“Next week, I’m going to write a column on rudeness,” I told Felice as we discussed our writing plans last week. “I’m so done with my mother.”
I was waiting for the “It’s about time…” but it didn’t come. I was hoping for something slightly rude, or simply sarcastic, or maybe a little bit obnoxious to help me with my article.
“Ok, rudeness is funny,” she said, though I could feel a hesitancy in her voice, “as long as you don’t write about your friends.”
When she said “friends”, I am pretty sure she meant “me.” She has told me in no uncertain terms, more than once, that my ‘I Hate When You Are Late’ article scarred her forever.
I assured her I was not basing the rudeness article on her, and that recently, my daughter had called me out for some really bad email and table manners, and I started noticing the same bad behaviors in friends.
“Rudeness can be pretty funny,” I thought, “unless my friends recognize themselves and never speak to me again. But, f&*k it, what are the chances of that happening?” This is often my philosophy when I sit down at the computer. I suppose that is why I don’t have that many friends.
So I sat down to write my funny rudeness piece. The conditions were ideal: in New Hampshire, snow falling softly on the pine trees, the room warmed by a fire glowing with the coolest colors you could ever imagine (that’s a little plug for the first item on our stocking stuffer gift guide—these fire bricks are the coolest!)
But trying to be funny when you are still grieving is a bit like trying go about your business while you are wearing a pair of too-tight pants with the zipper digging into your belly precisely the wrong way. You can’t concentrate on anything else.
As I sat down to write, I realized that it was not going to happen- I am not ready to be funny (despite wearing my favorite Lululemon yoga pants- no zippers.) And I feel kind of badly about that, because I can just imagine everyone thinking, “OK, already, enough with the dead mother. Jeez, didn’t Steve Colbert only take a week off?”
So what, exactly, is going on here?
I no longer spend days cleaning out the drawers and cabinets of my childhood home, wondering if my mother was a hoarder. I no longer hear a quivering voice that I don’t recognize answer, “I’m fine, I’m really fine.”
Actually, no one really asks any more how I am with those puppy dog eyes, and I am just fine with that.
I have come to terms with the fact that there is no one to call to say that I have arrived home safely. There is no one alive that cares more about my life and my kid’s lives than even her own life. I have come to terms that this is what happens when you are an orphan. Ugh…an orphan.
See? This is what happens when I sit down to write funny….pathetic!
On the way home from New Hampshire, perhaps because I am a glutton for punishment or perhaps because it was recommended, Mike and I decided to listen to Tom Ashbrook’s, On Point Podcast, “How We Grieve.” Tom’s wife, Danielle Guichard-Ashbrook, the love of his life since he was 16, passed away in November, just a couple of weeks before my mom. This was a beautiful show that made me feel totally inadequate in my own grief, which I am sure it was not meant to do.
Tom described in loving detail his intense grief- how he could barely breathe, walk, talk; how he wondered how he could go on without her in the days following her death. I had none of what he, or his callers, had. In comparison, I’ve had a pretty easy time of it, despite the fact that I’m not able to write funny.
Last night, as I got under the covers, I was still thinking about how we grieve. I recalled the expert on the show stating that the worst part of grieving might come as late as 6 months after the death of the loved one. I wondered what I have in store months down the road.
And then, of course, I turned to Mike.
“Would you be as unhappy as Tom Ashbrook if I dropped dead tomorrow?” I asked him just before we shut off the lights. “Would you find it hard to breathe? Take a step?”
“Of course,” he answered. “No question.” Sometimes he just nails it, even if he knew there was absolutely no other answer he could have given.
“Well that makes me really happy,” I told him, “I hope you are totally miserable.” And then I fell right to sleep.
I’m sure I’ll get to funny soon enough. I can feel it emerging.