One fine morning back when we were living in Ivy, out of nowhere, my dear wife decided she wanted to bury me at Grace Church in Keswick as it was a family tradition to be married and buried there.
“Bury me alive?” I asked.
“No, Silly, when you die, it’s important to me to have you put in the ground there.”
“Is this something you anticipate in the immediate future?”
“Of course not, I’m sure you’ll live a long time. But when you pass on, I want to make sure I can have you interred there.”
“Don’t you find this a bit macabre?’
“No, not really, I’m just being practical. Have you thought about where you want to be buried?”
“Never, never gave it a second’s thought.”
“Well, I have and I talked to Miller (Miller was the minister at the Ivy Episcopal church; Miller Hunter was his name. Or was it Hunter Miller? I can never remember) and he said you need to be confirmed.”
“You need to go through the confirmation process in order to be buried in an Episcopal cemetery.”
“Sounds like a bunch of rigmarole to me.”
“Not really, it’s just a formality.”
“Do I have to wear a suit (I hadn’t put on a suit in four years)?”
“That’s up to you, there are some classes you have to go to.”
“Just six. You and Vandy will go together.”
I remembered taking a mandatory religion class given by the school minister at Andover that was holy hell. Boring, tedious, so mind numbing I wanted to run out of the room screaming. I’m not big on religion anyway. Had my fill of God at prep school where I had to go to church every day for three years; really soured me on the experience. Okay, so if you’re reading this and you are a religious person, that’s fine with me, it’s just not Tony’s thing.
“Uh, uh! No classes, not for me,” I protested. “I’d rather be burned to ashes or buried in a potter’s field somewhere.”
Anne trotted out the big guns: “It’s important to me, Tony, that you do this.”
“Sitting there listening to Hunter Miller is my idea of torture. “
“It’s Miller Hunter.”
“Whatever it is, he’s a great guy but he’s a bit on the tedious side, not known as the most captivating speaker.”
“Miller’s a sweet man.”
“Maybe, but frankly, I’d rather stare at the wall.”
“It’s just a couple hours a week.”
“Can I take a six-pack with me, maybe a thermos filled with Mai Tai’s that I can sip to get through the torment?”
“Of course not, it’s church.”
Shaking my head, I say, “You’re going to owe me for this.”
“Thank you, dear. It means so much to me.”
Pain and suffering inflicted on prisoners of Isis doesn’t come close to what I endured for six weeks at the hands of Miller Hunter. He led off by describing the aim of the course to be “presenting a diet version of Christianity to make discipleship easy to swallow.” Instead, he fed me the high calorie version and it bored me to tears. He’d ramble on with endless tedium that reminded me of driving school or typing class, elevating simple mechanical stuff up to the level of geopolitics or brain surgery. The only perverse enjoyment I got from the classes was repeatedly hitting the DELETE button.
To add insult to the injury, the six students in the class were all teenagers. The only person who was more agonized was Vandy. He was mortified to be going through such an ordeal with his peers.
But the straw that broke Tony’s back was when Hunter Miller discovered I had not been baptized. And let me know I needed to be.
This was way more than I had bargained for. BAPTIZED! NO EFFING WAY AM I GOING TO SIT UNDER THE SPRINKLER SYSTEM AT THAT CHURCH. NO WETTING THIS BOY DOWN!
“What?” I asked Anne. “Do I stand up there with babies in little white dresses and wait to be doused by the minister? No way!”
“And you need to have three godparents,” Anne told me.
“What? Do I rent them? Or just pull them in off the street?”
“You pick friends and ask them if they will be your godparents.”
“Oh, say Mickey and Joe, and maybe Dolly would do it.”
“Look, I didn’t sign up for this and it’s going way over the top.”
“Just ask them; they are all good friends.”
“It’s absolutely humiliating to have to ask people to be my godparents.”
“I bet they’d be honored to do it. All they have to do is stand there while you go through the ceremony.”
I bit my tongue, asked them and on that fateful day, I got up in front of the congregation in my suit with two babies on either side and took the water treatment.
After going through all that, what do I get?
I can look forward to being buried at Grace Church.
Goody, goody gumdrops! Can’t wait.