Greek funerals are not for the feint of heart. The one I went to today lasted from 10 a.m. until after 3 p.m. This included processions, prayers, incense, weeping, wailing, flags on cars, a trip halfway around the Beltway at speeds ranging from 30- 50 miles per hour, a graveside service, and most importantly- lunch.
Lunch is always fish, and always after the priest blesses the meal, no matter how hungry you are. This funeral is amazing though because before the meal Ledo's pizza is being handed around which totally takes the edge off. While we wait for lunch to officially begin, my sister is already staking an early claim. She orders our coats off and drapes them over multiple chairs because the exact number we need is x, and god help us if we have to sit with y which equals someone we don't know. We definitely need places for my father, George, my mother, Bebe, my cousin, George and two or three other people named Nick or George. And possibly Pete. Cousins near and distant swirl by. The deceased, Jimmie Deoudes, was our cousin by marriage since he married a Cokinos. Here's your cousin, John, my sister says. John who? I say. I have at least two. Now I seem to have three. "I'm the bad one," this John says. "That's all you have to remember about me." Then he shows me his black silver studded belt buckle which lends a certain credence to his claim.
A bunch of these old Washington Greeks are in the food business. The widow of the tomato king is here. The coffee man is dead. The cheese guy, too. My father is the linen guy, and also a restaurant guy. A bunch of restaurant families are here. My father is 90 and was born in Washington, but his father came from Greece around 1904. There's a guy telling stories while we eat lunch. He has a very thick Greek accent. He is talking about how Cousin Jimmie couldn't get in some fancy joint because he didn't have a tie, so Jimmie took a hundred dollar bill and a-ah- how you say-- paper clip-- and put it there on his collar. So the manager said who IS this guy??? But of course, he got in.
Now the church ladies come scurrying through taking plates and serving coffee. The church ladies rock. No one is in a hurry to go. It's almost 3:00, but everyone knows Greek funerals take their own sweet time. There are cookies on the table- the twisted buttery kind that my grandmother used to make and lives full of stories. We linger just a while longer before we make our good byes. you go on ahead. This is gonna take a while.