Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Beau Slocumb Has Left The Building

My first cousin, Burke Lowe Slocumb, IV (“Beau” or “Hey You”) had the unmitigated gall to get critically ill the day before my 2nd 30th birthday.  Going forward nobody in our family is allowed to get extremely ill on or near my birthday month or at Christmas.  Any other time you want to shuffle off this mortal coil you go right ahead; I’ll be along presently.

I told Beau if he sullied the memorial of my birth for all time by giving up the ghost on my most hallowed day of days - I'd be forced to sift his ashes down Ryan Newman's gas tank.

The threat to his good friend and favorite NASCAR driver’s fuel lines seemed to keep him off the heavenly registry for a bit; but it was not quite as long as we'd have liked. On April 8, 2011 with 8 minutes to go in the last lap - Car #8 left us all in the dust.

Boy does it suck when people die.

I got to tell Beau I loved him before it was all over and, surprisingly enough, it didn't even feel that gay.  He said "Huh? Is that a new watch?"

I took it as a compliment.

I know Beau didn’t want to be the first grandkid to set sail on the afterlife with Granddad to greet him at the pearly gates and who could blame him?  You and I both know nobody's Granddad is about to manage his own television set when he’s got a grandkid handy; and eternity is an awful long time to spend changing the channels for somebody else. I’m just glad it wasn’t me or we might have all ended up in purgatory for swearing.

From a family standpoint we’re not at all unfamiliar with loss and the aftermath; but the upside is - I don’t think any of us are particularly afraid to "go" anymore.

I know I’m not. Bring it on!

I’m serious. I plan for ‘em to find my freckled corpse next to the dead body of the lion that killed me. If I’m in a loincloth: even better. No need for the undertaker, thanks, just call my taxidermist.

If you think about it – birth and death are the only things you’ll ever have in common with 100% of the rest of the world. That’s depressing, so I spend a lot of time ignoring the certainty of it all, but buddy it’s coming - and that’s as sure a thing as I know of.

It's inescapable.  Everybody is engaged in at-risk behavior, but you still never see the train coming until you're wrapped around the whistle.  Beau, for instance, did his utmost to kill himself with sheer, wicked, mind-numbing velocity for 25 years - boats, cars, trucks, atvs, motorcycles - you name it - and what got him? Cancer.
  • Uncle Buster can’t climb off a tractor without ending up in crumpled heap under it
  • My cousin Ashley breathes in strange women’s foot-dust all day at her shoe store
  • I can’t understand Uncle John on the phone without a cigar in the outboard corner of his mouth, and
  • Uncle Robert hasn’t taken a deep drag of air he can’t see since 1960.
We’re all at risk for something just by being alive - and I just ate a bag of pork rinds.

Something, one day, it could be soon, it might not, who knows?, is going to get us all. If you’re lucky, you might get some warning, but that's about the best you can hope for. 

You can Bible-it-up all you want and you still can't even exactly look forward to the afterlife because nobody has the foggiest idea of exactly what's going on up there (or down there if you're the unlucky sort)  - or if it's any fun at all.  And that's not blasphemy on my part - go give Revelation a spin and get back to me.  I'll give you a hint: IT'S NO HELP (unless you love dragons).

Ever been on a date with somebody who doesn't get what's funny? You think that was bad?  What if God doesn't have your sense of humor? This is ETERNITY we're talking about!  We're not even certain if you get a real, live, body back sometime and, honestly, I need to know.  If I have to spend eternity as some sort of spiritual mist I'm going to be furious.

The whole thing is a huge depressing mystery and you can't get ready for it and you can't take anything with you.  We're talking about the single most important trip you'll ever go on - and you can't pack for it.

The only bit of "estate planning" I've ever heard that made sense came from Dad and all he said was "I plan for my last check to bounce."  Now, that is something I can get behind.  A man with my innate spending abilities was not put here to stockpile money, that's for sure.

Granddad at least went into it with his boots on, metaphorically speaking.  The week he finally killed himself with pork products he looked at me over his second breakfast at 10:45AM and said “Let’s go eat lunch. You drive.”

We headed down to a local seafood place on Pawley’s Island and had a bowl of she-crab soup. We talked over a number of important things a man might talk over with his Grandfather; then mid-way through our meal he looked up and said “I just want you to know – I’m not afraid to die. I can’t wait to see my parents again. I’m 68 years old and I still miss my mother.”

The waitress walked off.

“Well. Ok Granddad" I replied, brilliantly.

A few days later I went to Macon to take him fishing, did something else instead - which pissed him off, I went home; then the next day he made a to-do list (mostly to-do's for other people), went to bed and died.

That was that.

After years of provoking each other out of our immense similarity: I take great comfort in knowing I managed to aggravate him just one last time.

Dad always says funerals are for the living – not the dead. He reckons the dead have too much else going on to worry much with us and I guess he’s probably right.

But Beau: just in case you are reading this - as if failing to leave me anything at all in your will wasn't bad enough – I am forced to concede to you for the final win.  You got the last laugh. With you, Mom and Granddad all gone ahead and my sister pregnant with the ultimate abomination - a GREAT-Grandkid; now I'll never claw my way up to Ultimate Favored Golden Grandkid status. You got us.  No matter what any of the remaining grandkids do - they'll always wonder if you wouldn't have mayyybee just done it a smidge better, richer, faster, or funnier.

You probably would have.

So ride on, Beausie - we love you and we miss you, but we'll catch back up soon.

Until then - do me a favor and tell 'em we all said "Duh Huh."

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