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I was just home for the weekend with my folks. My parents are basically dying of old age in less than slow motion. My mother just came down with emphazima and my sister is moving them into a retirement community close to her in New Jersey.

I'm not even 39 yet but it looks like I'm going to lose my parents around the age of 40 or so. I have no children. If I do, they won't have any grandparents, on my side anyway. I rather suspect that's not so good, although I'm not sure what my parents would've done for them. They wouldn't have identified with them a all. My grandfather (paternal) surely didn't identify much with me, and my grandmother was so rural, provincial, she didn't have much to say to me other than asking me when I was gonna 'come on back down t'Kin-tuck (Kentucky)'. They weren't stupid, just very... backwoods and old-fashioned. My father's mother, Buzetta (yep) died in 99 at the age of 97 and his father, a World War I veteran, died at 86 in 1982 from lung damage he got in the war. (That says something for his stamina - he made it all the way to 1982 after being mustard-gassed.)

I really have hardly any actual family left except for my sister, and while we were very close as I grew up we hardly speak at all anymore.

Everyone's climbing into the Black Box of Death. The Grave is yawning open like jaws of doom. It's the Black Maw of Death, and I'm staring in again. Am I finally beginning to sound a little shrill? What am I going to be like, in truth, when I'm at the edge of that deep hole myself? When I bury my sister, how old am I going to be and what's that going to be like?

When I visit someone at the cemetary, I can never help but wonder what they're like now - how has the embalming job held up, how much have they deteriorated, what do they look like in there? I want to dig them up and take pictures, put them in an album, share them out. "Pat, 2065, November, as she is now. Some white moss, skin is blue and eyes caved in. No vermin encroaching yet besides fungus. Stuck another bouquet and pictures of the kids in there with her for an update. Dress still looks okay except mold is damaging the blouse and jacket. Lining in casket is getting nasty. Tossing some odor control sticks in there to try to hold things down until next year."

I envy the people in Sicily who can visit relatives from 200 years ago, tied in a standing position, partly mummified skeletons, clothed, some with old photos hung from their necks so you can tell who they were. Dead babies and young children are posed in panoramas above the adults who are lined against the walls like sardines. It's like the roll call of the Dead. We need this kind of thing in America. We need catacombs. I feel there is a certain intimacy and sharing in watching your loved ones decay. Decomposition is love.

I need to visit Sicily and see this place. I wonder what the possibility is of bringing this kind of thing to America. If I became a funeral director, could I possibly find a way to facilitate this kind of thing? Perhaps a family petting mausoleum? "Hi, Ma! You're lookin' good there!" I'm dead serious, don't grimace at me, you fuckers. We could change their clothes, even for occasions, perhaps even bring them out for events where they can sit in. Man and wife can be together for honeymoons, but that's where all those squirmish and inhibited people start whining about 'abuse of corpse'.

The Alienist

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The following comments are for "Death, Dying, Family & Fetish: New American Traditions"
by The Alienist

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