Like any good daughter selfishly needing attention I check in on my parents a few times a week so we can talk about me for an hour or two. Yesterday was Dad's turn, and when I called he picked up the phone and whispered frantically: "Sweetheart, I'm standing at an open grave-so it's probably not the best time. Let me get back to you." He hung up and instead of feeling badly for the dead person literally at my father's feet I was mildly annoyed that he didn't have time to talk to ME about my fish.
I'd say I'm not normally so horribly insensitive, but that would be a lie.
My Dad is a funeral director, and I feel like people never get used to that. For me, death is pretty standard, which explains why I get huffy when it gets in the way of my talking time. When I last went home in June, (and Brett came with me for the first time,) Dad and I gleefully "talked shop" while Brett silently turned green in the corner. Death fascinates me, but not in a crazy-I-kill-small-animals-sort of way. I'm interested in the science of death. I never get tired hearing about rigor mortis, post-death secretion, tissue breakdown on drowning victims... you know, that sort of thing. What truly amazes me is my father. He has had to develop an understanding friendship with death, not drape it in a dark cloak and stick a sickle in its hand. My Dad finds humor in everything. It is because of him that I cannot eat boiled chicken, and I won't tell you that story on here.
When he did call me back I got in to a conversation with him about how I mentioned his work during a discussion in class. "Remember that time you said that bloated, drowned man looked like a boiled chicken?" (Okay, I lied to you. I told you the boiled chicken story.) "Well, in Ulysses, Joyce is constantly mixing body and food imagery- specifically with dead bodies. He compares them to cheese, boiled meat, and so on. It ties in nicely with your gross experience."
Dad didn't miss a beat, replying: "Death is food. At least, it puts food on the table. I need death in order to live."
Mom's turn to be graced by my selfish phone presence was today. She, like my father, is interested in medical science, but we discuss it in a very different way. Meaning I like provoking her.
This woman is convinced that I have every type of illness in the world whenever I complain about anything bothering me. It cannot merely be a bump on the head. It's a brain tumor. Last time I was visiting I told her the back of my knee hurt, and she had me stripped down as she frantically examined my veins back there, convinced I had a blood clot. It was at that bare assed moment my teenage brother walked in, so I blame her medical paranoia over any therapy he might need for that visual. I know this, yet I still told her today that I have no appetite anymore.
"You're not eating?" she asked. I told her that I was taking vitamins and drinking wine and when I heard her sharp intake of breath, I smirked.
"Do...do you think you have a tumor in your throat?"
Craziness aside, my mother is a hilarious woman. Or, perhaps it is because of that craziness that she cracks me up all of the time. My favorite memory of her is the time she stood at the top of the stairs, screaming down to me in the living room. "MELISSA BETH, IF YOU FUCKING TAKE THE LORDS NAME IN VAIN ONE MORE FUCKING TIME..."
I don't think I have ever laughed so hard in my life.
What I'm trying to say is: these people made me. The took their crazies and blended them together to create my crazy. It's really the best kind. The kind where you don't take yourself too seriously, you don't flinch at the bad stuff, and you find the word "fuck" much less offensive than "Jesus Christ."
When I am in either of their homes I feel cherished, celebrated and loved. I think that people put too much blame on their parents these days, but I do blame my parents for who I am. Without their humor and little ticks and and habits I would be...normal. Can you imagine?
I'll see them for Thanksgiving, and I look forward to discussions about what the turkey really looks like, on the spot medical inspections, and shouting matches steeped in love. We're all crazy, it's true. But it's exactly my brand of crazy, my own unique concoction.
Jesus Christ, I'm lucky.
My "normal" siblings. (See, I'm not alone.)