I hate to keep harping on the people that say stupid things to me, but today after the funeral at the reception, someone I barely knew in the congregation came up to me and said, “I know you lost your mother a few months ago. Is your father still alive?” WHISKEY. TANGO. FOXTROT? I told her yes, that my parents were and are very young, and that my dad is really healthy now that he’s mostly done with surgery (one facial reconstruction left, and it’s minor). In my infinite snarkiness, I wish I’d said something like “yeah, he’s still alive, but most of the time he’s too drunk to come to the phone.” I can’t take credit for that one. One of our church members at St. Mark’s, a perpetual trouble maker, used to tell me to say that to people when they called the parsonage. I must have been in grade 7 or 8. I never did it, of course, but in the moment soda came out of my nose and I thought I was literally going to die of laughter.
I did, however, answer the phone “Lanagan summer home…. summer home, summer not…” a few times. When I was in the car with my dad, I used to answer his cell phone “David Lanagan’s rolling office, how may I help you?” Incidentally, I come by this snarkiness naturally. When the church was empty and it was just my dad working in his office and I was upstairs in the youth room playing pool, the way he told me to come downstairs was to get on the loudspeaker and you could hear “attention, K-Mart shoppers, we have a Blue Light Special…” ringing throughout the austin stone cathedral.
I know this woman meant well, I really do. But the way she said it irked me just the right way and I hope my face didn’t show it. I think she was just making conversation, but if I had a piece of advice, it would have been not to lead with that.
Now, if it had been someone I’d actually talked to more than twice (if that- I didn’t know her name and it was clear she didn’t know mine, either), I might have been a little more gracious in my thought process. Outwardly, I said I was going on vacation with my dad and my sister next weekend. On the inside, I was all like, “who does this bitch think she is?” I also wouldn’t have minded if we’d been engrossed in conversation and it naturally came up. Let me tell you, it was not the greatest of opening lines.
The thing is, though, I don’t get to write the scripts. I just get to choose how I react. Most of the time this is stuffing down whatever I’m feeling and using my preacher’s kid patois as to act unaffected by idiocy. It comes in handy. I just hope that I can keep at it, because the last thing I would want to happen is to come unglued on some poor unsuspecting little old lady.
Oy gevalt.The amazement and shock I feel as I walk through the world reciting the Kaddish feels akin to being hit by a bus. Sometimes this is because I am lost in my own little world and someone has interrupted it. Most of the time, it’s that someone has caught me completely off-guard with something so insensitive that it burns, but, of course, they have no idea that it’s insensitive. It’s the only reason I’m not angry and bitter when it happens. Very few people know what to say to the grieving, and I just have to rely on the feeling that they mean well, even when my inner impulse is to look across the room and say, “oh look! I have to go. I see better people.”