A Tale of Two Aunts

Last week I lost my Aunt M, wife of my Father’s brother.  My Husband also lost an Aunt- the wife of his Mother’s brother.

When my parents found out about the death, they talked to my two cousins, sent a fruit basket to the house, and figured out if it were feasible to get from New Jersey to Louisiana.  When my MIL found out about the death, she asked the children of the deceased to pay for her plane ticket from Florida to New Jersey.

Let me backtrack: I have never met my Husband’s Aunt, nor the cousins, nor his Uncle when he was alive.  Obviously, it wasn’t a distance thing because they only live an hour away from us.  I never met them because my Mother in Law hadn’t spoken to her brother in about twenty years.  They reconciled about eight years ago, sort of, and then he passed about two years ago.  But to be clear, the relationship was contentious.  And now, well, now there’s no relationship again.

See, oddly, the family of the deceased did not take kindly to my MIL asking for a plane ticket. After my MIL’s third email about the trip up from the funeral, the daughter of the deceased called up screaming.  And my MIL hung up on her.

When Husband relayed this story to me, I just looked at him and said- “everyone remembers that your cousins Mom just died, right? That even though it was expected, it’s still hard and she’s raw? And that the “job” of those around her is to make her feel a little better about her loss? Not to aggravate her?” My husband just shrugged his shoulders.

If I wrote this story in a book, people would say I wasn’t being realistic, that this would never happen in real life. But as we all know, truth is stranger than fiction.  And people act in mysterious ways. I’m sure when my MIL relays this story to her friends she will undoubtedly make herself the victim (let’s face it, we all spin stories so that we show that we are wronged)

So the moral of the story is: think about what you’re saying and what you’re doing.  Think about how your actions affect those around you.  Consider for a brief moment what they are going through. And try to act in a way that is true to yourself, but considerate of those around you. And don’t hang up on a person who is grieving because they’re not doing what you want them to do.

 

Advertisements

Do You Want to Know?

I recently read “The Immortalists” by Chloe Benjamin.  This is not a review of the book, but rather a look at it’s main hypothesis.  I don’t consider anything I am about to write in the spoiler category, be forewarned.

The basic premise of this book revolves around knowing the exact date that you will die.  So my question is:  if you knew when you were going to die, would you live your life differently?

I have given this a lot of thought since reading the book.  How would I live my life?

I have a tremendous fear of heights, but mainly it revolves around falling.  If I am in an observatory, I am fine looking down as long as the environment is enclosed.  If it’s open, well, I’m twenty feet away from the edge.  Some of you remember my summer lighthouse adventure, when I was felled by the 15 steps I had to climb down, and I actually considered moving into the top of the lighthouse.  But really, I’m afraid of falling because I’m afraid of dying.  If I knew that I was not going to die the day of the lighthouse visit, would I descend the stairs more calmly because I knew this was not to be my day?

Then you have the other side.  One of the reasons I exercise is to keep healthy.  I think exercise is good for the heart, the muscles and the brain.  I think it helps you live longer.  But what if i found out my demise would be early?  Would I spend my time doing something I enjoy more, like laying on the couch reading?  Would I spend my time being less healthy because trying to be healthy doesn’t really matter because it’s not going to actually effect my life?

Though I usually overthink everything, including trips to the dry cleaner, I am amazed that I have never thought about this idea.  I guess the rational part of my brain knows that this kind of knowledge is not logical.  This is not something even computers can predict with any great accuracy, and I don’t believe a Buzzfeed quiz would be helpful either.  So rationally, I’m out.

But….

I like to think I am open minded.  I like to think that everything is possible until proven otherwise.  But is it possible to predict the day of demise?  And does it matter?

What do you all think?  Is it possible to know?  Do you want to know?  Would you live your life differently?

 

Ensemble

It’s odd how some things come together.  One blogger friend writes about a word every day, and how it impacts his life.  Another blogger friend wrote about characters in TV shows.  And yet another wrote about the theme music on Good Times.  My friends father died last week.  This past weekend was the birthday of a dear friend of mine who passed away 7 years ago.  A fourth blogger has been posting about the end of his life, as cancer has taken over his body.  Today’s blog is inspired by all these things- it’s an ensemble.

When my daughter was in Pre-k, I met 4 parents.  Our children were all in the same class.  This was our first experience with the New York City public school system- these were our first (and for most) only children.  We had a lot to learn.  Parenting is so hard- we were afraid that we were screwing up at every turn. We needed support, so our little band of five was formed.  Our own personal ensemble cast- there wasn’t really a star (OK it was me….) but a group of great supporting actors.  We began meeting for coffee every morning after drop off.

These friends literally got me through early elementary school.  If I had an issue, a problem, an idea about child rearing- I threw it out to the group.  This was my safe space- where I could ask questions, give advice, laugh and cry.  These were my people.  We were what the best ensembles were- a collaboration of people, who alone were okay, but together could change the world.  Or run a school event.  Same thing.

But we were geeks- specifically about pop culture.  We read, we watched movies, we watched TV.  We all loved sit coms.  We would quote from sit coms as a part of our daily lives.  We would have debates over shows, and characters, and favorite episodes.  We could relate almost any situation on our lives directly to a TV show- this is like the Chinese restaurant in Seinfeld, this is like the Smelly Cat episode on Friends.

Then, when our kids were in third grade- G wasn’t feeling so well.  He went to doctor after doctor- but no one could see anything wrong.  Until they did.  He got the prognosis on the morning of the spring parent teacher conferences.  As we sat in the pizza place with the kids, eating our now traditional half day of school lunch- we could not look at one another.  While the kids still retained their innocence- the adults did not.  Nothing would ever be the same again.  Six weeks later he was gone.

His memorial service- hundreds of people- including his Grandmother- stood around eating mini hot dogs, drinking Dirty Martini’s (his drink)- wondering how this could happen to a 45 year old man, wo had three little kids.  We held each other, cried and laughed, and cried some more.  When I spoke to the crowd, I held back the tears- G would not want be to cry during the eulogy.  He would want me to remember him the way he lived his life- and I did my best.  I told stories about our little band of 5- how we would spend hours talking about nothing- which was really everything.  And I ended my speech with a quote from Frasier, our favorite show.  On the series finale, Niles says to his brother, “I’ll miss the coffees.”  And that was the bet way to sum up an amazing friendship and amazing person.

Last weekend would have been his 53rd birthday- the same age I turned this year.  And I still miss his laugh, his wit, his biting satire, his humanity, and his take on pop culture.  His presence in my life changed me- for the better.  I’m a better person for having known him.

And remember way back in the first paragraph?  All those things?  Our lives, our stories, are made of little bits and pieces of everything around us.  Anything can trigger a memory, or an idea.  And all those things made me think of G, on his birthday.  And made me cry a little, and made me laugh a little.

And thanks to the following, who unknowingly inspired me:

https://www.thisismytruthnow.com/

http://theycallmetater.wordpress.com/

http://www.thatsoulshit.wordpress.com/

http://www.spearfruit.com/-  Courage and honor.