The unbearable weirdness of being


On the way out of Burlington last Saturday, I picked up three pots of yellow mums from City Market. I had hoped to plant some perennials, but these were so tempting in their bright health and biodegradable pots that I decided to get them for now and pick up something for the long term later.

I met up with my sister Andrea’s family in Essex and carpooled with them to South Ryegate. Minutes after we arrived, my brother Hugh and his wife Kelley drove in. It was sunny and beautiful, and I wanted to feel useful, so I soon headed down to the oak tree with a spade and some flowers. A little to my surprise, everyone but Mom came, too.

After scoping out the site, I chose a semicircular arrangement for the flowers and dug the first hole, jumping down on the sides of the spade to drive it into the earth. Hugh dug the second hole, stabbing the spade down like an axe with his hulk-like arms. Andrea dug the third hole – or tried to. As she jumped on the shovel in the same way I had, it hung up on a root or a rock and quivered to a stop only a couple of inches in. With strange slowness, the shovel tipped, and she fell with it backward onto the ground. It was an absurd pratfall, and I considered whether or not to laugh until she rolled up in a ball and said in a choked voice, “My arm! It hurts!” Her husband the EMT pulled her sleeve up and pressed her arm lightly in several places until she told him it hurt too much. Then he helped her into the house. A few minutes later they drove off to the hospital.

They returned about an hour later. Andrea’s arm was splinted and hanging in a sling. The verdict: wrist broken in five places. There was nothing else to be done until she could see an orthopedist on Tuesday. So we went ahead with the scattering of the ashes. Mom, Hugh, Andrea, my nephew Josh and I all took turns holding the plastic bag and pouring the ashes out slowly onto the ground. My Dad was a big person, so the process took a while. At one point I heard Josh say, “I have grandpa on me.” Andrea said ruefully, “Yeah, I have some grandpa on my shoe.” Then Hugh poured the last grains onto the ground, we stood silently for a few seconds, and headed back inside.

I don’t know why, but I had expected something untoward to happen when I went to South Ryegate. Several times I had pictured the scene at the end of The Big Lebowski, when the Dude and Walter take Donnie’s ashes to the top of a mountain and end up choking on a cloud of their friend’s remains. But no. It wasn’t that. Instead, my sister broke her arm. All I can say is — what a freakin’ weird world!

About the author

Janice Dawley

Outdoorsy TV addict, artistic computer geek, loner who loves people.

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By Janice Dawley


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