Today is Mom’s birthday. Her 92nd.
I called to get her some flowers – yellow roses, of course. Her favorite. But when I nearly became homicidal trying to get some, well, I decided she’d understand it if she didn’t get any. I knew she wouldn’t complain, though.
You see, Mom passed away 14 years ago. So her birthday is always a bittersweet day for me. On this day, I want to celebrate her life and I want to let her know that I’m thinking about her. It’s always a day that finds me with a bit of a sad smile on my face.
Not this year.
This year I called to get some flowers put onto her grave and ended up wanting to kill. Kill and not bury.
I’m sure you’re wondering by now what the hell I am talking about. Patience is a virtue, you know. I don’t have it, so you need to.
I know I am not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but well, I’m gonna. My parents had terrible taste. Tacky taste. And the cemetery they chose to, umm, inhabit, well, please don’t think that I picked the god-awful place.
Now, you ask, what could possibly be so terrible about a cemetery? Aren’t they all alike? I used to think so. And maybe they are. But this one is in Florida. So maybe this one is special.
They don’t allow fresh flowers on the grave sites. They don’t allow live plants at the grave sites. They don’t allow silk flowers at the grave sites. And I think that folks are buried under Astroturf.
They only allow plastic flowers. Plastic flowers that they alone sell. So while I want to put flowers on my parents far away graves, well, I’m kind of limited.
But it’s Mom’s birthday, I thought. I have to call them. I have to get her some tacky flowers. Mom, after all, had a bowl of plastic/wax fruit on the kitchen table for 25 years. She lived for this sort of stuff. Ooh, sorry. Bad word choice.
Ok, so I called up the Cemetery folks to ask what choices I had in tacky plastic flowers. The surprisingly perky young woman on the other end had to ask someone else, so she put me on hold. And that’s when my blood began to boil.
There was no sound track of classical music playing on the line. There was no gospel music. There were no Big Band Era swing tunes playing. Most of the cemetery’s residents would have preferred any of those. Nope, while I was on hold there was no Frank, no Bing, no Nat.
There was an advertisement for the cemetery’s crematorium.
Needless to say, I did not want to put an urn on my mother’s grave for her birthday. That would be too tacky even for Mom. I let the perky young woman know, as politely as I could through my teeth, that their recording was insensitive and vile.
“Oh?” she said. “I’ve never heard it.” She then informed me that I had a choice between plastic roses and plastic peonies and plastic poinsettias. Lovely. Actually, Mom would have been happy.
“In what colors?” I stupidly asked.
“Let me put you on hold, while I find out,” she said.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO,” I screamed. But too late. I screamed it to the voice that told me the different types of wood caskets available. The voice that told me that I could have brass, silver or pewter handles. The voice that told me the colors of satin liners available. You could spend an eternity choosing. Oh, sorry. My bad.
Perky came back on the line to tell me that I could have red or pink roses, but she had forgotten the colors of the other flowers. She wanted to put me on hold again.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO,” I said, far more quickly.
“Do the folks who run this place think,” I said in as polite a manner as I could muster, “that caskets and cremation services are impulse purchases? That by putting that recording on while I am on hold I will suddenly get inspired to buy a walnut casket with pink satin lining and brass handles?”
Now, I realized that it is not Perky’s fault that ghouls own Memorial Funeral Park. Maybe she was just a temp. But I was not yet ready to give up trying to educate her on just how inappropriate the recording was.
“You know,” I continued, “my Mom and Dad have been gone for a while now, so the pain is not fresh. But if I had just lost either of them, I’m pretty sure a robo-sales talk would not make me choose your facility.”
“I think you need to take that up with the manager,” she said putting me on hold again. I learned about the different size and location of burial plots.
I was going to wait for the manager, but he took so long in coming to the phone that the recording came around to the crematorium and urns again. I had to hang up.
So this year Mom is going to get a visit from me in person. And I’m bringing a shovel .