Michael Douglas Starts a Pact Against Cunnilingus
Now for my 2nd sketch from Sunday’s show (that’s right! I had TWO!) that explores, in depth (hehe), the cause and controversy behind Michael Douglas’ Throat cancer. Take it from him boys, no matter how mad the pussy action is, sometimes it’s safer to just say no.
Game of Thrones Support Group
One of my latest sketches from Top Story! Weekly this past Sunday. I dedicate it to all you GoT fans out there with Red Wedding, traitor-beheading blues. Just remember, life goes on, things will get better, and as they say: “Valar Morghulis”
I meant to write this a few months back, but I kept putting it off. For some reason, it’s hard for me to stray to the serious side by choice, but alas, real life sometimes has no choice as to what side it swings. You can try to muster comedy or a slight smile out of the low points, or if nothing else, tell yourself “this too shall pass” but it doesn’t always do the trick.
For those who don’t know, sitting Shiva is something we do in Judaism in the week after a family member or loved one has passed. The family convenes in a Shiva home, usually the home of the deceased, where they’re meant to stay for seven days straight to fully concentrate on mourning their loss.
In early November, we lost our Grandpa Will. I’m tempted to dedicate this paragraph to a long, blown-out explanation of just why he was the greatest grandpa of all time, but that would require endless stories, with hours of home-video visual aides. Plus I don’t want to alienate readers with grandpas whom, I’m sure, are just as grand to them. Let me just tell you, he was a true stand up guy, a terrific storyteller, and if I got my knack of always seeing the bright side from anyone, it’s from him.
It was a surprise, the whole debacle. Though he was 89 and struggled with Dementia, possibly Alzheimer’s, for two years, we certainly hadn’t hit the “any day now” period until Hurricane Sandy pushed us there. Even on the hottest day in a New York summer, Grandpa always felt cold, and a house with no heat is not a home.
Despite the untimely surprise, I knew what the missed call was about when I saw it. I think you always know when it’s someone close to you. I flew in two days later, along with my cousin, Holly. Meeting her at the airport and boarding the plane felt exciting, for lack of a better and more appropriate emotion. We were taking a trip together for a family reunion, which is almost all it was. I grew up in Colorado, apart from most of my family on the east coast, so any chance to see them is a welcomed vacation in my book.
My dad picked us up from the airport. He had arrived there the afternoon after grandpa passed, for a trip he planned weeks in advanced. Timing at its worst. I sat in the passenger’s seat sensing only a fraction of the grief I knew dad must be holding back, while I attempted to do the same.
Arriving at my Aunt & Uncle’s house still triggered a nostalgic comfort for me. We were holding Shiva there, as my Grandparents’ basement had flooded from the storm. We all went to visit Grandma, who was resting at the hospital, and so comes the cruel, concurrent twist of events here. The day Grandpa Will passed, Grandma Sylvia was admitted to the hospital (for unrelated ailments) and was being held there, possibly until after the funeral, pending mandatory surgery. It’s days like these that give “Oy!” such a prominent place in our vocabulary.
Grandma was in high spirits. And not just for a widow; for a grandma. “The doctors are so young here! And so handsome too!” Doctors suggested she might be in denial, or that it hadn’t all sunk in yet. We hypothesized, well, this woman is 89 years old. She was brought here from a freezing house where she lives out every day caring for a middle-aged son and a husband who “can’t remember shit anymore” (Grandpa’s words, not mine). Grandma’s smile was nearly as warm as the potato knish she would be offering me had our reunion been in her kitchen as usual.
I’ve been to a funeral before, and I’ve visited friends’ homes while they sat shiva, but I was fortunate enough to make it to my 20’s before losing anyone so close. It is so, so different when it’s someone so close. No matter the quality times spent with them or how often you saw them, unreasonable regrets find you.
“Why couldn’t we have lived closer?” I cried to my parents, envious of the physical proximity my other cousins had to grandpa; a visit for them was a mere drive, giving the opportunity for weekend or evening trips, whereas ours was a two thousand mile trek to get to New York, limiting our visits to summer and winter breaks, and the occasional Bat Mitzvah. I came to terms with this distance many times growing up, but as all the cousins went through photo albums to pull pictures of grandpa, it hurt to see how many more they had with him. I hate myself for putting so much weight on that, and on my parents. Grandpa called us his Colorado chickens, and we wore the name proudly, but I was ashamed of my outstanding absence, even if it was irrelevant and out of my control.
Back at the house there was food. So much food. This time it was bagels but later on there was to be pasta, salads, pasta salads, stuffed shells, chicken, chicken parm, veal, matzo ball soup, knishes, sandwiches, wraps, cookies, babkas, cheesecakes, and other pastries; there might have been more but honestly it’s all a blur. Those who know me know that food is my comfort food, so forgive me for getting a bit more lighthearted. It seems the food sent over and brought by guests and friends of the Shiva family is not only to lessen our work load, but also to see that we replace grandpa by eating his body weight in Jewish delicacies.
It shouldn’t surprise you that the intentions of sitting Shiva are slightly morbid. It carries a motif of suffering. The family is not supposed to look in the mirror, shave, wear jewelry, or even bathe for the week. When speaking with Shiva visitors, the family is meant to sit on short, uncomfortable stools, or on the floor. It’s all about discipline and forcing us to concentrate on our loss. Admittedly, we didn’t follow many of these customs, but that’s not to say that we didn’t suffer. There were tears, preoccupations, and fights. So much fighting. Fighting over little things that a family always fights over, but then also fighting over bigger damages done. Everyone in the house carried an air of “coulda-woulda-shoulda” for one reason or another, and they all weighed us down more than our loss itself.
My cousins and I sat enjoying our third lunch of the day when yet another screaming match lit fire. I joked and quietly chanted “Find your happy place. Find your happy place.”
My cousin Jackie muttered mordantly “Where is that? Take me with you.”
I stopped to think for a second. Oh god. It’s here. This house. This very living room. This had been my happy place since I was little, living a two-thousand miles away and unsatisfied with our perfectly adequate but fallow living room. This living room was the homey headquarters for my family to reunite, eat, blow out birthday candles, and swap stories. Despite my aunt’s relentless work to keep a welcoming home in the wake of her father’s death- despite the flooding at grandpa’s house- sorrow, suffrage and screaming was drowning my happy place. I had to get out.
I wasn’t alone. All of the cousins sought out a chance to take the dog for a walk and go on coffee runs. A few of them volunteered to help other families affected by the storm, which I found incredibly admirable. Two or three times a day, a few of us would shuttle over to the hospital to visit Grandma Syl. Never have I enjoyed hospital visits so much, not solely for the escape but also for the hope that Grandma would infect us with her positivism. She was always purely happy to see us- much like I was when I met up with Holly at the airport that first day. We sat with her as she asked simple questions about our lives, jobs, school, boyfriends; we made a card for her and took pictures at her side in the hospital, as she fussed about her hair and make-up, and there it felt like a family vacation.
She launched into a few stories to catch us up on her life, and at one point she paused and tutted slightly. “I was just going to say you should ask Willy about it, but…” she shrugged and tutted again.
My sister and I talked briefly on what we thought Grandpa would make of everything going on. He’d likely be seated along the wall, quietly chewing on a toothpick, cracking into a joke or song if the occasion called for it (or even if it didn’t). He was famous for randomly breaking into songs that no one else had heard except from him.
Anytime a fight started he’d slip out of his sing-song daze and, with fatherly concern, ask what all the fuss was about. Once the fight sizzled down shortly after, he’d drift off to sleep, upright in his chair, and we’d mess with him in his sleep by turning his hat backwards or dressing him up.
It both hurt and helped that Grandma wasn’t able to hang around for Shiva with us. We wanted for us to all be together obviously, but focusing on her recovery did enough to emphasize her mortality without halting everything to concentrate on the loss of her husband. Quarantined from Shiva in her hospital corner, she was more easily able to (involuntarily) entertain the thought that Grandpa Will was still alive, he just wasn’t present at the time. I also found myself jumping aboard this game of pretend. Mind you, Will and Syl were always a pair, and with Grandma missing from the Shiva picture, I’d imagine the two were on their way to the house, or had just left because they were tired and needed to turn in early, and then everything was normal. Doctors and dictionary definitions would call this denial and I’d agree, but not in Grandma’s case. Her brief disillusion was purely incidental, but she probably overcame denial a while back.
Two years ago, I was in New York for a wedding, and Grandma and I went to a hair salon together (or as she adorably calls it, a beauty parlor. Maybe that’s a New York thing but I prefer to think of it as a Grandma Syl thing). I wanted my hair straight for the wedding and she was getting a color touch up. She sat next to me with foil curled in her hair and I asked her about life in general. This was maybe a year or so after Grandpa started to lose his short term memory, so she started to tell me about the difficulties she now faced with him. It was light venting; a wife complaining about her old, senile husband who would be a total mess without her keeping him on track. But as she went on it became more and more apparent how much it was weighing down her life, her strength, her affection for her spouse.
“He’s not my Willy anymore.” These words cut into me more painfully than any other reports on Grandpa’s condition. Hearing it from her, the woman who’s role in my memory was always synonymous with her other half. No matter how they aged- physically, emotionally, cognitively - I always pictured them as the grandparents I grew up with. Happy, nurturing, wise, always aged but never old, and a perfect team.
I wrapped my arm around my distressed grandmother as she described the love that was slipping away from her. With my head turned away, toward the window, I hoped she couldn’t see that I was sobbing.
This is how I know that even before Grandpa Will’s time was called, Syl had made her peace with it, with little room for denial.
In spite of everything- the fighting, the power outages, the hospital trips, the cabin fever, and grandpa’s death altogether, I recognize and respect the purpose of Shiva. It was a relief just to be with everyone, and know I could cry on anyone’s shoulder, or let them cry on mine. Confining a family to a house for a week to concentrate solely on their loss is a truly painful experience, but it’s a pain you’re able to share equally with everyone stuck around you, moreover it is a pain that is much less permanent than death. That said, I’ll never stop mourning the loss of Grandpa Will. The cold truth of it still hits me and brings me to tears even now, six, seven months later. I’ve never romanticized much about the afterlife, and despite Jewish customs, I’d call myself agnostic these days, but the thought of never seeing grandpa again, or him never seeing my work or what I grow up to be, still shocks and confuses me in ways I never anticipated. For moments like these, I feel it’s important to have just a thread of faith when optimism isn’t enough. Not just faith in someday seeing late loved ones again, but faith in the loved ones who are still around; faith that we’re a strong enough family to overcome loss and disagreements and health afflictions and financial woes. If we could pull ourselves through that first post-mortem week and all of the storm ridden weeks before it, I believe the universe has given us its worst.
So you are all ready to start your job, eh?
I do so..miss YOU
Can’t believe you left over a week ago
Me ? well I’ve been in the garden with the hoe,
More pretty flowers and a sore back for me
I now just want to kick back under a tree (but today it is rainy)
I will look for your name on the show in black and white
And will pray you are happy with all my might!
So look out people, here she is
Finally in that LA biz!
printing this out and hanging it over my face.
“I want to try not to repeat myself. But then I seem to do it continuously in my films. It’s not something I make any effort to do. I just want to make films that are personal, but interesting to an audience. I feel I get criticized for style over substance, and for details that get in the way of the characters. But every decision I make is how to bring those characters forward.”
Happy Birthday Wes Anderson! | May 1, 1969
So I went to Goodwill today and
I’ll start right away.
But nah, this is for real how I work out.