I stay sane by finding comedy in everyday life. If I didn’t, I would be hugely bored all the time and that’s not really how you want to go through life. This strategy usually results in me cracking inappropriate jokes, saying all the wrong things and frequently alienating people. I don’t make a lot of friends easily this way, but, hey, at least I’m not bored. My father’s sudden, tragic death has only heightened this quirk. I’ve noticed, though, that fellow Sad Kids have developed this freakish trait as well.
Recently, I came across this McSweeney’s post, Six Pieces of Highly Autobiographical Bereavement Advice and nearly lost it trying not to laugh at my desk on my lunch break. Now, someone not accustomed to loss – say, someone who sadly had to bury their great-grandmother when they were 7 and then never dealt with death again – would read this and probably think to themselves rationally, “Oh dear me, this is not funny. No, no, this is horrible. What is wrong with this monstrous person laughing at the death of her mother like this?” I read this and was like “OH MY GOD THIS IS SOME FUNNY SHIT.” I shared it with my brother, who agreed.
The best part:
Even when you send a group email to your closest friends, announcing her death, you might sign off with, “Thanks for your support during this shitshow.”
Hilarious. Why didn’t I think to end my sympathy thank you cards with “Thanks for your support during this shitshow?” That’s probably the best way to describe all of it. You receive more flowers than you can even imagine what to do with (and they were very lovely, thank you friends) and gift basket after gift basket keeps getting delivered to your house teeming with pears, oranges, summer sausage, nuts and cheese.
Oh, the cheese, my god, the cheese. Bricks upon bricks. We had cheese FOR DAYS. Seriously, if I came across such huge quantities of cheese under happier circumstances, I would have thought I won the dairy lottery. We had so much cheese that one night for dinner, we made grilled cheese and French onion soup. Best sad dinner of my life. Just when I started pondering how much cheese we had from all the fruit baskets, a box of a dozen bricks of Cabot cheddar showed up. Just a whole box of cheese, sent from people my dad knew through work I had never met. Those people will forever occupy a small place of my cheese-loving heart.
But, anyway, food aside, it’s a really chaotic time and you don’t even really know how to handle yourself. If you wanted to be poetic, you could call it a maelstrom of sadness or a tempest of grief, but if we’re all being honest, it’s really just a massive shitshow. If you’re lucky, you have friends who step in and help you do all the small things that your brain can’t actually handle. I’m lucky enough that when I said I needed water-proof eyeliner and mascara for the services, my best friend from college and my best friend from high school teamed up to trek to CVS and came back not only with my requested makeup but the necessary makeup remover. That’s how you know you have good friends – they fulfill your ridiculous requests and bring you back crap you didn’t even know you needed. Thank you for your support during this shitshow, indeed.
Last month, to celebrate National Talk Like a Pirate Day, I switched my Facebook language settings to Pirate. I clicked around to see what was different had a few laughs. Mark and AJ became my brotharrs; “like” became Arr!; I wasn’t “in a relationship,” but “accounted for.” You weren’t searching at the top of the page anymore, but scouting fer scallywags, locations or general thingies. Because Facebook wants us to share entirely too much information, widowed is an option under relationship status, which my mom has selected. All very sad. But, in Pirate, this becomes “Me mate be sailin’ with Davy Jones,” which is hilarious and frankly, my father would find pretty badass. I shared this bit of information with my still-new coworkers and commented that I thought it was funny and laughed a little and…crickets. Like, blank, somewhat horrified stares. This stems from a combination of me still being new, me not quite fitting in, and me having this weird, sick sense of humor.
I shared this discover with Mark, who had the same reaction as I did. This whole circumstance is really, really crappy and we’ll have to deal with it for the rest of our lives. That’s a really long time not to laugh. This is why it’s OK to find the funny in horrible situations. Sad Kids seem to have an unspoken understanding. We all know it sucks and we try to help each other the best we can. Forgive the impending slide into Harry Potter nerdiness, but it’s like we can all see Thestrals – creepy skeleton-like winged horses that only people who have experienced death in their lives can see. If I recall correctly, they’re why Harry and Luna Lovegood understand each other so well. I know another Sad Kid wouldn’t judge me for chuckling at Facebook’s Davy Jones line or laughing at the “thanks for your support during this shitshow” bit. Non-sad people don’t quite get it, and that’s OK, because they can’t. I’ve noticed that the only posts I write here that really get a lot of traffic are the more introspective, sad ones. When I make very weak attempts at being funny or write about things not related to my father’s death, no one really reads them. Either I’m not that funny (highly likely) or people just want me to be sad and thoughtful (less likely).
To bring it full circle and back to pirates, as our friend Jimmy Buffett says, if we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.