Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Is This Commitment, or Should I Be Committed?

I haven’t been writing and you haven’t seen me anywhere. No goofy comments from yours truly have appeared on any of your blogs. Where oh where has Mr. Schprock gone? Did I finally pack up my old cardboard suitcase and catch the last train out of Bloggsville for the big city? Or did I become a survivalist, tending a bean garden near a camouflaged hut way out in the woods, waiting for doomsday with the squirrels and chipmunks? Or how about this: maybe I’m in the witness protection program, having turned state’s evidence against a childhood friend for egging the principal’s car back in 1969. I like that one. Clearing up that unsolved mystery got me a new name and address. And believe me, Billy Slattery would pay good money to find out where I’m hiding. Guess he didn’t get the yoke.

Of course I’ve been right here the whole time. We’ve had kind of a sputtering Internet connection here at work, so surfing from site to site and blog to blog has been frustrating at times . . . and — may God strike me down for admitting this — I must confess I do most of my blogging from my office desk, wasting the company’s precious money and time. The funny thing is I usually don’t have time to blog when I get home at night, maybe because, oh, I don’t know, no one is paying me to do something other than blog there. But that’s another issue for another day. Just please don’t judge me too harshly for that.

Last Sunday I went to a mural dedication at the Adams Library in beautiful Chelmsford, Massachusetts. A friend of mine’s brother, who was a trustee for the library, died unexpectedly last year, and the many grieving family members and friends who held him in high esteem commissioned an artist to paint a room-sized mural in his memory in the children’s section. It was quite a tribute. He was a lover of nature and a meteorologist, so the walls of the room were filled with various scenes of wildlife set in their habitats, as well as a full scale portrait of my buddy’s brother set in his habitat holding a weather balloon. Also shown were life-size portraits of his two daughters. The pieces of the mural were very skillfully rendered and the colors were magnificent. I spent about an hour checking out the whole thing while munching on cheese and crackers and veggie dip.

Afterward, another friend of mine and I took a bicycle tour of Chelmford. This other friend, whom we’ll call Coach, grew up in Chelmsford; in his life he has traveled hither and yon and rambled as far as Tennessee at one point, but now he’s found himself living back in Chelmsford in the very house he grew up in. Just last year he lost both his parents within three months and then his wife gave him the old heave-ho, so there he is now, living in mom and dad’s house and driving their car while wifey resides in the family manse with their two teenage daughters some 50 miles away. As far as jilted spouses go, I suppose he’s pretty lucky to have a home already paid for complete with car, but damn, that’s tough to lose your parents and your marriage in one throw. Being an only child, he gets everything his parents had. What’s weird is, he has done nothing to the house: it still looks like his parents live there.

As we toured North Chelmsford, the particular area of town where he grew up, it became apparent to me that a good chunk of it has remained virtually unchanged since his boyhood days back in the sixties and seventies. The same cannot be said of my hometown. My old high school and church are still there, but the commercial areas have completely transformed themselves. We used to have a quaint downtown section, but that’s now been yuppified beyond recognition. The courthouse, police station and library have morphed into colossal stone and mortar edifices that had obviously required the labor of hundreds of thousands of ill-treated bondsmen to construct. We used to have a regular-size mall, but that was torn down to make room for a super duper mega monstro mall. I think there are more SUVs than people there now. Whenever I pass through, I feel like a stranger in my own town.

Anyway, we biked around North Chelmsford for a couple of hours while he pointed out this and that to me, and we eventually wound up at the cemetery where his parents are buried. While Coach filled a plastic jug to water the flowers at their grave, I took a little stroll among the headstones and saw something I thought was interesting.

But before I get to that, let me ask you this question: what do you consider the most profound way one person can commit him or herself to another? Exchanging wedding vows might be the most common answer to that; but perhaps, if you examine it further, the marriage ceremony could really be put off as mere symbolism. Having children together, opening a joint banking account, buying a house together, those sorts of tangible things I think can unite two people together with far more tenacity than the simple signing of a marriage certificate and having a robed cleric utter some fancy mumbo-jumbo over both your bowed heads.

Now consider what I saw: there in the cemetery was a headstone for a married couple that had, as you might expect, both names engraved on it with each of their birth dates — but no death dates . . . meaning, of course, that these two people are still alive. Both were born in 1923, so it’s safe to say they are closer to the end than the beginning, but doesn’t that put the period at the end of the sentence? Till death do they not part. They are for keeps. They’ve bought the final condo and are just waiting to move in.

So all you young guys, think of this: if you really want to impress your girlfriend, if you’re ready to pop the question and show her how much you care, go get yourself a plot at the local cemetery and purchase the most romantic gravestone you can find. Pick one with loads flowers and hearts on it. Bring her there on some pretense and then as you come up to it say, “Oh look, honey! Look at this!” Have a camera ready to capture the expression on her face. Believe me, brother, she’ll go for that more than the biggest honking engagement ring a year’s salary can buy.

Am I right, ladies?


Blogger tiff said...

aw, shoot. Previous comment swallowed.

Daggone it!

5:07 PM  
Blogger trinamick said...

Absolutely. And then, when you propose, it'll mean so much more if you bring a gun along. That'll really prove you can't live without her.

People in our area buy their headstones like that a lot. But the really creepy one was two daughters that were killed ten years apart, both in car accidents. Their parents buried them in plots already purchased, and their headstones were each half a heart that made a whole. Eerie.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Flash said...

After my grandfather dies, my grandmother bought her headstone and had it pree carved except for the "death date".

We were lik e"Um....why"

She said the guy stated it was cheaper to get them both then to wait.

Way to bargain shop Gram!

8:51 AM  
Blogger SzélsőFa said...

It is not uncommon in Hungary to have pre-carved headstones. But in that case one of the named persons is dead and is already under the stone.
The spouse is waiting.
Kind of creepy, yes.

And am I the first to notice that you have been munching on crackers and sauce and all while watching the mural FOR A COMPLETE HOUR STRAIGHT?
Now, what effect does THAT have on your health, Mr. Schprock?

11:32 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Well, I have missed you and have wondered how your daughter is doing.

I'll go one farther, my husband and I want to donate certain body parts and then be cremated. My husband wanted for BOTH of us to be put into the same urn. You'd think the guy is just cheap, but turns out, he wants our ashes to always be together too. Is that love or psychosis?

10:24 AM  
Blogger NYPinTA said...

Maybe as a wedding anniversary... what year is "creepy"?

9:12 AM  
Blogger magnetbabe said...

I like Beth's idea better. I'm not a fan of taking up real estate after I'm gone. In fact, I'd find it a little presumptuous if my future husband had assumed I'd wanted to be buried at all!

10:11 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

Hey Mr. Schprock, I just tagged you again. It's habit forming, but this meme is simple and self-promoting. Just do it and quit your whining.

7:01 AM  
Blogger LL said...

"what year is "creepy"?"

If someone was married to you? Uhhhh... I think I'm gonna stop right there. ;)

7:46 AM  
Anonymous wordnerd said...

Awww...I'm gonna get all sappy and say, yes, that'd be the ultimate show of commitment - until 'death do us part.' This post also makes me think. If a person can look at the relationship they are in and ask if they could, and more importantly WOULD, buy the double headstone today.


Glad to see you back, Schprockie!

4:16 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

We comment and yet he still remains aloof.


5:33 AM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

I think if some guy proposed to me with your suggestion, Schprockie, that I'd run screaming in the other direction, especially if he took Trina's suggestion and brought a gun along for the ride.

Like Beth, I've been wondering how your daughter is doing. Hope all is well on that front.

2:03 PM  
Blogger Irb said...

Damn! I always get the primo relationship advice too late!

My dad was between wives when he died, so he had a plot that pretty much went unused. He was buried adjacent to my grandparents. In fact, the cemetery where he was buried was so poorly planned and crowded that there wasn't even room for him to have his own headstone, so we had to carve his name and everything on the back of my grandparents' stone. Seriously. I swear I'm not making this up. I wish I were.

But I digress...

Please come back, Der Schprockenmeister! I'll buy a headstone with our names on it if that'll change your mind...

2:29 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Any holiday updates? Daughter updates? Life updates? I miss you, darling Mr. Schprock.

5:28 PM  
Blogger SzélsőFa said...

Mr Schprock, my 10-round contest of macro shots has ended and you are invited to collect your virtual award, for you've been given one !!!

1:34 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

I came to visit you again, to see if there's any news. I remain faithful. =)

11:53 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Dear John,

This is not a good-bye letter. I will be back. I only need to make it about a week or so as to not look stalkerish. Too late?

Well, what I have to say, must be said now, no matter what the risk -- Merry Christmas to you, your wife, and your children. I hope your daughters are both doing well. I hope you have peace and lots of laughs.

Your Cyber-Good Buddy, ;)


6:32 PM  

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