I was so happy when my cousin Bert moved to my town (Mt. Uniacke, Nova Scotia) from Chicago. I don’t remember how old I was. Six, maybe (he’s two years older). I remember visiting him in Chicago before that. I remember going to the science museum and walking into a giant human heart. I remember watching Popeye cartoons on TV. I remember going to school with him and saying the Pledge of Allegiance. I remember my aunt Judy crying after my uncle Wayne came out of the bathroom, having shaved his mustache off.
Yesterday I was talking with a friend about times we couldn’t stop laughing when it was totally inappropriate. I’m sure you’ve had moments like that (and I’d love to hear about them in the comments). What came to mind for me right away was my grandfather’s funeral.
My cousin Bert and I were pretty much inseparable from the time we were little kids, all the way through high school (after that we moved away for university and work). We did everything together - we played baseball, rode bikes, built forts, listened to records, lit things on fire, challenged each other to eat gross things… But what we did more than anything else was laugh. We worked hard to find ways to make each other laugh. We had a million inside jokes. Our senses of humor were exactly the same.
Another thing we had in common was that we hated having to get dressed up for weddings and funerals. Wearing nice clothes embarrassed us. They made us uncomfortable. One of the rare occasions on which we had to wear nice clothes was our grandfather’s funeral. I remember Bert was wearing grey dress pants and that they fit him a little too tightly. God, Bert hated those pants. He kept squirming and pulling at them.
I’m sure he did it on purpose… As we were walking into the little wooden church, Bert climbed the steps two at a time. This put an incredible amount of stress on the seams of his pants, especially in the ass area. He lunged extra-deep on the last step. The ass of his pants exploded under the pressure. They ripped all the way from his crotch to his waist. I was right behind him. It happened right in front of my face. He was wearing Incredible Hulk Underoos underneath. It made the most cartoonish sound! RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIPPPPP!!!
Bert turned back to look at me. He winked. That did it. As I walked into the church for this most somber occasion, I was laughing hysterically, howling. I was totally out of control. The wrong kind of tears streamed from my eyes. My sides hurt. I was caught in a jag and couldn’t get out. Bert was laughing too, which just made it worse. Our parents scowled and hissed at us.
“You’re in church!”
“This is a funeral!”
Good good it was funny. I laughed all the way through the service! I know it seems like a very inappropriate time and place to be laughing and I suppose it was. But you know what? I know my grandfather wouldn’t have minded if he could have known. He was the silliest man on earth. Bert and I inherited his sense of humor. Whenever we visited him, all of his attention was on us and he did everything he could to make us laugh. He made faces and silly sounds. He did funny things with his dentures. He danced. He was a bona fide weirdo in every way. All he seemed to want was for me to laugh. So I don’t feel bad for laughing at his funeral. I’m sure that’s exactly what he would have wanted.
I haven’t seen Bert in years. I miss him bad.