Coffee heat rising

Plus ça change…

Actually, in some parts things don’t change. In specific: humanity doesn’t change.

So…I have a friend — more like a casual acquaintance, but a person whose company I value. We met some years ago through a business networking group. This outfit used to convene for a monthly business meeting out in Scottsdale. Eventually, for reasons I don’t recall, they stopped meeting at our regular restaurant at Scottsdale Road and Lincoln drive and began to meet further south, almost to Tempe.

The original venue was a helluva drive from my house; this new place was just too damn far. So I kinda stopped going there. Occasionally I would traipse across the city, but I wouldn’t go to every meeting. And eventually, I really did quit attending altogether. It was too bad, because I enjoyed socializing with these folks, and as time passed it had become the main way I was getting any regular contact with other people.

But…che sera sera, eh?

At one point recently, this gentleman announced that he was going to move from his longtime digs in the East Valley to a place in Sun City, on the west side.

I cringed.

Casa nostra…updated. They enclosed the screened porch and added that nice patio.

First off, I’ve lived in Sun City. The reason I’m in Arizona is that my father dragged my mother and me from Southern California to Sun City in about 1962. The man wanted more than life to retire, and an opportunity presented itself: in high school I was a hotshot student, and the University of Arizona offered to accept me for admission at the end of my junior year — in 1962.

Well. Everyone was all very thrilled. I was beside myself with joy to get out of a year’s worth of brain-banging boring high-school classes — and to be able to flounce around bragging about how smart I was. My mother was delighted to get her husband back full-time. And my father couldn’t have been happier at the the prospect of quitting work a year early.

So. We moved out there. I went down to the University of Arizona in Tucson while my parents took up residence in a two-bedroom place in Sun City (much modernized in these photos) beneath the flight path of the fighter jets practicing out of Luke Air Force Base.

My father didn’t understand money, and he didn’t understand that he hadn’t yet accumulated enough to safely retire. One recession and he was done in: within a year he had to go back to sea. My mother and I stayed in that awful place while he wrestled and fought to earn back his decimated retirement savings. It was a horrid time for him, and a difficult time for my mother and me.

As much for me as for anyone else: young people were not welcome in that place. And even if you weren’t made to feel like you smelled bad, it was a boring, tedious place to live, row on row of ticky-tacky tract houses designed for people who never intended to spend 12 months a year there.

The instant I graduated from college, I grabbed a low-paying receptionist’s job and moved into a tiny studio apartment in mid-town Phoenix. Far from ideal…but at least it wasn’t in Sun City.


So. When my friend said he was going to move out there, my first thought was ohhhh gawd!

The salient point you need to be aware of is that my friend is Black.

Yes. A single Black man, probably around 50 or 55, moving out to Whiteyville.

I should have explained to him, in so many words, what he was getting himself into. But I didn’t…it didn’t feel like remarks on one’s racial status were any of my business.


If a 17-year-old white kid was not welcome out there, a middle-aged black man was even less welcome.

He lasted about…what? Four months or so. Couple weeks ago, he sent out an email announcing that he’s moving back to the East Valley. He didn’t feel comfortable in lovely Sun City.

Yeah. I’ll bet he didn’t.


So, in the meantime…. Now I’m old and I’m teetering on the edge of the grave.

No, I’m not gonna die very soon — at least, probably not. But it is time, as they say, to “make arrangements.”

Both of my parents had themselves reduced to ashes, dumped into urns, and stashed in a mausoleum in Sun City. If I were a decent human being and an appropriately loving daughter, I would join them there.

But y’know what? I don’t want to.


I do not want to spend eternity in a vase gathering dust in Sun City.

Parents or no parents.

To frost that cookie, a couple days ago I discovered my father’s horrid third wife’s family had put that dreadful woman’s ashes out in Sun City, next to his ashes.

Yeah. That mean, evil, nasty b*tch is taking up space on a shelf next to my mother and my father.


Without this latest development, I probably would just have let it go. Complain not, and arrange to have myself reduced to a few cups of ashes and set on a shelf next to those two.


I’m sorry. But no. There is no way in Hell I’m going to allow myself to be interred next to that horrid creature. In fact, if I could see how to do it, I would get my parents’ urns moved somewhere else. Real fast.

The problem is…

Ohhh yes: does every issue not have a problem?

The problem is that my father deeply, passionately hated organized religion. This state of mind came about when his mother, a Chocktaw Indian woman, was scammed out of what today would be at least a million dollars — by nut cases who persuaded her that they could talk to the dead. Her father, a white buffalo hunter, had participated in the extirpation of the herds of buffalo roaming Oklahoma and Texas, in the process accruing quite a large pile of money.

After he died, she inherited this pile of cash. And the scam artists descended on her. Long story short: pretending to be able to talk to the dead, they scammed her out of every penny, leaving her and her sons without a nickel or a dime… My father, who was just a kid at this time, associated the theft with churches. In his mind, all religions are scams — especially the organized Christian varieties.

So…you see the problem? If I were to go out to Sun City and remove their ashes from the mausoleum out there, tote them down to my Episcopal church, fork over a handsome donation, and have them stashed there, it would be an incredibly disrespectful act.

Disrespectful of my father’s experience, of his decision to put himself and my mother in the Sun City mausoleum…of…whatever.

But speaking of disrespectful, that AWFUL woman he married after my mother died is out there on the same damn shelf.

That, in my opinion, is damn disrespectful of me. And of my mother.

One thing is for sure: My ashes are NOT gonna sit on a shelf anywhere near that harridan’s ashes.


So. Now — right now — I need to figure out what, if anything, to do about my own impending demise. And what, if anything, to do about my parents’ cremains.

My stepsister is dead, so if I were to remove my father from her honored mother’s side, she would have no clue. No offense to be offered there, assuming people cannot view what happens here on earth from their platforms on the Other Side.  On the other hand, her daughter survives. I don’t know if that young woman ever traipses out to the far west side to commune with her mother’s ashes…but if she does, it would be pretty sad to remove my father’s ashes from her mother’s crypt. For that matter, I don’t even know if the woman’s ashes are out there with my father.

I didn’t get along with those people — they were extreme right-wingers, and they thought I was a seditious Commie. Plus the young woman in question has her own life and has not spoken to me since long before my father died.

So…should I feel any compunction about snabbing my father’s ashes — if I can do so at all — and spiriting them away to the church close?

This is what I would like to do: Go out to Sun City, demand that the mortuary hand over my mother’s and my father’s ashes, bring them back to Phoenix, and arrange to inter them at my church.

* I don’t know whether I can do that, since I’m not the one who arranged their interment and I’m not the one who paid for it.

* My mother would love it, but my father would shimmer in his funeral urn through the rest of Eternity: he hated churches; he hated organized religion.

* God only knows how much it would cost.

Do I want to spend my son’s inheritance — any part of it — on juggling urns filled with ashes? The ashes of people he barely remembers? Hell, my mother died before he was born. When I told her I was pregnant with him, her response was to shrug her shoulders and go “Meh!”  So…do I even care whether their ashes occupy space near mine?

Possibly not…

I do know — well, I think I know — that I would like to have my pile of ashes stashed down at my church, not out in horrid Sun City. But…I have no idea how much that would cost or what would be involved in arranging it. Next week I’ll be speaking with the woman who runs the operation at the church, and so…soon I’ll know whether this is something I can afford.

My mother-in-law got her kids to sprinkle her ashes off the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. That sounds like a worthy alternative…but my son doesn’t have anyone to give him moral support in any such antic. So I hesitate to ask for that.

Whatever. The time has come to figure out what to do when the “time” does come.


At any rate, we’ve wandered from the entrance to this little rumination. The kick-off was that a lovely friend of mine is moving out of Sun City, whence he recently migrated, because he is a Black man and the natives out there have made him miserable because of the color of his skin.

And I do not want to be interred in that place.

2 thoughts on “Plus ça change…”

  1. I think you should do whatever you think is best. I think the scattering of ashes into the Grand Canyon is a lovely idea. Do you ever visit your parents’ graves and leave flowers? Do you sit and ‘talk’ with them when or if you visit? If not, they will be completely forgotten when you yourself are no longer alive. At some point in the future, will your parents’ cremains will be removed from their current resting place? My mother was interred in a churchyard under a 99 year lease. Guess what happens at the end of that 99 year lease, or probably sooner let’s face it if no one in the family is alive to keep an eye on things. Yes, she’ll probably be thrown in the trash or scattered anyway, who knows? Let’s also not forget the growing numbers of insolvent and abandoned cemeteries, everywhere across this nation. What happens to those buried people when the endowment runs out? I’m going the human compost route, my children can scatter me and move on. I’m not that special.

    • Yes. Indeed… I suppose there simply are too many of us to keep the memory of each ancestor alive for even a generation, to say nothing of decades or centuries on down the line.

      And, y’knoow… there’s something to be said for drifting on the breeze over a spectacular landscape, millions of years old. Joining the ghosts and the molecular remains of the dinosaurs and the mammals and the odd human, there to rest for millenia.

      It’s all right, isn’t it? It’s all right.

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