I had a vision of my "crossing over" the other night. I've often wonder what happens to us as we pass from this "plane" to the next. Is it hard to breathe? Does it hurt, or is it more like the ionic chamber in "Star Trek?" Does it feel tingly, like swimming around in soda pop?
According to my vision, it's none of these. Apparently, I'll be going about my business, sitting at my desk, whatever, and suddenly, just like that, I'll be sitting behind a kit of drums, playing for a cover band in The Purgatory Pub, banging out a version of Looking Glass's 1972 hit "Brandy," the song about the bar wench on the waterfront who still pines for a sailor with whom she had a one-night stand.
Why "Brandy?" I don't know. I think it's because it's one of the first songs that I remember hearing when I was little. ("Roundabout" by Yes was the other.) I didn't know what "Brandy" was about when I was four, but, strictly entre nous
, nowadays I think she was lucky not to catch some little gift of love that keeps on giving. Or keeps on nursing, if you catch my drift. But such considerations destroy the romantic aspects of songs, don't they? Plus, all those lyrics won't fit the melody. "My wife, my love and my lady is the sea" sounds a lot nicer than "I'm too busy landing in other ports and giving other girls the clap."
Anyway, there I am playing my kit, not sweating this time (because we aren't plagued with the inconveniences of our earthly shells at crossing over time), singing my little heart out ("You're a fine girl, such a fine girl, di-di-di-da, di-di-da-di-di-di"), surrounded by all of my friends and loved ones who've gone on before me. And there have been so many, especially in the last few years!
They're all there to congratulate me on my successes and chide me for my failures. (This IS purgatory, after all.) My aunts Rosemary and Carol are there, both of whom berate me for smoking (they both died of smoking-related illnesses). They do give me some points for cutting way back, though, since I only do it when I go out these days. (And let's get real, I AM dead at this point, so what harm can it do NOW? Anyway, I'm conscious in my vision that it wasn't the smoking that killed me. I don't know what it was, but it wasn't that.)
Next come my friends whom I've lost over the last few years. They reassure me that they are happy to see me, since it means I've finally gotten what I deserved. They also berate me, though, this time for holding everyone at arm's length until I'd forgotten how to let anyone in and be loved. They tell me that I'm lucky to have passed away when I did, since it saved me the pain of growing old alone simply because I refused to let anyone get close. I answer that my stomach and thighs were actually the reason nobody could get close, but they say that sarcasm doesn't work up here, because we've reached the "state of sublime perfection," or some shit like that--I can't remember the exact wording.
Then, finally, I see both sets of grandparents. My father's parents actually lived until 1996 (grandpa) and 2003 (grandma), so I had them until I was grown. They were much more permissive and easygoing, so I enjoyed spending time with them. We continue to chat and laugh in The Purgatory Pub, enjoying our coffee and starchy Swedish bread as they tell me how much they hated that "Brandy" song. "Because your father used to cover that with his
band. Jesus Christ--did you have to turn out just like him??!" And with that, they go sit at another table.
Then my maternal grandparents arrive as I sit relaxing after my celestial gig (I don't have to pack up my own drums, because apparently, there are roadies in the afterlife who do this for everyone. They must have been drug dealers on earth to get stuck doing this
for eternity). I never met my mother's father (he died in 1964, when Mom was just a teenager, so he never saw me either), but I do remember Grandma Dorothy well. She died when I was 9, but I still remember how much she loved to bake. She baked me a batch of sugar cookies once when I innocently offended her down-the-street neighbor, whom she hated. She was strict, though: you didn't fuck around in Grandma Dorothy's house. And you kept your mouth shut in church, or else! The "else" being the metal-handled flyswatter that hung from a peg by her kitchen door, next to where she kept her dog, Lady, tied up. (When they coined the word "bitch" for female dogs, they had Lady in mind. Fortunately, she's not in The Purgatory Pub, since the pets are all being groomed today at the afterlife grooming parlor, Fido's Final Destination. I hope they're having fun with my cat Sophie--she bites.)
Grandma Dorothy gets right down to business: I didn't do badly, all things considered. I was the first person, after my cousin Mary Ann, to graduate college. I was nice to people, I never knowingly cheated anyone, I was honest in all my transactions. "But Christ, what a rube! Didn't you EEEEEVER
know when someone was taking you for a ride?? Did you HAVE to roll over for every sleazeball in town? And your taste in men: what, did you shop at the zoo? It IS all right to just say no sometimes--you do
realize that, don't you?
"And those clothes! Let me give you the little tip I gave your mother: no, no, no
to horizontal stripes! Your mother was smart enough to take the lesson. Why couldn't you? Oh, and by the way, those faux-satin windbreakers you liked to wear in the 80s? Why didn't you just tattoo "Big Ol' Queen" on your forehead? Jeez! What an ultramaroon! No wonder you could never find the job that would make you happy!" Grandpa doesn't really say anything, apart from an occasional "Now, Dot." She tells him to be quiet while she straightens me out for the Lord.
And with that, she reaches up to the wall next to our booth for her metal-handled flyswatter, and I know I'm in for it.
The moral of the story: I have a lot of "fixing up" to do before I draw my last breath. I always wanted a reason to go on living. I just never expected it to be this.
I guess our gifts do
come in strange packages.