I exist in the kind of world where important things get flushed down the toilet. Understand that I mean this quite literally. Yes, I’ve made mistakes and broken up with people for no reason. I also once swallowed a dust-bunny at an audition and choked on it in the middle of a Mozart aria. I thereby figuratively “flushed” those opportunities down an imaginary toilet but, I mean that I flush actual things down the actual toilet: A manual breast pump at an Ethiopian restaurant, my blackberry at an 80s hipster bar, and today, a 24-carat gold brooch that spelled my name in cursive writing.
This was the first thing I did upon my arrival at work this morning. I went to the big, gender neutral bathroom, and my brooch jumped off my sweater, landed in the toilet water, and before I could muster the strength to plunge my hand in there, the automatic flusher thing flushed. When I think of how much time I’ve spent peering into a toilet and thinking, “I really don’t want to stick my hand in there,” I shudder. I will never get this time back and most of the items do not survive the dive. So why do I bother? Why do I mourn them? (for so long, that is…)
I don’t think it’s wrong to smile when you’re grieving. Tears don’t undo contamination or repair short-circuits. I don’t think it’s wrong to cry and scream either but while these actions relieve tension, they won’t bring anything back to life. My life goes on, without the brooch, without the blackberry, even without the breast pump. I remember those items, I laugh at my butterfingers, I regret that I’ve wasted money. Then, I try to do better, and, I go on. My question du jour is: How do I impress this upon my 6-year old, currently elbow deep in an existential crisis brought on by The Book of Life, a cartoon involving dia de los muertos.
We just had a party last weekend and it was complete chaos. My mother’s oldest sister’s ex-husband’s cousin and her new boyfriend Jerry were in town, so naturally, my mother planned a big family party and invited everyone over for 1pm. My partner, who has zero time-management skills due to ADHD, decided at 10:00am, to begin making soppressata. I love a salami but timing is also important. Picture our kitchen at 11:45am, covered in raw pork. The kids, my partner, and I still in pyjamas. I thought to myself (but never truly believed) that we might get it all cleaned up before anyone arrived.
No dice. My mother rings the doorbell at 11:50am with baguettes and rotisserie chickens and pizza and beer and ginger ale and a giant Caesar salad but there is nowhere to put any of it because salami (and ADHD). As we’re struggling with this, the doorbell rings again. My mother’s oldest sister’s ex-husband’s cousin and her new boyfriend Jerry have arrived, a full hour early. Nobody is dressed, the kitchen is covered in botulism, and our lunch is still in grocery bags all over the hallway. The baby has pooped and my 6-year old wanders by saying, “What does it all mean? Why did God put us here if we are just going to die? Death is all I can think about.” I open a party-beer and take it with me to shower.
After a few days of my pint-sized Nietzsche philosophizing about the purposelessness of all things, our abandonment by God, and whether the spirit of his dead grandfather can now see him peeing (since spirits are everywhere), I am growing deeply concerned. Does he need a doctor? A priest? A happier cartoon about dia de los muertos? More exercise? More vegetables? I just don’t know. With the help of friends and fellow parents, I am starting a list of books to help little kids cope with grief and I actually plan on reading them with my kid… But not today. Today, I will handle it my way: By making the entire family (my 5 and 6 year-old, the baby, and my mother) join me in performing a choreography to Let’s Get Loud by Jennifer Lopez.