As awful as the past two weeks have been, there have been several moments of unexpected levity that broke up the general, lingering anguish going on around me. Most of them have been ironic. A few have been wildly inappropriate. All made me laugh through my tears. I’m sharing them because, well, writing is cathartic.
When I traipsed into the cemetery office to get everything squared away, I had to pee like a race horse. So, naturally, I asked to use the bathroom. Clearly, someone had just exited stage left before I went in—if you catch my drift. The cemetery attendant was waiting for me when I got out and introduced herself. I said, “Woohwee! Who died in there?” She looked at me blankly.
At the hospice, my dad had an unbelievably caring nurse, Felicia. Nothing brought me greater joy than finding her every night before I left just to say, “BYE, FELICIA!” She would smile and tell me goodnight—in a very strong Haitian accent. I’m 97.8% sure she didn’t get the reference. Regardless, it still made me giggle for .02 seconds.
I had never been in my parents’ safety deposit box at the bank. Up until last week, I had zero idea what was in there. I took my uncle with me for moral support when I opened it. “Ooooh, maybe you’ll find some Spanish doubloons?!” he asked. I turned to him and snapped, “Dad wasn’t a pirate—for f*ck’s sake!” I can’t be sure, but I think the bank attendant snorted a little at my snark.
I went to the same Starbucks in Downtown DSM sometimes two or three (or ten) times a day—eight days in a row. The same gal was stuck at the register—day in and day out. Never once did she recall my name. Or my drink. When I finally pointed it out, she said, “My remember-y is not very good.” Note to self: I need to remember-y not to go to that particular Starbucks anymore.
I had a completely unexpected breakdown while waiting for a wedge salad at a fancy restaurant bar. The bartender—who barely met child labor laws—offered me his vape pen filled with weed. “Dude. Seriously. Dude,” he pleaded. I went out on the patio and took a big hit. I may or may not have inhaled. The wedge salad tasted amazing. I may or may not have ordered a second one.
Turns out the only thing Dad forgot to pick out at his visitation was ambient music. When the funeral director asked what he would like, I told her, “Freedom Rock, man. And turn it UP!” I called her back later to tell her I was kidding and that any/all Frank Sinatra would be fine. I was going to tell her to add a taco bar to the reception, but I figured she didn’t appreciate my humor all that much.
At the graveside service, I noticed Mom’s urn was suspiciously larger than my father’s. Even in death, she was still trumping his ace. Bless.
I have been relentlessly throwing away/recycling/donating things that have no sentimental value to me. I’m not naming names, but a couple people ended up carting away truckloads of stuff in garbage bags that I deemed, well, crap. I can’t help but think their house looks like a scene from “Hoarders: Buried Alive.”
In the last three weeks, Dad has not gotten one legit phone call. Not one. Every single time the phone rang, it was a solicitor, a robo-call, someone from India telling Dad his hard drive was corrupt or, worse, the Schwann delivery man—who was seemingly near Dad’s house six days a week. “Roger, listen …” I said. “I’m only gonna say this once. Dad does not need any more ice cream sandwiches. No one needs that many f*cking ice cream sandwiches, Roger. Like, ever. In their lifetime.” I then told Roger that Dad had, unfortunately, passed away—from extreme lactose intolerance. I then smiled faintly as I hit “block number” on the receiver.
Dad always had a good sense of humor. I know this because the only thing I couldn’t find in the house were the titles to the car. That meant I had to go down to the Iowa State Courthouse where it smells like teen spirit—mixed with humanity and depravity. It was awful. I know he’s laughing—knowing my pure, unadulterated loathing of the general public.
A friend of a friend—a millennial—asked how I was doing. I said, “I’m like a bad Sheryl Crow song. ‘I’ve been living on coffee and nicotine.’” They asked, “Who’s Sheryl Crow?” I said, “Alanis Morissette’s Mom”—and walked away.
Finally, because I was home for three weeks in May, I was able to attend a smattering of my friends’ kids’ high school graduation parties. When I visited my friend Katie’s wingding, she was busy running around like a chicken with her head cut off. I didn’t really know anyone at the party, so I just sort of hovered near the coffee bar. Several people came up and introduced themselves and asked how I knew the hostess with the mostest. I said—with a completely straight face—“Oh, she used to babysit me when I was little.” (We graduated the same year in high school. She was appalled.)
I’m still laughing about that one—and that was nearly a week ago. Good thing too—because otherwise I’d be curled up in a ball on the floor. Grief sucks, but at least I have an absurd sense of humor to rely on—uh, and a bartender with some righteous weed.