Reading through some of the recent submissions, I was reminded of my own brush with an uncouth character at a funeral. This is somewhat long, but the faux pas really doesn’t take it’s full effect unless the back story is included.
During my first year of college, I shared a room with a girl (Trudie, let’s say for the sake of privacy). Trudie and I were opposites in most ways, so we never became best friends, but we were both bookworms who studied hard so I respected her. She was very involved in her church and various related activities. It was at one of these that she met her first boyfriend. (Ron, let’s just say.) Ron seemed nice enough at first, though I privately thought he was a little strange when I found out he was well into his twenties and in his sixth or seventh year of college. (Trudie and I were both still just teenagers.) She really adored him and took him on trips to meet her family, her extended family, her friends. And things went well for a month or so, until he began to write her letters about her need to become more domestic, more docile and so on. He just shifted and shifted in personality until he demanded that she drop out of college (and the highly competitive program to which she had been accepted) as a university was no place for a woman. That highly competitive program was an issue, too–it leads to a career that is traditionally male-dominated, and he was not at all happy about that. He told her people in the church would think badly of her, had already started to think badly of her. Now, I was never involved in this church, but I know for a fact that Trudie was well regarded as an ambitious and caring youth leader who organized group studies, volunteer opportunities and the like. Trudie was spoken highly of by our mutual acquaintances. She was a well-loved person. And luckily, Trudie was secure enough in herself to recognize Ron’s weird transformation and she broke up with him.
At this point, summer had begun and we were not in contact so much. There was some drama in which Ron denounced the church (for accepting Trudie’s educational and career choices, I suppose) and left. He also went to her family’s home and tried to convince them of Trudie’s folly. As you can imagine, this did not fly. Her family stood by her and cast Ron off of their property. Trudie went on to graduate, meet a wonderful boyfriend and start her career.
She died, suddenly, in an accident on her way home from work. Everyone was stunned. Her family planned a beautiful service and also held receptions in the days before. The receptions were standing room only, as so many came to share stories of Trudie’s impact in their lives and to share their condolences. People were mostly informal in dress at the request of the family (Trudie hadn’t been fond of somber formal events) but still took care to wear clothes that were in good condition and that were church-appropriate. Except for Ron.
I was standing towards the back of the room when he showed up in ripped jeans, soggy shoes (it was a dry day–I have no explanation for the shoes) and a dirty tee-shirt. He brought his brand-new girlfriend, who was in even worse condition: club make-up in the extreme sense, ratty short-shorts, uncombed hair and a shirt cut down to there. She chewed gum, loudly. Every time a speaker would step up and say something nice about Trudie, Ron’s new girlfriend would roll her eyes, cross her arms and say, “Yeah, right.” Ron would loudly sob.
When the reception came to an end, Ron approached me and said, “Don’t I know you?”
I said, “Yes. I was Trudie’s roommate when you were dating.” This may have been rude of me, but my eyes flickered over to Ron’ girlfriend. She huffed, put her hand in the air and walked away. When I looked back to Ron, he was glaring at me. We didn’t speak much after that.
A receiving line was forming–Trudie’s family was thanking everyone for coming as they left and people of course were taking a moment with the bereaved. Ron got in line directly in front of me. As we moved along, I noticed people staring at Ron and exchanging meaningful looks. Finally, Trudie’s father turned from the person directly in front of Ron to Ron and his face just froze. He stuttered for moment, and then said, “Hi, Ron. How are you?” Trudie’s mother walked away.
Ron said, “She shouldn’t have been out there.”
Trudie’s father said, “Well. She was.”
They went on to have a few more moments of awkward conversation and every step of the way, Ron was either insinuating that Trudie was a disobedient hell-monster or talking about how great his new girlfriend was. Trudie’s father looked strained the entire time. Then Ron finally went on his way, but not before he stopped in front of Trudie’s boyfriend, literally puffed up his chest and tried to stare him down. (To the credit of Trudie’s boyfriend, he just shook his head and went to retrieve some tissues for Trudie’s weeping mother.)
I shared my condolences with Trudie’s family and boyfriend. By the time I was done and had gone out to my car, I would have thought that Ron and company would have left. Not so. They were parked beside me, and they were in the car–making out in the back seat.
I could not make it to the funeral itself–I had to be on the other side of the country and had already delayed my departure to go to the final reception. But I was told that Ron and his girlfriend showed up the next day in the same clothes and began to wail during the service. As Ron wailed, he grabbed his girlfriend, pushed her against the pew and began to kiss her. Wholly inappropriate. The pastor had to stop the sermon and Trudie’s family stood up, turned around and stared at Ron. So did the others in attendance. I guess Ron finally got the message, because he grabbed his girlfriend by the hand and left early. They still hung around outside, though, making out against the church wall as people exited the funeral. 0730-10