Saturday, September 22, 2012
We pulled into the driveway of my sister's Texas City home around 12:00 P.M. and for the next 10 hours; it seemed everyone had to tell us what went on in their lives since the last time we saw in November of last year. In one way it was sad because a funeral brought us together but there was plenty of time for laughter and catching up.
My brother in-law was grilling the last steak as we were pulling up, and he said to go inside, and that he would meet with us in a couple of minutes. After blowing our diet, we went into the living room where the television was on but no one was watching or listening to it until we all saw a long line at a Houston AT&T lighting up to get the latest in iPhone 5. That set- off my 82-year-old brother-in- law, so for the next hour or so; we took a trip down memory lane.
He started telling us about his boyhood days where his feet were so rough, that he never felt any pain while running on the old gravel roads. He had us both wondering if the old sticker burrs were still around because we haven't seen them for ages. We recalled the old grass spears that we used to chuck at our friends. We didn't know if they were still around, but our wives reminded us that it has been quite a while since we old coots have been on the ground.
When the ladies left the room, he proceeded to tell me stories about my grandparents, uncles, and a lot of stuff I just vaguely remembered. He told me about the downtown Deluxe Club, where I remember my stepdad taking me after paying the utility in person and in cash. He said that he was probably at the club at the time, but he was in the back, playing in a high-stakes poker game. He told me everyone in town knew where you could buy after- hour booze on Plantation Road, and another one was somewhere in Dutch Lane. There was no fear of the sheriff's department closing them down because that's where they got their beer after they got off. He said the really high-stakes poker games were up on upper Mission Valley road and slot machines could be found at any CWA or VFW hall and then he swore up and down that it was common knowledge that our old Sheriff Monty Marshall, would give the local clubs a heads up anytime the Texas Rangers told them about an upcoming raid. He said only time, there was trouble is when the wives would complain to a higher authority because their husbands were gambling with the family grocery money.
We left at 5:00 P.M. for the funeral home where we would spend the next two hours visiting before the priest came to give the rosary. About 8:30 that same night, we went to another family gathering where the crowd was much younger.
Two of my nephews said they were laid off and were rehired six months later, to do the same work but this time as contract labor, at a lesser wage with no benefits. They said that they learned what it was to walk in someone else's shoes. They used to look down at the contract labor because the contract labor would often do the menial jobs, so that the conventional employees could be trained for the more technical jobs. He said the only difference now is that the company no longer hires typical permanent employees where they usually have to pay benefits and a higher wage. They both did what they had to do to retain their homes, but they admit they were lucky.
Change is gradual because, when my wife told me that she wanted to be cremated; I was against it because of religious and family tradition. I had a change of heart yesterday and little did I know that I was the last one to come to that decision. In Houston, which serves that area and Galveston, there is a 2 to 3 day waiting period because they have a lot more bodies to tend to. The visitation is the same, which is really for the family, there is no religious objection to it, and you eliminate those next-day burial services. I certainly don't have anything against traditional burial services but this may be another practice that may be gone in the future.
Changes are gradual and we can either accept them or fight them, but it's inevitable.