Some things about death are funny. You can’t imagine it until you’ve been there. Until the funny happens. The bottom line is you can laugh or you can kill yourself. There is no in between. Obviously I choose laugh except every now and then when I think death might be better than dealing with the IRS and the banks and the business partners and the never ending details.
Banks and the IRS and mortgage companies should be attacked by snarky mean girls until they cry in a corner. These people are not human. Bankers should be made to wear non leather stilettos until their heels bleed and then wear them some more. Mortgage people should just have to spend a lifetime dealing with each other, non-answering each other’s questions, losing each others paper work and reiterating to each other that this or that is not under the jurisdiction of their department. But the IRS, the IRS has a special place for those us dealing with the dead and so my wish for the IRS is a lifetime of shopping in Walmart surrounded by screaming children with runny noses and ladies with visible thongs five sizes too small. And all they have to eat is rice cakes. And people tell them they’re fat. And they have stretch marks. And then snarky mean girls make them cry.
No, some things about death are not funny. Ants, on the other hand, are hilarious.
Remember when you were little and you sang, “The ants go marching one by one hurrah, hurrah. The ants go marching one by one hurrah, hurrah. The ants go marching one by one, the little one stops to suck his thumb and they all go marching down into the ground to get out of the rain boom boom boom?’ Didn’t sing it? Poor you. You must not have grown up in the Chicago suburbs in the Seventies. Anyway the song goes up to ten and the ants are pretty hilarious, at least we thought so when we were eight. On this particular day, the day my husband died, the ants did indeed do some marching.
As we sat in the woods for hours willing The Norwegian to live, I sat on the trail next to him holding his hand and praying for the last time in my life. Ants kept crawling on him so I spent the hours talking to him, whispering to him, stroking his hands and legs trying to keep him from getting cold and brushing these damn little ants from his body, his shirt, his chest and face. I was angry with them. How dare they crawl on him. Little assholes.
When we returned to the house, my friend Sue said she ran a bath for me and I should get in. We were a little raggedy. Trish, my dearest friend in all the world, guided me to the bathroom where a steaming bath was waiting. I am a bath girl. Funny this bath was the very first bath my entire life about which I didn’t give a damn. It did not envelop me. It did not welcome me. It did not seem a respite. But in my blur I did what others told me as thinking was a faculty I did not possess. Trish lowered me into the tub and left. I sat upright puzzled that I did not possess the knowledge of bath taking. I just sat staring ahead. Pondering widowhood. I was obsessed with it. So attached to my marriage was I that I knew “widow” would become my new definer, one I previously looked at others with pity and a certain smugness that I had a husband. What a bitch I was.
Trish came in and told me to lie back and she left. I laid back, closed my eyes for the first time, took a deep breath and exhaled. When I opened my eyes and looked down hundreds of ants floated to the water’s surface emerging from safety of my crotch. They had survived a two-hour hike out of the Colorado woods and a one-hour car ride back to the house in the safety of my vaginal cavity. Perhaps this is why the Norwegian liked it there so much. It must be really safe and snuggly in there.
What I know is I’m in a bath, ants floating all around me and I have a dead husband. I lift my eyes to the creator, with whom I’m having a little anger problem and say, “Are you kidding me, really?” First words I’ve uttered in a few hours.
After I flew home to tell my children and make arrangements, my Cotillion friends began flooding my house. The two Jennifers came first and we sat around my kitchen table. Trish was there and we relayed the story of the ants in my pants. Jennifer, a razor sharp wit, Cotillion friend and former sorority girl said, “Well, dear, you always have been the very best host.”
And that, my friends, is what makes death funny.