A birthday party was the perfect prescription for those of us trying to wrestle with the state of our nation and the new administration in Washington, D.C. Our friend Dave invited us to share his birthday. Nothing fancy. No presents. Just a few friends, snacks, drinks and a small cake.

Dave lives just a few miles from our house and the 2pm start meant we had enough time to socialize and get home for the two NFL playoff games. We have priorities!!

We heard laughter as we arrived. Always a good sign. I counted maybe eight faces as we went inside. Good for me. My poor hearing means I don’t do well in large groups. I looked around and knew everyone. Another good sign. There would be no forced conversation with strangers.


It was a (mostly) baby boomer gathering and birthday boy, Dave could’ve been singing “When I’m 64.” He wasn’t singing. I promised myself I wouldn’t discuss politics. After a few hugs, kisses, and handshakes, guess who and what was the focus of our jibber-jabber? No one mentioned his name, the new President. The guy with the orange hair. President Obama’s successor. The reality show star. But we could feel his eerie presence, lurking like a shadow.

The conversation ranged from new cabinet nominees, to health care, to repeated questions about how this guy became our Commander-In-Chief. Even though half the folks in the room were normally Republicans, no one (apparently) had voted for him. But someone voted for him because he’s in the White House.

Meanwhile, talk about health care and the lack there of, not to mention the unfortunate quality of same, segued into cemetery plots. The cost of burials. We compared traditional burials with cremation. Marilyn reminded us about drive-through cremation, the economical alternative to getting planted in the traditional way. Francesca said they bury them vertically in parts of Italy because there’s no more room. The burial biz could be bigger than plastics for new graduates. There was a longish couple of silences while we all digested how we would each have to deal with “the big sleep”…  possibly sooner rather than later.

Time for the birthday cake and a round of “Happy Birthday” for Dave. We sang with gusto, each in our own key. Our enthusiasm compensated for lack of musical talent.

It wasn’t an easy segue. I asked a couple how their kids were doing. They are now young adults, one in college, another graduating high school. Another long pause and segue into the cost of college. Would Mom and Dad be around to see how their daughter and son fared professionally? A bit of a crap shoot, that.

We segued back to cemeteries and the cost of dying. Someone talked about time payments. Apparently, if you don’t keep up your payments, some places will dig up the bodies and stack them like cord wood. We laughed. Ruefully.

I noticed everyone casting furtive glances around the room. I blushed a little because I realized I was the oldest in our gathering. Marilyn assured me I look younger than her, certainly younger than my years. Thanks, Mar.

I looked at my watch and loudly announced we had to get home to feed the dogs, my best move to end the talk about dying and the prohibitive cost of funerals, not to mention grave maintenance. You need a multi-generational maintenance contract or they’ll toss your bones in the big pit. In any case, it’s not like you’ll be around to make sure they keep their end of the bargain.


Author: Garry Armstrong

As a reporter for Channel 7 in Boston for 31 years, I was witness to most of the major events affecting the region. I met a lot of people ... politicians, actors, moguls, criminals and many regular folks caught up in extraordinary situations. Sometimes, I write about the people I've met and places I've been. Sometimes, I write about life, my family, my dogs and me. Or what might otherwise be called Life.


  1. Do you have maintenance fees for a cemetery plot? I’ve had these four plots for years and haven’t had any fees for them. Much on the same line… you should see the Catacombs in Paris. There they do dig you up and stack your bones. I think I have some pictures of them.


  2. We have perpetual care here, no fees. I’m assuming the size of the cemetery has a lot to do with it, too. And both of us are going to be cremated, what is euphemistically called ‘private services’ since I intend to be part of a rose bush, and he intends to be buried in the family plot. I will be too, but the real me (or what’s left of her) won’t be there. Maybe a bit of sand…. Who would know. The EPA tends to get shirty about such things these says, so no one menions it too loudly.

    Have a friend in California; when her golf loving dad died she waited for a quiet day at the golf course, and then took a walk on the green. At every hole she poured a bit of daddy in. When she reached the hole where he made his one and only hole-in-one, she poured what was left.
    I often wondered what the folks who followed her thought when they lifted their golfballs out of the hole and found them covered in grey dusty stuff…=)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In Europe it’s normal to dig up the old and put the skulls in an ossiary in the bowels of the local church, often decorated with your name — I mean one’s name — painted neatly on the brow. I, personally, don’t care what happens to me. I’m hoping science will take me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a topic of much laughter here, too. Garry actually wrote a post about it last year. I’ll have to find it and run it again. He was coming back from NY and there were billboards along the highway advertising it. He thought it must be a joke, but it wasn’t. So he started to think maybe this would be a great way for hit-persons to dispose of extra bodies … and well, it went from there 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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