Do You Have a Bury-the-Body Friend?

17578403 - woman carrying spadeI’ve gotta get me some friends, and not just Facebook friends, although I appreciate every one of you. I need some “bury the body”* friends, preferably young ones with strong backs.

County commissioner and sister writer Claire Hall shared that saying with me at a party on Saturday. A “bury the body” friend is one whom you can call at 3 a.m. to help you dispose of a corpse and they say, “I’ll be right there.” They don’t ask why you have a body to bury. They don’t say, “Are you crazy? It’s the middle of the night.” They just show up. With a shovel. That kind of friend.

I don’t expect to bury any bodies (okay, I did bury a dead rabbit a while back), but I do see the need for a bury-the-body friend. As a widowed, childless woman getting older by the second, I have been reading this book, Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers by Sara Zeff Geber. It’s extremely well done, and it scares the bejeebers out of me.

Geber’s main message is that we need to get our act together while we can. Even if we have spouses and kids, we need to make arrangements for our older years and our death. Our spouses may die. Our children may or may not jump in to help. And if we have neither, we’d better figure out who is going to handle such things as paying our bills, making medical decisions, making sure the dog gets fed, helping us to transition (God forbid) to a nursing home, or deciding what to do with our bodies when we die. Cheery stuff like that.

If we don’t have all our paperwork in order and haven’t chosen people to take care of things, either things will not be taken care of, or the job will be given to folks who don’t know us well enough to know what we would want.

So we need friends. Let me stress that I do have friends, wonderful friends, but most of them are older than I am. No, no, no, says Geber, you need to cultivate younger friends. Cozy up to them until you trust each other enough to put their names on your advanced directive. I’m not good at cozying. I hate networking. I’m uncomfortable at parties unless I’m playing with the band. Take a class, volunteer, join a club, says Geber, but I’m already plenty busy, and where I live, most of the people doing these things are seniors like me. Should I move?

How do all the people on TV sitcoms hook up with friends who are always together, always in one another’s homes, always there in a crisis? Does that really happen?

I’m working on ways to connect with friends under 65. I’m open to invitations and thinking of making some of my own, even though I’m an introvert who is much more comfortable at the computer.

How about you? Do you have a bury-the-body friend? If you don’t, do you worry about it? If you do have such a friend, how did you connect and how do you keep the friendship going?

Here’s another question: With young people so tied to their electronic devices, will they find themselves without lifelong bury-the-body friends in old age?

Please comment.

* I’m still trying to locate the original source of the “bury-the-body” saying, which has developed many variations, including that a real friend will show you the good spots for burying and that a real friend will assume that if you killed somebody they deserved killing.

** If you remember last week’s post, Annie the dog had knee surgery on Aug. 16. We were almost done with the worst of her recovery when her inflatable collar deflated early Saturday morning. I woke up to a limp collar and the dog licking her incision. She kept licking it, reopening the wound and making for a tense weekend. I bought a new collar that proved too big. She got it off and went back to licking. This morning, which was supposed to be the day for removing Annie’s sutures, the vet sentenced us to an extra week of the collar, the pills, and the inability for me to leave the dog for any longer than necessary. Back to the Mini Pet Mart. I bought a new collar that even escape artist Houdini could not get out of. We’re both going stir-crazy. Grr.

Photo Copyright: auremar / 123RF Stock Photo

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OMG! They can see me!


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Things move fast in this 21st century world. On Friday morning, I received an invitation from Huffington Post Live to be part of a webcast panel discussion on growing older without children. It was scheduled for 6 p.m. that very night.

I hadn’t done a webcast before. I’ve been on TV and radio, but this was different. I would talk from my own office with other panelists I’d never met speaking from their homes or offices in other parts of the country and a hostess in a studio somewhere. Following instructions, I installed a new program on my laptop and tested it with the pretty young producer—but not before I got all dressed up, even put on my dangly earrings and eyeliner. Suddenly I could see her, and she could see me. Looking at myself on the screen, I wondered how I could get rid of my jowls by 6:00. Duct tape? And why was my hair sticking up like that?
Meanwhile, I had a chiropractor appointment, and Annie, my dog, seemed to be sick. Yikes. How could I do real life when I was going to be broadcast on the web in mere hours? I drove to town, got my spine adjusted, raced back to the office and hoped Annie could hang on till Saturday. On our afternoon walk, she was active enough but cranky, going all Cujo when we met other dogs. Maybe she just didn’t like unfamiliar voices being broadcast into our house.
At 5:30, I redid my hair and makeup and took my phone off the hook, then went to my computer. The producer had said some guy named Max would send me a link to the show at 5:45. Sure enough, there it was. I clinked on the link, and suddenly I could see him—so young, tattooed and pierced!—and he could see and hear me sitting here at my desk where I’m typing in my nightgown right now. I could also see myself. Suddenly I wished I looked like all those young women on TV with the skinny bodies and the long flowing hair.
We had 15 minutes to showtime with nothing to do but stare at each other, so I started reading a newsletter on my desktop computer, multitasking as a way to calm my nerves. When I turned back, my laptop screen was blank, except for a message telling me the server was unable to connect. What! I was offline, Max was gone, and the show was starting in a couple minutes. I clicked “Try again,” which never works on this computer. Shoot! I clicked restart and watched in despair as the computer shut down and started up again, wasting valuable seconds. I prayed, “Please God, please God.” The icons on my screen filled in, and I clicked my Internet connection. “Please God, please God.” Nuts! Unable to connect. 
Drastic measures were needed. Phone back on the hook, it rang immediately. Max: “Hey, is there a problem?” “My Internet connection went out. I’m rebooting.” He told me to get in when I could. The show would already be going. I ran to the other room, turned off my WiFi connection, held my breath for 30 seconds and restarted it. Then I ran back to the computer to reboot. “Please God, please God.” It was 6:00!
Internet! “Thank you, God.” I clicked the magic link. I heard myself being welcomed to the show. Right away, the hostess turned her attention on me. Apparently this segment was at least partially inspired by my Mother’s Day Huffington blog post. I started talking, and sounded at least reasonably intelligent. I could see myself and four other faces. Why was I making such weird expressions? Why did my eyes look half-closed? Why couldn’t this be radio? We talked, we debated, we answered questions. Then, without an apparent goodbye, the hostess thanked Cadillac for its sponsorship, and suddenly we were watching a car commercial. We panelists, still in little boxes at the bottom of the screen, looked at each other via computer from Oregon, California, Massachusetts and New York and asked, “Is that it? Are we off the air?” I checked my other computer. Yup. One by one, we clicked exit.
A couple hours later, I tried to explain all this to my father. He did not understand. Where is this? It’s only on the computer? You can’t see it anywhere else? Then he launched into a tirade on the evils of computers. Sigh.
You can see the webcast online at huff.lv/10DJqmv. HuffPost Livebroadcasts discussions and interviews on all kinds of topics, one after another. You can watch them on your computer, iPad, smart phone or other 21st century device. But no, not on your 1985-vintage TV. 
Epilogue:
Annie and I went to the vet on Saturday. She has an infection which antibiotics should cure. She already feels much better. “Mom,” for whom the weekend also included playing and singing at two Masses, hosting the open mic at the Nye Beach Writers series, and singing at an open mic in Yachats, is exhausted.