Monday, April 9, 2012

"Listen, if there's anything I can do..."

Let's face the facts, ok?  By and large we are a society of insincere liars.  We say things we don't mean all the time.  We lie to make people feel better, to make ourselves feel better, to avoid an uncomfortable situation.  There are way more reasons to lie than to tell the truth.

But if you have a friend or loved one who has experienced a death in their family, and you tell them that you are there for them if they need anything, then by god and sonny jesus you'd better come through.

Frankly I don't exactly know why people are so reticent about keeping their word and coming through for someone; the feeling you get from knowing you really helped out a situation so far outlasts any temporary inconvenience that you may feel.

When Josie's father passed in October 2008, I was fresh off my own father's passing, having taken place that previous May.  So I knew exactly what they needed, even if they themselves didn't:  I took a cue from my uncle Alan and brought them something to eat.

Because when you lose a family member, even a family of lard-asses like mine just forget to eat.  My uncle brought over some salami and a jar of mustard, and even though I'm not particularly fond of salami I remember being touched by the gesture, to the point of tears.  Remembering that, and bearing in mind that the family is Sicilian, I brought over some good cold cuts - some of this, some of that, all Italian and all delicious. And of course they accepted gratefully because judging by the way they tucked in, it appeared that none of them had indeed eaten for some time.

But what really needed to happen, in that horrible day after, is a hard-charging day of planning and phone calls and logistics, and I offered to take U. Sucrosum off the family's hands for the day.  I was surprised - pleasantly -  to hear my offer gratefully accepted, so I scraped the first few layers of crud off my car and off we went to the New England Aquarium. And on the way there, it was my high honor to introduce him to the first real aspect of manhood: I told him, with parental permission, his first dirty joke:
Q: What's the last thing that goes through a fly's mind as it hits your windshield?
A: Its asshole.
It's a good one, yes? He was I think nine at the time, so he tried to be cool, but the more he thought about it, the more he just couldn't stop himself from laughing and finally admitted, "that was pretty funny."

I bring all this up because it informs what I'm doing now.  My pal M, who lives up in New Hampshire, and who has an exuberant 16-week-old Rottweiler puppy, needed to go to a family funeral today (very sad, the details - but out of respect I can't share them here) and nobody would put them up with the dog.  So when I asked him if there was anything I could do, he said, well, yes, could you come up here and watch my dog?

So here I sit, exhausted from being worked over by a 4-month-old puppy who is almost 40 pounds already, who enjoys all manner of physical activity, and who really wants to show you who the alpha of the family is.  Right now she is sleeping at my feet so I have a respite of about an hour, but after that I'm going to need to take her outside and run her around like a crazy person until she gets tired again.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

But god dammit, there is something rewarding on a deep fundamental level about helping out someone in need.  And I find that the closer I am to the person being helped, the better I feel about doing the helping. It never quite occurs to me that way when I make the offer, or when I'm doing the helpy thing in question, but afterwards I'm able to tally up the karma points and I realize that I did ok in the exchange.

So don't be afraid of offering your assistance in situations like that.  Maybe the luckiest thing that can happen is that they consider you close enough to take you up on the offer.

That's all from me.  But this from Eva: woof woof.  Woof!! Ow ow awooooooooooo......


  1. Timely message indeed, Gary. I just found out today that the mother of our junior varsity choreographer's mother passed away yesterday. She was a music educator who I respected a great deal. I of course made the requisite offer to help with anything I can provide and you can be sure I'll come through if asked.

  2. Sorry to hear, Jeff. I'd be curious to see if any favor that might drift your way would be musical in nature - to play something or somewhere at the family's request. I wonder what, if at all, it would change your approach to the gig...

    eh, maybe we should take this offline - this is delving into music geek territory...

  3. Nice post. You're a good person, Gary. No matter what Josie says.

    Actually I did something similar when my dear friend's father passed late last year. I attended the funeral of course, but after that they needed me to look after their dogs while they went to Mom's house for the Jewish tradition of stuffing yourself with deli as you grieve. So I dog sat for the evening.

  4. Rob, just FYI, the rule on deli is that the engorgement stops as soon as the roast beef is gone. Then follows a period of gossiping about which platter it was, how Morty's Deli isn't what it used to be, and how when Sadie's second cousin Sophia needed a deli platter for when her mother had gall bladder surgery she went to Morty's and it RAINED roast beef and it was great until they moved a piece of pastrami and they found CHEESE! Oy, they talked about that for two months...

  5. Oy Vey, you call that pastrami!?! And eat something, darlink, you're nothing but skin and bones.

  6. Another great post and no poker content ! When my Mom died we had such an outpouring of people wanting to help us. Even to 10 year old me it was touching to see so many cared enough to offer their support. Sadly it was the first time that I met most of my family including older siblings.
    You did a great thing.

  7. I think people like these poignant stories, the ones I call "the grand weepers," more than the ones about poker. I keep thinking that my readers will, as one, shout "enough, you friggin' downer!" and demand I change the tone of my posts, but it hasn't quite happened yet. That's the biggest surprise of them all!

  8. Nice post and good advice. Sorry about your friend's loss...

  9. My experience has been that most people are good in times of trouble. And certainly you were a good guy to recognize that you could be a big help in that situation.

  10. Gary - it's all been said by those who came before me. You are a good person to make such offers. I will try to remember this lesson the next time a family member of a friend dies. To be honest, I am not the most helpful or giving person, so the offer doesn't come naturally.

  11. I'll take being called a good guy all day long, but I would just plead in my defense that neither one of these people I mention are exactly casual friends; I'm close with many members of Josie's clan, as I've mentioned before, and I've known Mike since I was 16 years old and working in a tile store. And these people both have shown reciprocal behavior toward me: Jos's family drove all over hell and creation to stand with me at Dad's funeral, then drove all the way back to my Mom's house to sit Shiva with us. And Mike took me in when I fancied myself unable to live under the oppressive yoke of parental rule, then whispered a few wise words into my ear that made it ok to go back home.

    I guess what I'm saying is that these aren't grand sweeping magnificent gestures, that's all. But thanks for calling me a good guy...