Over the holidays, I lost an uncle I haven’t seen in a decade, and a friend had a serious heart attack and is still in the hospital, not quite conscious. By all accounts, he has an impressive number of tubes going in and out of him. I don’t know; I haven’t seen him yet. I mean, why bother? He won’t even know I’ve been there.
The death I heard about from Mom shortly after I got home, who got it from my dad’s brother’s wife. The family’s never been really close, but they do keep in touch. Being another generation farther along, I hear very little of what’s going on with them. The news caused no ripple at all. I find it impossible to feel bad about someone’s death when I barely remember them.
I never understood the media misery exhibited when someone famous dies. I mean, unless you’re related or they’re a good friend, what do you have invested that their death makes you drag around in mourning? I asked JJ about it.
“Am I a bad person because I don’t curl up in a ball and weep when some celebrity bites it?”
“Um, I don’t know. Why are you asking?” JJ was busy doing the crossword and only lending me half an ear.
“Amy Winehouse croaked and people were carrying on about what a loss it was. Fellow celebrities were tweeting about how sad it was. Why?”
“Because her death deprived the world of her talent, I guess. What’s the answer for ‘to leap or cause to toss’?”
“Saute. No, she deprived the world by being a drug addict.”
“Damn, that fits.” He penciled in the letters. “Have you ever been addicted to anything?”
“Yes, cigarettes. They were a bitch to quit, but I did it.”
“Are you implying she could have quit drugs if she’d tried? Because not all people have that kind of strength.”
“It’s not like she didn’t know how serious it was. She was in rehab, I think.”
“Dunno. Not a big fan.”
I tossed a squeaky toy for Suki. They have to squeak or she shows no interest. “The point is, I didn’t care that she croaked. I figure she died the way she wanted to…high as hell. But then everyone was carrying on so, I wondered why I didn’t feel one way or another about it.” Suki stuck her butt in the air and closed her tiny jaws around the shark, making it squeak. “Bring it back,” I told her. She rolled her eyes at me, continuing to depress the squeaker. “Then Steve Jobs died and again, I felt nothing. The guy had a hell of a run, racking up an incredible fortune and leaving behind a terrific legacy and who knows what else he would have invented if he’d lived a while longer? But…nada. I shrugged and wondered why everyone was lighting candles for him.”
“How did you react when your dad died?”
“I…sort of withdrew from everything while I handled the details. Mom was a wreck.”
“Did you cry?”
“I got misty a couple of times. Does that count?”
He gave me an incredulous look. “You never cried for your father?”
“We weren’t close. He was one of those cold, distant dads. You can say it. I’m a hard-hearted asshole.”
“You’re not. I’ve seen you cry over commercials, for chrissakes. Maybe…you just have an easier time accepting death than most people do. You’re cool with it, right?”
“Everything and everyone dies.”
“Exactly.” He returned to his crossword. “How about this? ‘Horrifying depiction.’ Seven letters, ‘c’ is the third.”
“Macabre. Can we go out tonight? I’m in the mood for food!” I half-sang the last three words the way Cruise had said ‘need for speed’ in Top Gun. The only reason to watch that film is the volleyball scene.
“Fine by me.”
Suki finally brought the shark back, and I tossed it again. While I’m not looking forward to dying, death itself doesn’t have much of an impact on me. It never has. When I was in seventh grade, a classmate suffered a brain aneurysm, went into a coma, and died two days later. Copious tears were wept, but not by me. Yes, it was sad, but it had no real effect on me or my life.
On the other hand, a cat I once had was run over by a vehicle and I immediately burst into tears. A beloved dog suffered torsion of the chest and expired on the way to the vet. I cried all afternoon.
Sometimes, I don’t understand myself at all.