Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Family Christmas Quotes

My family can be particularly funny, as I'm sure many families can. Here are some highlights from this weekend's family Christmas.

One of my uncles: "Without cats, there would be no Internet."

My cousin came through the rec room with a cookie, Elka hot on her trail. My grandfather asked "What is that, a cookie? You're not going to give that to her, are you?" My cousin said "No." He said "Good, you shouldn't. I'm an old man, though, and don't know what's going on."

A little later, my aunt came through the rec room with a piece of leftover ham. Elka's nose caught the ham currents on the air, and she zeroed in and sat down in front of said aunt, staring intently. When no ham seemed forthcoming, she showed off her begging trick, which is throwing her left paw into the air to "Testify". My aunt's eyes got big, and she said "What was that?"  I said "Oh, she just loves Jesus. Elka, are you full of the Holy Spirit?" and Elka threw her paw in the air again. Then each aunt and uncle got called in to see the testifying Doberman, so I threw in a "Pray with me" (I hold out both hands and she puts her paws in them) for good measure. My other aunt laughed and said "Oh, we're all going to hell."

One of my aunts: "well, as it turns out, breasts are meant to move, and you're supposed to touch them."

One of my uncles: "What, we're opening the box of Twinkies? Aren't they worth more intact? Can't we sell them on eBay? That might be the last box of Twinkies in the world. The other ones are in peoples' fallout shelters."
Me: "Yeah, with the Crystal Pepsi."
My uncle: "I think I'll pass on that."
My aunt: "Where did those Twinkies come from?"
My other aunt: "they were a gift for the whole family."

My aunt: "When we celebrate Christmas not on Christmas, I don't know what day it is."
My uncle: "It's Sunday. You know how I know? The church up the block from us had the street all parked up."

Monday, December 17, 2012

Brain tricks

Some things are so bad that they don't seem real. We don't want them to, right? I think it's a defense mechanism. Rather than thinking about the horrible, our brain kind of puts a blanket around our shoulders and guides use to the back of the ambulance for the hot chocolate and Valium.

Example: September 11, 2001. I can still picture clearly, viscerally, seeing the smoking towers through an open door on my next-door dorm neighbor's tiny television perched atop her also diminutive fridge. I've been to New York City a couple of times since that date; the first trip was when they were doing that twin beams of light thing.

I still default to thinking that the towers are there. Eleven years on, and it's still a surprise. It just seemed so impossible.

I also did not personally lose anybody on September 11. Nobody in New York City, nobody in Washington, DC, nobody on a plane. It was a shared national tragedy, but it was not personally mine.


Example: Loved ones that you know have passed away are alive in your dreams. I don't mean "oh, do you remember when...?" alive, I mean alive. Actually there, so that when you wake up you think "I need to call so and so and tell them about...." or "I should email those pictures to..." and then the crestfallen pause. Those would be calls and letters to nowhere.


Example: School shootings. No school I've ever attended has had such an instance occur. I remember when Columbine happened; I remember the "disaster drills" that my school did, the way some rules changed about people visiting the school. I remember watching the loop on television of that police officer waving that fire truck through (or was it an ambulance?) over and over. I remember people blaming the trenchcoats, blaming the video games, blaming guns.

There's always the finger pointing, isn't there? Another defense mechanism, I think. "That would never have happened if....", "Somebody really should have.....", "Why didn't they ever...."   Questions unanswered.

These things have been going on for a very long time. They are not an American problem, they are not a video game problem, they are not a Dungeons and Dragons problem. I don't know what kind of a problem they are, just what they are not.

However.

I will not be "lighting" any candles on the Internet. I will not be sharing Facebook photographs of the deceased. I will not presume what it was like to have been there and survived. I will not presume to know what the families of those who were there and did not survive feel.

Every grief is different. Every grief is personal.

I hear rumblings that in the DSM-V that's eventually coming out, "normal" grieving will be given a timeline, and then after that it's a diagnosable disorder. As a writer, words fail me when I try to articulate just how horrible this is. On the one hand, if an individual's bereavement is destroying their life, then yes, they should be able to get quantifiable help, and everybody knows that insurance companies need hard facts (or that's what the Internet tells me). But that isn't something you can put a timeline on. Everybody's "normal" is different.