up against some different types of folks.

So, when Kathy was moved to the nursing home under Hospice care, the calls started. The first one went to best friend/saint, Bobbie, “What is happening with the kitties?” “I know Kathy loved her kitties.” “She left money in her will for her kitties!” Well, since the kitties had been safely placed and a generous nursing home employee had taken in Ben, her dog, we told her everything was fine. Not to worry. But. She wouldn’t let it go. Was adamant that she had to know precisely where said kitties had been placed. She upset Bobbie to the point that my mom (the ex-sister-in-law if you’re keeping track) got involved.

My mom called this lady and told her to mind her own damned business and stop stirring up trouble where there was none. This lady then had the nerve to accuse my mom (the owner of no fewer than three rescued pups) and my family of not being animal lovers. Well. That. Did. Not. Go. Over. Well. In fact, I think my mother’s head may have exploded on the spot. The nerve of this woman going on and on about what Kathy may or may not have left in her will for ‘the kitties’ when Kathy was on her death bed requiring around the clock care. I have no words.

Then, Kathy died.

And, by this point, Bobbie had had enough. So she gave them all my number. (Love, you Bobbie. Really I do.)

And the calls started coming. First from the hoarder lady who had loved my aunt so much and was so very close to her that the last time she went to visit her three days before she died, my aunt had unceremoniously asked her to leave. She told me this story as if it was the funniest and most endearing thing she’d ever experienced. “So when I started to sit down, she said, ‘Oh no! You are NOT staying. This isn’t a good time and I have too much going on!’ Isn’t that just the funniest thing?” I had some other words pop to mind, but I didn’t share them. Because crazy was just keeping on. Telling me what an amazing writer she was and how she just had to speak at Kathy’s funeral to share her thoughts she had written down.

This conversation went on via text for four solid weeks while I planned the memorial. I was juggling work, children, life with daily calls with the minister, the sanctuary coordinator, the funeral home, the dear friends who were flying in to speak at the memorial. And. This lady starts texting me about what my grandmother would’ve wanted. How I had to put up a marker at the cemetery even though Kathy had asked to be cremated. At one point, during a live conversation, I made the mistake of musing out loud about how I thought my grandparents had bought a burial plot for Kathy. Well. Huge mistake. Next thing I know, crazy is sending me ads she found on Craigslist where people are selling their cemetery plots.

Uh, lady? There is NO WAY IN HELL I am selling a damned burial plot on CRAIGSLIST.

The week before the service, she starts in again about speaking at the service and, since we already had four speakers lined up, I told her that I’d be happy to print some of her words in the program instead. But that I had to turn everything in that day to make it happen. Well, as I was trying to wrap up work and life before jumping on a plane, crazy says, “Okay. I will try to get to that AFTER MY NAP.” And I’m like, by all means…take your time. I can wait. <Insert Jeopardy count down music.>

When her submission finally came through, it was via text. And consisted of SIX HANDWRITTEN PAGES PHOTOGRAPHED AND SENT AS SEPARATE FILES. Well, Jesus-Christ-on-a-Cracker. This was when MY head exploded. “Listen, I do not have time to re-type this,” I wrote back to her. “Well. I guess I could go to the church and type it there?” To which I replied, “That will have to be between you and the church.”

Can you guess what happened next? “I just called the church and they said that there weren’t any time limits on the service, so I should be able to speak for my five minutes.” <Head explode #2.>

The last text exchange (as I was actually boarding the plane) went like this: Me: “I am not having this conversation with you again. You are NOT speaking at the funeral.” Her: “Well, okay. But I hope you aren’t letting any of those crazy cat people speak!”

<Insert crickets.>

The next call I get is from an actual cat lady. Her demands are as follows:

  1. I have someone who has to speak at the memorial
  2. I heard there will be a slide show and I have photos to include

Since I was pretty buried in arrangements already, I punted this one to my brother. He was working on the slideshow, so it made sense for him to coordinate with her and get the number of the wanna-be speaker. Well. Cat lady had other plans. By the time the conversation was over, my brother was also the victim of an alleged head explosion. She adamantly refused to give us the person’s number. Like she was their agent or something. And was super pissed that I hadn’t personally called her back. I said to my brother, “I give you ONE CALL. ONE. You don’t get to have YOUR head explode.” (Sibling LUV 4-ever.)

Eventually, she gave in. Emailed my brother the phone number and the photos. I made the call. Never heard back. Got a scathing email from cat lady. Wrote a scathing email back to cat lady. The alleged wanna-be speaker came to the funeral and cat lady didn’t. My theory on her behavior, after looking her up on Facebook for this post, is maybe her perm is too tight. Bless her heart.

What I’ve learned from this experience:

  1. The TSA does allow cremated remains in your suitcase. I highly recommend having it sealed up tight before transport.
  2. SC’s Blue Laws require black, opaque liquor store bags that can be particularly helpful in transporting an ashes baggie to the beach for illegal spreading. (Amirite, TQ?)
  3. Cat ladies don’t give a shit if you spread ashes at the humane society.
  4. Cat ladies don’t give a shit if your aunt leaves them most of her money. In fact, they are in no hurry what-so-ever to collect, holding up everyone else’s shares in the process. (Maybe I shouldn’t have sent that last email…)
  5. Cemeteries most certainly DO care if you spread ashes at an existing grave. Be discreet.
  6. Funeral home people don’t think anything you ask is weird. Even when it includes having remains divvied up into four separate baggies and/or sealed containers and put in a borrowed urn for a funeral service. They just hand it all over in a shopping bag at the end with a smile.


TODAY’S THEME SONG: He drinks a whiskey drink, he drinks a vodka drink. He drinks a lager drink, he drinks a cider drink. He sings the songs that remind him of the good times. He sings the songs that remind him of the best times. Tubthumbing. Chumbawamba.





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