An Open Letter to the Old Broad Whose Cremains I Rejected

Hello Old Broad,

Against my better judgement, I’m indulging you and using your newest title which I believe replaces “woman ahead of her time.” It suits the image you’re now trying to create. I’ve been overthinking it (as you and I are genetically predisposed to doing — being second cousins once removed) and concluded it fulfills your two life-long desires: to defy your good Catholic girl upbringing and to prove (to yourself) you accept your age.  

When I last visited you and we poked around every store, I was impressed by the positive reinforcement you were able to pressure from strangers. Foisting your vast knowledge of pop culture (so you know who Ed Sheeran is) and your bawdy humor left them helpless to be anything but in disbelief and awe when you gave them the real punchline, “Not bad for an 80-year-old broad, huh?” I imagine your bleach-tipped ultra-short hair gave them pause as did how ineptly I pushed you around in the transport wheelchair.  

But really, not bad at all for an old broad who’s somewhere between Mae West and Dana Carvey’s Church Lady. Best I can recall you haven’t changed since I was a kid. Oh, how I do treasure those erstwhile loose summer vacations at your house. Mostly, but not always, you’re front and center in my memories.  

Ignoring my father, your favorite cousin, because he’s the only one who gets you, and whisking me off to the mall to get my ears pierced when I was seven was an act of bravery I’ll never forget. When we returned you charmed the pants off him and he wasn’t angry with either of us. You get lots of points on that one otherwise I would’ve had to wait until I was 18.    

Watching you hang out the back of the old green van in the Kmart parking lot on a hot August morning dry-shaving your legs was an astonishing sight for me and everyone who witnessed it. I’ll give it to you; you were way ahead of your time in the attention seeking department given it was eons before the shenanigans we see every day on social media.  

And growing those luscious plants in your bedroom, the ones my parents murmured about, probably really were marijuana. Not a big deal now, but back then it sort of was especially because your husband was a state trooper. You were so cool.

So, on our last outing, at the huge craft store, as we admired the tiny colored bottles, you sprung it on me. You caught me off guard. I’d forgotten how cunning and premeditated you can be. You said you were on a mission to find containers for the seven people who’d requested your cremains.  

Did I want some too?  

Huh? It was like a high-pressure sales job; your ashes were so in demand and flying off the shelves that if I didn’t act now, right now, and pick my container, I may miss my chance. There may not be enough of you to go around if I wait.  

Remember I blurted out “No!“ That moment felt awkward even though it was the right answer for me. But deep down I felt bad I turned down your offer.  

But after I got over it a little, I gave it some thought. I don’t believe seven people approached you for your ashes. It doesn’t seem plausible. You’re not the Pope, a movie star, or a serial killer. But you are a legend in your own mind for sure. You’re manipulating me and others into taking your cremains and that doesn’t feel right. You want to live on and not really die. You always were afraid of getting old.  

But look at the twisted logic here. It means you think you’re going to die before your friends, then again many are also in their eighties. And what will happen to all those little glass jars filled with your dust?  

No disrespect, but I don’t want another thing to take care of. I imagine you have some unique requests that I’d feel obligated to fulfill, like creating a showy shrine with fresh flowers or performing a ceremony on your birthday for the rest of my life or taking you on vacation. Recently I had to put my 15-year old cat to sleep and the vet asked me if I wanted his ashes.  

I passed.

Accepting your cremains would put me in a position of having to figure out what to do with them when I’m gone. Do I leave them to your grandchildren? Their children? Would I have to ensure you don’t end up in a landfill, down the drain, or in the hands of a maniac who collects ashes? Maybe none of this bothers you but all of it bothers me.

People are a lot of work when they’re alive, so I really don’t want the hassle of them when they die. I appreciate you don’t want to be forgotten. But I’ll remember you, I promise.  

So, I was wondering. Could I have something from you that’d be more useful, day-to-day. I saw it on Etsy. What would you think about having a necklace made of your teeth? That is, if yours are actually real.

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