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  • When my grandmother died, we didn't have a funeral. She wasn't religious, and anyway by then most of her friends were already gone.

    Instead, we gathered for a memorial at a non-denominational church across the road from my parents' house. It was a house they'd chosen four years earlier for its in-law apartment - and in spite of its 70s-era indoor pool.

    The memorial brought my mother and her two brothers together for the first time in years. The youngest, a futures trader in from Hong Kong, was comfortable and charming - as long as he was playing emcee.

    My grandfather, ten years into his Alzheimer's, was not upset at the service. He asked several times for his "wifflet," a nickname he'd given his wife in her last year, but when we told him she'd died, he just said, "Oh!"

    My mom's older brother, a talented painter and lifelong oddball, disappeared halfway through the service, which was a freeform smorgasbord of memories and prayers. When he returned, he was naked save for an adult diaper he'd apparently nabbed from my grandfather's supply.

    My uncle entered the memorial circle with a surprisingly graceful pirouette. Then, hairy potbelly hanging out and a beatific grin on his face, he cried, "Mommy! Where are you??" and dropped to the floor. He writhed there for several moments in what I could only assume he considered a dance.

    My sister turned to looked at me, shaking her head slowly. I rolled my teary eyes and squeezed the hand of the overwhelmed boyfriend holding mine. His lips were white with the effort of keeping them closed.

    Soon, my uncle got to his feet and pirouetted back out of the circle, into the gangly arms of his girlfriend and off to whatever pocket of the church he'd used as his reverse dressing room.

    To this day, the girlfriend says "sorry" whenever she greets my family -- never "hello," or "how are you?"

    But that habit far predated the diaper incident.
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