Currently, I have three posts in the works. The first is about what makes something funny. I have been poking and probing at this question like a six-year-old pokes and prods the hole in his gums when he loses a tooth. I'm not sure I have any answers, but it will be an interesting discussion, as I'm sure you're going to recognize a few of my observations in those around you. I envision that post will be a semi-serious look at the different types of "funny" that exist, and why some people and things are funny and some aren't. It will also include some truly effed-up pictures of our company's nativity set as an example.
The second post is about living in rural America and how there is absolutely no controls on what your mailbox has to look like. You would not believe some of the shit around here that passes for a U.S. Mail receptacle.
The third post is this one, and it's about this particular on-going holiday season. And since that's the one I chose to open with, that's the reason this post isn't going to be funny. It's going to be sad, and maybe a little bit angry, and I'm going to say some stuff in it that I need to get off my chest. It seems to be the thing lately to use your blog as an outlet for something that it's not usually used for; to break out of the mold a bit and change up the format. Maybe it's something in the air, I'm not sure. So this post, while probably not appropriate for a humor blog (as I've come to call it - your opinion may differ) also might be a little hopeful in the end, and help me to sort out a few things. At the very least, maybe it'll help you guys who are reading this who are currently in or have been in a similar situation. Maybe, in some way, it'll help to know that you're not alone, and JV is out here pullin' for ya.
To lay it on the table, I have two people in my life who are currently dying. One I care about deeply, the other, well...not so much. That being said, however, both have impacted my life, and continue to do so. As a result, I'm having a hard time finding humor in things, and I'm afraid I've been phoning in my last month's posts in a (misguided?) effort to inject some levity into my life in spite of everything that's going on.
The weird thing is, I find it actually does help, but I'm not sure I'm doing you any service, since I presume that you come here to be entertained, and if I'm doing my job at all, you get a smile out of whatever it is that I wrote. So --If after this post I continue to be unfunny, well, I apologize in advance.
I was never really sure about this whole blogging thing anyway. People I work with (Special Dark, you bastard) have told me that I'm not as funny in person. While my first reaction was a sincere "eff you" -- I have to say that I actually agree with him (that bastard).
I thought about why that is, and it comes down to one thing: I'm pretty introverted and quiet, and as a result, when I am with a group of people I mostly don't ever say what I'm thinking. At any rate, that's part of my current dilemma. As a bona-fide introvert, I have a tendency to go into hibernation mode when I'm in a funk or under stress, and not want to socialize or be as supportive as I could be under more normal circumstances, which even then takes a lot out of me. I'll get to why that's an issue in a moment.
It's been over five years since my mother died, and the first time around for every holiday was incredibly tough. The first Mother's Day. The first Thanksgiving. The first Christmas. The first time her birthday came and went, and I wasn't able to call her up. My friend shop dungs is going through that now, and I know how difficult and incredibly sad this Christmas will be for him. I wish there was something I could do, but I know that there really isn't. Telling him that it "gets better with time" sounds incredibly trite, even though it's mostly true. The wounds are still too raw for any of that crap advice to have any meaning. It only means something when you discover it for yourself; when you've had the time to get used to the pain, and then begin to heal.
Right now, it's my wife's turn to feel raw inside and mad at life. It's her grandmother who is lying in a nursing home, unresponsive and being fed through a tube in her stomach wall, a result of a stroke almost a month ago. Her father had been battling skin cancer, which last week he found out has spread to his lungs, liver, stomach and adrenal glands. The doctors say he has maybe 6 months. My wife's grandmother is everything to her, and practically raised her. Their bond is one of friendship, mutual respect and an immense love.
Her father means almost nothing to her. He has basically ignored her all his life unless he needed something, and he's the most cold-hearted, self-centered person I've ever met in my life. His dying might not seem like an issue unless you know my wife, who is one of the most caring people I know. It causes her no end of guilt that she feels very little for her own dying father. He's not helping the situation in the slightest, which is typical for him. I didn't think it was possible to dislike someone as much as I have learned to dislike him over the years. He's a taker who has a sense of entitlement that makes me want to smash his face. The only saving grace in this whole debacle is that her grandmother doesn't have to watch her only son die -- If you can call that a grace of any sort.
Therein lies my problem. I feel like I have to be upbeat and supportive for her, yet all I want to do is go into lock-down hibernation mode. I don't want to be funny. I want to sit in my office and write shit like this. I want to forget about the hard choices that I'm sure she and her grandfather are going to have to make. I want to wish myself into next year, and maybe bypass all the heartache that is bearing down on us. Mostly, I want to sit in a corner near the woodstove and lick my wounds like a hurt animal.
But I can't.
I have to be there for my wife and her grandfather, who is one of the nicest, bravest, most inspiring men I've ever known. I'll tell his story some day. In the meantime, all I can do is watch, and offer support where and when I can. I'm not always good at it, I admit. I'm not perfect, and so I sometimes take the easy way out. It's a constant fight between what I feel I should do and what I have the strength to actually do. So hit me with the good mojo, because I'm going to need it. We all are.
The reason I'm writing this now is because I got blindsided in a Toastmaster's meeting today. I'm shitty at public speaking because of that whole "introvert" thing -- so I decided that even though the thought made me physically sick, I was going to join Toastmaster's. It's about nerdy as you'd think it would be, but it does get you speaking in front of a group. For those of you who don't know, at every Toastmaster's meeting there's a thing called "Table Topics" which basically means that they ask a random question on a random subject, and then choose someone to talk about it for 30 seconds. I got picked. The question was, "If you had the chance, and money and power were no object, what would you give to someone you care about as a Christmas present?" Before I even knew what I was saying, I said, "I'd make my wife's dad not have terminal cancer and I'd take away her grandmother's stroke." You could have heard a pin drop. In a room full of people I barely know, I blurted this out for no good reason other than it was what was on my mind.
I thought I was handling things pretty well until that exact moment, when I sat there in stunned silence with tears in my eyes. It was then that I realized that I had to write some of this down, just to get it out and maybe try to make some sense of what I was feeling. Unfortunately for you, I followed through with that, and this gibberish is the result.
I guess if there's a message to this post, it has to be one of hope and healing. Hope that the future holds joys and contentment that you might find it hard to imagine now. Whether you're dealing with loss, impending loss or just plain loneliness, remember this: You can plan for tomorrow, but don't do it at the expense of the present. As crappy as it may have been, take some time out to look at today, and the people you shared it with. Call your friends. E-mail or IM them if you have to. Call your parents, and your grandparents, if you're lucky enough to still have them around. Tell them how thankful you are that they're in your life, even if they're a giant pain in the ass most of the time. Tell them how much they mean to you, and tell them why. Or if that's too hard, just tell them that you love them, because you never know when a conversation you're having with someone you care about will be the last one you ever have. I can't remember the last thing my mother and I talked about before she died, and that still bothers me. Knowing her, I'm sure it was something that made me laugh, which makes it even more difficult.
It can all go away in an instant, and if it does, you don't want regrets. Talk about the good times you've had with the people you love, because those memories may be the only thing that gets you through the bad times.
As my father always tells me, you have to do what you can for the people in your life.
Then he usually adds, "Unless they're an asshole."
Advice to live by, my friends.
I'll be back with something funnier later this week. I promise.
(Like that will be tough, right? Hey I warned you in the subject line. You just never listen.)