Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
Uncle Marty's funeral
Relaunching the guest writer program, and I thought we'd start here. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
Folks, I’m relaunching the guest writer program. More details to follow in a later post. Or, if you’re eager to submit your own work, you can find some details here.
Today’s guest writer is Peter Scobas, who describes himself as “a former data scientist and economics researcher … now trying to make a living writing dumb jokes on the internet.”
I admit I had a few questions after reading this essay—like who exactly was Uncle Marty, and how long ago did this all happen? But as I began to write to Peter asking for some of the details, it struck me that not knowing might make things a little more universal. Let us know what you think in the comments. Here’s Peter.
Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Re: Jesus loves you!
by Peter Scobas
I was going to wear jeans, but my mom said no.
I said I’m an adult, I can wear whatever I want.
My dad said No you can’t.
My wife said Listen to your parents, you need dress pants.
The day of the funeral arrives. I put on my new dress pants and climb into the backseat of my dad’s Volvo. My wife slides in on my left. My brother-in-law is on my right. The bastard’s wearing a tie.
We pull up to the church parking lot and I see my aunt and my uncle and my other aunt. We talk briefly about trucks and parking spaces. I hug a few cousins.
I see my cousin who goes to college in Boston. I thought you already went back to Boston, I say. He says no, not yet.
My sister says my dad is looking for me. I say hello to some of my parents’ neighbors.
When I was probably 9 or 10, my Uncle Marty showed me how to use a voltmeter. I remember running around the house, sticking the red and black test leads into any electrical outlets I could find.
We settle in the pews and we pray the Rosary. My brother-in-law and his tie are on my left. My wife is on my right. A flock of men from the Knights of Columbus kneel behind us, reciting the Hail Mary in unnervingly-perfect unison.
I hand the Rosary beads to my sister, who hands them to my mom, who puts them in her Rosary pouch. We file outside. I talk to my aunt about my uncle’s podcast. I talk to my uncle about my sister’s podcast. I hug my cousin, who also has a podcast.
We watch a flag-folding ceremony in the parking lot. The Knights of Columbus have swords.
When I first got an email account, probably about 15 years ago, my Uncle Marty used to forward me those religious chain emails: “Jesus loves you! Forward to 10 people to spread the Word of God!!”
I didn’t really have anyone else to email back in those days, so my inbox was mostly chain email forwards from my Uncle Marty and the only mailing list my mom would let me subscribe to: The Good Clean Funnies List (which is… apparently still pumping out that good, clean, funny content?)
Back in the church, I see one of my other uncles. Hey stranger! he says, loudly. We’re all strange. He laughs. We’re all strange. He’s old. My mom tells him to be quiet. He accidentally knocks me into what I think is called the ambry.
I walk down the center aisle of the church with my aunt on my left arm and my wife on my right arm. My sister does the first reading—it’s from The Book of Revelations. She cries. Two cousins give eulogies. One of the Knights of Columbus struggles to get his sword back into its sheath.
Somehow, I end up carrying the urn out of the church. It’s heavier than I expect.
I was 14 and on a school retreat. We went around the room saying a man in our life who we look up to. I said my Uncle Marty. He’s kindhearted. Thoughtful. Approachable.
There are multiple types of pasta at the reception. My wife and I put the cream puffs my aunt brought from an Italian bakery on a tray. My cousin quotes Maya Angelou. My wife tears up when she sees “TOP DRAWER” printed on the side of my uncle’s walker. It’s a thing my grandpa always used to say.
I make fun of my wife for getting emotional. She tells me to f—k off.
My Uncle Marty had just gotten out of the hospital and my dad and I were helping him get into bed. Broken ribs, a broken hip, and a new pacemaker couldn’t stop him from being cheerful. He asked how my wife is doing. He talked about his fig tree. He invited us to dinner. He tried to walk with us to the door.
After the reception, everyone goes to my parents’ house. My cousin and I play frisbee outside with one of my other cousin’s friend’s kid.
I talk to my brother-in-law and some of my cousins about investing in real estate. My dad barbecues steak. Another cousin says he wants to move to Hawaii in ten years.
I make one of my uncles a half a pot of coffee. He says there’s not enough for everyone. I tell him it’s 10pm, I don’t think anyone else wants coffee.
My wife and sister and mom take an edible. My cousin eats leftover cream puffs someone threw in the garbage. My other cousin says he wants an apple fritter. I ask him what a fritter is. He says he doesn’t know.
My parents tried to bring my sister and me to a fancy restaurant for dinner with my Aunt Maureen and Uncle Marty. We were young, we were annoying, and we were being fussy. Uncle Marty disappeared for a while and came back with two Dove chocolate bars from a gas station.
"Maybe these kids just need chocolate," he must've thought.
My other, other cousin says he should probably get going. Instead, we go outside and take shots of whiskey. He says I don’t mean to get political and then he gets political.
My dad dances with one of my aunts. Another cousin tries to get my drunk aunt into the car to go home. His wife is excitedly trying to convince us to work as deckhands on a superyacht, a career she learned about earlier this afternoon. Another cousin who just retired from the sheriff’s department is talking about the two times he was injured while on duty. One time he got stabbed trying to subdue a criminal. The other time he bit into a hotdog that had a rock in it.
I tell my family that when I was 18, I spent all my money on skydiving lessons. I watch my dad pour himself another glass of wine, chug it, then go to bed. I think—that literally would have killed me. I talk to my brother-in-law about sleeping pills. I stagger to my room, collapse on the bed, and play John Prine’s In Spite of Ourselves on repeat. My wife records me saying drunk nonsense.
I end up pulling an all-nighter, because that’s what always happens when I get really drunk.
I’ll miss you, Uncle Marty. I hope you liked my pants.
7 other things worth knowing today
A Utah plastic surgeon and three of his associates are accused of running a scheme to distribute fake COVID-19 vaccination cards, federal prosecutors say. Prosecutors said about 2,000 vaccine doses, worth more than $28,000, were destroyed as a result of the scheme. (Heavy)
A woman's experience getting a refund for a $19 candle from an Etsy store went viral after she shared a rude exchange on TikTok. In the video, which racked up 2.3 million views, Elisabeth Manente is told to "have the day you deserve" by a store selling candles, which accuses her of shopping while drunk or high. (Insider)
A New Jersey woman bought a rustic private island in Maine not fit for 'man or beast' in winter. Steven King found out. His response (which might give the woman pause?): "There's a novel here, just waiting to be written." (Yahoo News)
'Royally $%^#$@$-ing Us': Tesla owners who paid full price for cars that have seen massive price drops in the weeks and months since are "irate" over having instantly lost money. (Entrepreneur)
Vigilantes for views: The YouTube pranksters harassing suspected scam callers in India. (RestofWorld)
This 65-year-old retiree just moved into a $420 per month apartment in Mexico ‘steps from the beach’ — take a look inside. (CNBC)
The hopeful, heartbreaking newspaper ads placed by formerly enslaved people in search of lost family. Example: Dec. 11, 1879. "I desire some information about my mother. The last time I saw her I was in Alexandria, Virginia, about the year 1852 or 1853. Her name was Hannah. She belonged to Lawyer Tibbs, who sold her when I was quite young ..." (Slate)