i am struggling to put together the right words to talk about the deaths i’ve grieved this summer.
a friend lost the 2nd love of her life last weekend. another friend lost his dad and his wife lost a best friend, both after so many years of struggle. and another friend of mine died earlier this month out of nowhere after kicking the shit out of cancer last year, just when everyone had started to breathe again. and then, of course, there was my grandpa in the spring. although death at 91 doesn’t seem especially uncalled for, he was still THE BEST and a giant presence in our life and now hole in our family.
so I’m just not even going to try to make nice word necklaces to hang around this hurt. C.S. Lewis said all the things that need to be said about death in the simplest, most perfect of terms in his, ‘A Grief, Observed.’ genius things like “the death of a beloved is an amputation.” i mean- yes. that’s exactly it. yes, that. simple. exposing the bones of it. perfect.
so i’m not even going to try. instead, i’m going to attempt to find the humor around me and write it down. because Patty “Pepperbee” liked my writing (i liked hers!) and thought i was funny (so was she!) and sometimes people need to laugh. and because i don’t know what the fuck else to do (she would not have loved that i use that word. she was, like, the BEST Catholic since Maria von Trapp).
SO……here’s a silly story for you, Patty. (side note: i’m reading nick offerman’s “Gumption” right now and he refers to himself as a “giggle pusher” which I think is brilliant and wonderful and i long to be able to consider myself a giggle pusher as well, someday).
anyway. so i was out with girlfriends the other night at this cool new restaurant. let me start by saying that we are not cool. well, at least ‘i’ am not cool. they are staying pretty with it and have at least some idea of what’s happening in the world. (like i bet they know what a nae nae is. i literally do NOT know and have NOT bothered to look it up because i don’t want to google “what is a nae nae” like all the other old ladies. i think it has to do with being whipped or something?).
anyway. my friends and i are old and have small children and are tired instead of cool. but we got away for a night and went to this brand new hipster restaurant/bar. it lives in this neighborhood in this city both best known for taking punches. but now there are restaurants like this one, trying to reinvent the scene with cocktails decked out with sprigs of lavender and food dishes that all have their own dips that are not ketchup or cheese.
for a long time only wooden boards across windows and bodies of the homeless found abandoned in buildings was what was happening in that part of town…as far as us outsiders knew. (side note again, there’s more going on, in these neighborhoods and the cool blend of humans that inhabit them. there’s a free clinic (the oldest in the state) nearby that was run by the boldest, most activated women (nuns, actually, speaking of Mrs. von Trapp) in the world. i used to work for them. and it was an experience. a story for another time).
AND NOW THE HIPSTERS HAVE FOUND THE AREA AND MOVED RIGHT IN. and they’ve certainly brought their beards.
so myself and two of my girlfriends went to check out the newest of these intimidating hip places.
we felt a bit like retired farm animals dropped into a safari. ‘oh, bessie. why do they all wear stripes and have birds sitting on them? and what is that they’re drinking? they keep insisting its craft brew in their watering hole.’
we did not fit in.
we were seated in the window, which i think the hostess immediately regretted, because we probably were giving the wrong impression to passers by about what kind of establishment this was. possibly we even brought the property value down. we obviously use our phones to look at pictures of our kids when we’re away from them instead of Tinder-ing. (that’s a thing, right?) the more she and our waiter tried to sneakily get us to leave, the more we stayed and the louder we got. “have you ever snap chatted? oh, NO…what’s a snap chat? is that like a lip dub? is that the same as smash dub? and do you have to send penis pictures? like what are you supposed to do if you don’t personally have a penis?’ it went on like that for a long time.
the hostess was in her early 20’s and dressed in cute, casual clothes without a nametag or clipboard or podium or any indicator that she was the hostess or even that she worked there. when we walked in, she made eye contact and smiled at my friend, which i took to mean she and my friend knew each other.
and then when we sat down, this very adorable, bright eyed young lad of 10 or 11? (also probably early 20s) took our orders for foods and drinks.
we were never actually positive he worked there, either, because he was charmingly clueless about what the restaurant offered and he, too, was dressed in completely casual clothes without nary an indicator of his station.
but we gladly took the fried foods and drinks that he kept coming back with. yes we did…and nothing seemed partially eaten or anything, so he probably did work there. but every time we asked him to get something, he’d say they didn’t have any of that. maybe he worked there but just wasn’t allowed in the kitchen? at one point i asked him for a bag to carry all my leftover boxes in because i hate the earth and want to see it parish in my lifetime or at the very latest, my children’s lifetime, and he came back apologizing for the restaurant having no bags to offer me. before he even finished his sentence, an old, grizzled server, 28 or 30 years old, showed up with a bag. we giggled at what a cartoon our waiter was (but not giggled in a cute way, in a probably tinkled a little in my drawers kind of way).
but the food was good and the drinks were great and the company was hysterically fun, as always.
eventually we knew we’d have to leave because we really did have adult responsibilities awaiting us at home and early morning wake-up calls to consider. i was thinking, ‘these young kids think they’re so hot and awesome but I’m holding my own! here i am out eating and drinking at the coolest new place in town at 10 o’clock in the PM. I’m with it. i’m hip. i’m cool. tucka-tucka.”
and then i got off my stool and limped to the bathroom because I’d been sitting still for too long and my leg had fallen asleep.