Two nights ago, 8 year-old Everett informed his parents over pesto chicken precisely how he expects his body to be handled upon his death:
“I don’t want to be cremated. Or buried. I want to be standing up or on a motorcycle. With sunglasses.”
As I have mentioned before, many of Everett’s dinner table comments are out-of-the-blue. Non sequiturs. The sort of statements that can make a parent’s fingers loose, releasing a suddenly heavy fork to plonk on a plate, loudly. Or make a parent’s head snap upwards while driving, to search for Everett’s face in the rear view mirror. The parent must assess Everett’s facial expression to confirm — savant or psychopath? Obama or Gallagher (the melon-smashing, bald comedian)? Maybe all of the above?
The burial discussion, though, fell perfectly in context. Not because we enjoy stewing about death over pesto chicken. Not because we love to insert terrifying thoughts into our kids’ heads shortly before bedtime. And not because we are, in general, just terrible parents who say whatever the hell we want to at our own damned dinner table, regardless of who the hell is listening and how the hell old they are or are not.
None of that. At least not in this particular situation.
I started blogging in January, a few days after my 90 year-old grandmother’s sudden passing. My first post was entitled “Grandma’s Lemonade,” and as you can see if you scroll up a bit to the top of this page, I’ve called my blog The Lemonade Chronicles. My grandmother (unknowingly) inspired me to always search the bright side in all things (and people), and to start writing about it. My older son, Max, loves to read my blog posts. Or at least he says he does. The informed questions he’ll pose from time-to-time suggest that he is at least skimming. Everett, however, stopped reading my blog when he recognized himself as a recurring character in the narrative. Unlike Max, Ev has zero interest in the limelight. My grandmother, who also had zero interest in the limelight, is mentioned regularly in my posts. When I first started writing, my wife, unbeknownst to me, sent to my mom and her siblings big, antique-looking lemonade dispensers. This way, they and we could all drink “Grandma’s Lemonade” by the gallon, whenever we wanted.
And we still talk about all this stuff, mostly at dinner time, at our flat in San Francisco. Including two nights ago, when I raised the subject of what kind of “ceremony” Everett thought we should have when we scatter some of his great grandmother’s ashes in and around San Francisco Bay near our home. So there you have it. This context fully explains Everett’s seemingly-strange comment about being buried on a motorcycle wearing sunglasses.
Because now, his mother and I are left dealing with the consequences of Everett’s instructions. My wife is an estate planner, so we have to take this kind of thing seriously. Was there any ambiguity in his directions? Nope, crystal clear. Was he of sound mind and body? Hmm, depends on your definition of “sound.” If you asked him yourself, I’m sure he’d convince you that you were the unsound one, not he. Did he propose something illegal? No, although we don’t own a motorcycle, probably never will, and the powder blue Vespa that Hilary has been coveting for years will most likely not cut it for Everett. So that means that we may need to “borrow” a neighbor’s motorcycle. Arguably illegal, I suppose. The sunglasses we can handle, plenty of those lying around the house. So yes, we could probably accommodate his wishes, and those wishes might even be reasonable under the totality of the circumstances.
Wait, wait, wait. I just remembered that he is only 8 years-old. No judge or jury would force his mother and I to accede to this ridiculous request, clearly made by a 2nd grader with no real sense of what he was saying. How could an 8 year-old be expected to comprehend abstract notions of death, burial, cremation, etc.? I’m going to go with this argument for the time being. And hope that Everett forgets about the whole crazy idea as he gets older. If he reads this post, he won’t get much farther than the serene photo pasted at the top of our dog swimming in the Bay.
But just in case he makes it all the way through, and indeed gets this far —
Evie, my boy, whatever you want. For your final resting place, if you really want to be this guy in the stock photo pasted just below, you got it. Your wish is our command. 🙂
Thanks for reading.