An odd thing happens when you mention that your parent just passed. There is that phase were you hear your own voice confirm the fact, hearing that your Mom is dead. But, I’m more speaking to the reaction by other people. There is of course the expected “oh, I’m so sorry to hear that.” Which honestly goes a long way in my book. Let’s just acknowledge it and move forward. Yet, I have noticed another reaction. The reaction where the person I just shared the statement with, and I expect the acknowledgment, then goes into a long dramatic tale of how their parent too died, but in much more horrid and traumatic fashion. Like it’s a competition.
My favorite response to “How did she die?” is to steal a line from the Golden Girls “Fighting an oil rig fire in the Gulf.” [pause] “She was eighty-three, how do you think she died?!?”
I am usually great at getting away from small-talk conversations. As I don’t really care for people, and I have found endless ways to avoid them. Yet, when someone is interrupting your story of how you learned of your Mothers passing to strut and fret their hour upon the stage, explaining exactly how long their mother of incontinent before being found dead with her thirteen year old cat Snoodle, there is no real escape. Now that you have a dead parent in common, are they free to dump their pent-up emotional baggage upon you? I say, no. Unless you’re asked.