Life is funny. Years ago, I was driving to Santa Monica with my best friend. We pulled up to the light at the end of Santa Monica Blvd., where it hits Ocean. It was late at night and I don’t remember how or why we got roped into talking to them, but two middle aged men in the next car over were hitting on us. We were seventeen and I just laughed and laughed because that’s how I deal with my discomfort.
I don’t know why she didn’t just roll up the window and ignore them or, really, why any of this happened. I just know that the man in the driver’s seat asked, “What is funny? Why is she laughing?” in his thick accent and it instantly became one of our most favorite expressions ever for the rest of all things for as long as time persists.
I thought of this again, when I went back to Ghana, as my travel buddy sat through similar exchanges in which men spoke and I laughed. “What is funny?” My only answer to this question? “Life. Life is funny.”
Also: life is hard. Somehow life is hard became part of our weird drunken mantra as we sat by the beach trying to figure out what weird set of circumstances led us there. Much like the conversation on Santa Monica Blvd., I have no idea how it started or why, but it turned into this awesome shared memory that we can both think about when we’re little old ladies and hopefully still friends.
They are both so true, and I love having happy stories to remind me of these things. This weekend I went to my best friend’s bachelorette party and even though I was sick and felt like shit, I drank enough to make my body equal parts mucus and booze and laughed until I cried. I was surrounded by wonderful people celebrating someone we all love and I was so grateful to be there.
But on at least one occasion, I hid in the bathroom so I could call my parents and properly cry. It’s the only time I can remember that I was going through an Actual Life Thing that I waited days to tell my best friend about. I didn’t want to ruin her party. My parents spent the weekend in Wisconsin because my grandfather’s ailing health took a turn for the You Should Really Get Up Here Now. So they did. On Saturday a priest came and gave his last rights, but I don’t really know what that means, except that it gives our Just In Case Catholic family the comfort of knowing that his soul is on the up and up.
I was there to support my best friend, and I tried to do that. Just once, though, I needed to stick my head outside the bathroom window and feel the freezing mountain air and cry and maybe try to console myself by coming up with something poetic about the bitter cold, like I was fifteen again. I was thinking about the shitty angsty poems I used to write and thinking was really hard because of all the wine and it’s impossible to feel like there’s anything poetic about snot running into your mouth as you grip the bathroom wall for support because you’re drunk sobbing on the phone with your grieving parents.
The weekend came and went and he stayed with us, so my parents had to get back to their lives. They went back to work and carried on, as one has to do. I spent my weekend mostly enjoying everyone’s company, but occasionally wracked with guilt because I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to do that. My dad isn’t an exceedingly emotional person, so hearing him even a little shaken is enough to break me.
My grandpa died early this morning and I don’t want to tell anyone or talk to anyone because I don’t want anyone to tell me that they’re sorry. I don’t want anyone to be sorry because I don’t know what that means. I don’t want anyone to be sorry because I don’t know how I feel yet and you don’t get to have feelings until I know what feelings I have.
I’ve acknowledged it to a couple people now, as the circumstances seem to call for it, and they’ve both apologized and asked if I’m all right. I don’t know. I know that I want to see my family and that I miss my bed. I also know that I have to keep functioning. It’s the great truth we all acknowledge when we’re grieving: the world doesn’t stop.
He had Alzheimer’s and in many ways he has been gone for a while. I once had the deluded notion that it would make this day easier. As if the dull agony of being sliced open every Christmas would anesthetize us against losing a limb. It doesn’t work that way. The truth is, I didn’t know my grandpa all that well, and the loss I feel is partly for this phantom relationship I wish I had, but mostly it’s for my father. I hurt for him, because for those of us without religion, the living (others and ourselves) are really the only ones to hurt for. Right now, more than anything, I can’t get over the fact that my dad now lives in a world that doesn’t have either of his parents in it. I can’t even comprehend that.
So as much as I can, I stop trying to. I stop trying to make it make sense, because it won’t. I do my job and go about my day. In a bizarre turn that affected me only in the way that the grieving grasp for meaning where there probably isn’t any, I won this year’s 20sb Bootleg Award for Funniest Blogger. It makes the same sort of non-sense that everything else does, so thank you all for that, truly. I’d be lying if I said it felt particularly important on my List of Things That Matter today, but it gave me a good distraction.
It was a good distraction, in the sense that it was good as much as it was distraction. It was good just like spending the weekend enjoying a bachelorette party was a better use of my time than frantically calling my parents every thirty minutes. For what? To see if it happened? To see if we got a miracle and he woke up healthy and also suddenly lucid again? No, nothing useful could have come of that. I could, however, be useful in celebrating my best friend’s wedding with her. That’s something good and worthwhile I had the opportunity to do for someone here, in front of me.
In that same way, there are people I’d rather not discuss this with because it makes everyone else’s issues seem trite and I hate that. My mom said something to me about how this reminds you of what really matters. Yes, it does. What really matters are the friends and family that are still here with me and the thing I’m fighting more than anything is using this as an excuse to check out on everyone. That’s my instinct but I don’t want that.
I don’t want anyone to stop whining to me about how Starbucks was out of their favorite syrup or whatever silly problems they would vent to me otherwise, because I’d much rather think about that. Or how you spilled that lesser drink on your dress. I’d like to hear about that and maybe have you not judge me when I laugh a little too hard. Can we do that? Does that sound all right to everyone?
I feel like I just punked the internet, who was all, “What is the story about laughter that Sweeney wrote after winning an award she didn’t deserve for tricking people into thinking she was funny?” And then I was all: “BAM! DEATH! GRIEF! GOTCHA!”
I’ll be over here, laughing inappropriately.