It has been a month since my fiance lost his father, since the call that after a certain age, I think we are biologically programmed to know we will receive, but end up never being fully prepared for. It came without warning, on the heels of the good news that I was employed once more. Our phone was out at the time, and we had to travel the short drive to my sister’s home to call the cousin that had emailed Josh, telling him to call her…it was urgent.
We’ve all lost someone; there is no need to rehash the details of something that everyone has or will one day share. What struck me then, and continues to strike me weeks later, are the reactions of the people around me, including my own and Josh’s. Little things that I take out of my memory and look at like a morbid little mini scrapbook, with pictures of love and smartassery on the pages. The gentlemen involved got all manfully annoyed at me for making a big deal of it, but when our good friend Demko arrived at a graduation party we attended the next night, he put his arm around Josh and Josh hugged him back, and for a moment Josh laid his head, just for a second or two, on Demko’s shoulder, in a way that men never do when things are fine and good and fart jokes are more appropriate. I squeed aloud and made a joke about hetero man love and the boys got all hurrumphy and told me to stop making a big deal of it, but it was one of the most touching things I had seen in a long time.
My family are extremely irreverent about sickness, death, and dying. Through three grandparents deaths from stroke, cancer, and just plain antiquity, we have made every inappropriate joke you can think of. My mother’s diabetes has offered up reams of humourous material, including my calling her “Helen Keller” when, in addition to being blind as a mole, she was having trouble hearing me one day. During a stint in the ICU a few years aback, the nurses looked on, aghast, as my fascinated sister and I made my mother laugh because it “made the monitors jump like she was coding”. Hilarious!
When Josh and his cousins started talking about the plan to send his dad’s ashes down here, the inevitable coffee can jokes began. He wished to be spread in a canyon in California (real convenient, Mike!) and I immediately mock worried that we would inadvertently recreate the scene towards the end of The Big Lebowski where the ashes fly at Jeff Bridges’ face. “Don’t accidentally make coffee out of him”, I also joked to Josh. And Josh got it, and ran with it, and there was some back and forth along the lines of the best part of waking up was not Dad in your cup, or some such. Totally not acceptable, but it worked for us.
The most recent episode of How I Met Your Mother featured the death of one of the lead character’s dads, the emotions of disbelief and horror excruciatingly and realistically rendered by the actors. I saw the rather twist-y ending coming not three seconds before Josh did, and I lunged to turn off the tv before the scene played out. Josh stopped me and insisted he was fine. I think I cried more then then I did at any other point after he got the news. I won’t try to analyse why. Josh’s dad and I didn’t always get along well, but he gave me Josh, and Josh loved him dearly, and when his remains arrive on our doorstep, I am going to hug that coffee can to me and tell him I that I think, in his own slightly bumbling way, that he was good to the very last drop.