Tag Archives: memories

Finding Humor in Death

“We may laugh about everything. We must laugh about everything – even death. Especially death. After all, does death show any qualm about laughing at us?” – Pierre Desproges

Last week, I decided to join my husband on a trip to Puerto Rico. I thought it would be great to get out of the snow, lay by a pool and sip tiny tropical beverages for week. And God laughed at me. Hard. Pretty sure it was the kind of laughter that ended in snorts.

Less than 12 hours before I was supposed to fly out, I found out that my brother passed away.

Insert long, heavy pause here.

Since I don’t want to bore bring anyone down with the details, I will leave it at that this was a surprise.

I did decide to go on vacation and, yes, I have spent roughly 1/4 of my time crying randomly around Old San Juan, convincing the locals that we mainland gringos really are crazy. But I have also brought forth great memories of my brother, which also spawned crazy crying. Here’s a sample.

1. I was born on the mean streets of LA (okay, it was the valley). Consequently, I did not see snow in person until I was 5 or 6. My parents thought I should experience the horror wonder that is snow, so we trundled up to the mountains and pulled off to the side of the road and played in a random patch of snow.

Side note… My parents sure know how to make “baby’s first snowfall” special. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and instead of assuming they are lazy for not taking us to a “proper snow patch” I’ll pretend a snow-covered turnout in the mountains was the perfect plan.

Of course initial wonderment devolved into a snowball fight. I gleefully lobbed snowballs at my brother, and in turn, he put snow down my back.

It was the best of times. It was the frostiest of times. I am lucky I didn’t end up with hypothermia. Thanks for the snow slushie, big brother.

2. When I was growing up, I LOVED Pee Wee’s Playhouse, and that show was something that gave my brother and me something to bond on. Before this, it was hard to find common ground with him. He was in high school and I was watching Snorks. I mean, seriously. What is he going to ask me? “So…how’s that finger painting coming along? Have you learned to paint within the lines yet?”

Pee Wee was a gateway drug that led him to introducing me to Pink Floyd, muscle cars, and other things that made me more well rounded, and most importantly to my teenage self, more attractive to boys. I am sure this is not what my brother had in mind, but I’ll just say it was a delightful benefit.

3. When he was a teenager, my brother bought a truck. So, of course he was expected to play chauffeur for his baby sister. One day he picked me up from school. I was younger (we will say 3rd grade because I really don’t know when it happened, only that I was little) and sitting in the front seat with him.

Let that settle in. I am in roughly 3rd grade and in the front seat of a pickup truck.  Long live the unsafe 80s.

As we are driving and chatting, I notice he has these little containers of creamer in his cupholder. I pick one up and for whatever reason known only to my childhood self, decide to open it. Pickup trucks are bumpy. Creamer tends to build up lactic acid, making it swell with air.

I think you can guess what happens next. I cover my brother’s sweet ride in coffee creamer. He was not amused. I feared for my life. I don’t remember what the outcome was, but since I am here and he is not (nothing like a little gallows humor to spice things up), I can only assume I ran to my dad who was bigger and tougher than my brother and he fixed everything.

4. Speaking of the gallows, my brother had a dark sense of humor. It’s something that runs in my family. Kind of like poop through a goose.

For a period of time, my brother received phone calls from someone asking for a person named Metahia. He was polite and explained that the caller had the wrong number. Unfortunately, the caller didn’t speak English and kept calling back, asking for Metahia.

My brother took a logical leap and decided the caller spoke Spanish (before any reader gets uppity, please remember I was living in the San Fernando Valley where everything is bilingual English/Spanish). So, he learned how to say that Metahia wasn’t there and the caller had the wrong number. When the mystery guest phoned again, my brother used his magic phrase and hung up. You’d think that would be the end of it. Nope. Not long afterward, he got another call for Metahia.

No wonder Metahia didn’t give her family the right phone number. They never give up. I’d want to avoid them too.

In a fit of frustration, my brother shouts, “Metahia esta muerto.”

There was silence on the other end and the caller hung up. You might think that is cruel, but, it did stop the phone calls. I think everyone wins in that situation.

I have so many more wonderful memories, more than four anyway, and I look forward to reminiscing with my family when we gather to say goodbye. There will be dark jokes, and playful jabs; all part of this crazy family that is mine, all mine. God help us all.

Don’t worry. Right now I am in my black crepe and wearing a jet necklace, but I promise to put on my half-mourning garb soon and spin a delightfully funny take on the other reasons I should not have taken this vacation.

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Ghosts of the Past

Every night, I check on my children before I go to bed. It’s not simply to make sure they are covered up and sleeping comfortably, but to assure myself that a) they have not been kidnapped and b) they have not died in their sleep.

Feel free to laugh. I know it’s ridiculous. Honestly, what are the odds that in the two hours between them going to bed and me going to sleep, that something horrific would happen? But, for some reason I cannot sleep until I know that my kids are safe and sound.

Yes, I am a control freak (there is a place for everything, and everything must go in its place!). But, I think it’s more than that. For many years, I worked in a newsroom. The stories that flowed through the hallways ran the gamut from waterskiing squirrels to co-eds who were kidnapped and murdered. Somehow, for most of those years, I managed to compartmentalize and treat them like they were a story. Fiction. Something that had to be told and forgotten.

Then, I found out I was pregnant. Blindsided by the awesomesauce news, I found myself an emotional and hormonal wreck. And wouldn’t you know it? That’s when so many stories about babies dying from SIDS or drowning in a pool surfaced. Honestly, for every baby-in-peril story reported on air, there are three that are tossed aside. Finally, I left the great news business and found work in a beige cubicle.

The phantoms of my old life linger. I still tense up whenever I hear the chirp of a Nextel (that was how I was alerted to breaking news), and when I hear about a tornado or other weather event, I think about the video that needs to be shot and uploaded to the internet.

But, overall, what remains is how precious life is. So, now, instead of running to the newsroom when the world goes to hell in a handbasket, I run to my kids. I hold them close, inhale their sweet baby scent and relish the fact that I have one more day to enjoy their laughter and more time to be completely drained by their boundless energy.

Parenting, the hardest job you’ll ever love.

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January 17, 2014 · 3:22 am