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LJ Idol week 15 - 'Cracking Up'

I was 17 when my grandmother died. We always had a special bond, and I was sad and angry that she was gone, that she wouldn’t see me graduate high school, or acting in my first musical. I cried constantly; hot and bitter tears of loss.


Dad, my brother, and I went Up North as soon as we heard the news, Mom was there already having been at the hospital when the decision was made. We stayed at my other grandparents house (my parents both grew up in the same small town in northern WI) and tried to pretend that this was somehow normal. I spent a lot of time visiting with relatives, and a lot of time sneaking off by myself to be angry at the world.


The day before the first funeral home visit there was a large group of family sitting in what had been my grandma’s kitchen. Now it was Uncle Steve’s kitchen, though none of us, not even him, was used to that yet. (He and his wife had lived there with Grandma R for a few years prior.) We sat in the kitchen telling stories.


Grandma R was an amazing woman – to this day she is my standard for the concept of unconditional love. In the kitchen the story was told of the day Grandma invited a 12 piece Navy band home after they had played an evening concert at the VFW, because they looked like they could use a home cooked meal. That story was usually told by my mother – who was home from college the weekend of the concert and asleep on the couch in a nightgown when the dozen men walked through the living room to get back to the kitchen. The story was told of her house being full every prom night with girls getting ready and waiting to be picked up by their boyfriends, even if none of her daughters happened to be juniors that year. That story was told by my Aunt A, the youngest of the siblings, who grew up watching the social life of high school swirling around her from the time she was little. Stories were told about when she still waitressed at the bar and knew the name of every regular who came in; stories about how the entire town started calling her “Ma”; stories about her taking in a foster child after her youngest moved out ‘because the house felt empty’; stories about her always being ready with a kiss and a hug for us all. 


They are wonderful stories of her love and compassion. But I was still mostly angry at her for leaving, so I couldn’t hear it.


Then the phone rang. Uncle Steve answered it, and we all quieted down so he could talk. To this day I only know the side of the conversation I heard.


“Hello.” (shortish pause)


“I’m sorry, she’s unavailable.” (another short pause)


“No she can’t come to the phone, she’s dead right now. Uh huh.” (slightly longer pause)


“Thank you. Good-bye.”


The room stayed completely silent while Uncle Steve hung up the phone, as we all processed what he had said.


Then the room exploded with laughter. I laughed until I cried, but this time it was okay. The tears weren’t just angry and bitter anymore, they were joyous too, and grateful. The people in the room when the phone call happened told and re-told the story for the next few days and always we laughed. (Grandma R would have thought it was hysterical.) Having that moment helped me get through the very difficult days of the viewing and the funeral. 


I still get sad when I think about Grandma R being gone too soon, and I still miss her. But I also smile to remember everything she brought into my life. And after all, she’s only dead right now.



@@@This is my entry for week 15 of LJ Idol – the topic is ‘cracking up’.  Per usual, I'll post a link to the poll on Friday once it is up.  Thank you for reading.@@@

Oh wow! He must have been so red-faced. Just think of the person on the other end of the phone going home and telling that story... and how reassuring, that they're dead *right now*. Excellent entry!

I still wonder what the person on the other end of that phone call thought.

Thanks so much!

Sometimes a moment like that makes everything easier to manage. Smile.

Yeah, one good laugh can make a whole day better. Thanks.

Aww, I'm glad you got you know your grandparents. That's something I treasure as well.

This story is going to make me smile all day.

Yay for smiling all day!

I was lucky enough to know all four of my grandparents, and three of my great-grandparent well enough to remember.

*laugh* Cute story. :)

I think we all need a moment or two like that when things are hardest, just to help us deal with it.

One laugh can make the whole world easier - I'm glad Uncle Steve, however unintentionally, gave us all that.

Thanks for reading.

Your grandmother was such a sweet woman. I admit, I started laughing out load in the office when he said "She can't come to the phone, she is dead right now". At the time I wasn't sure if I was supposed to laugh at that, but reading your entry so did you. Funny story, and I am glad you found your peace.

She was an amazing woman, and I'm glad the story makes other people laugh too.

Oh, lovely. It may have been accidental, but what a beautiful dropper statement that was! It's given me such a giggle! I really enjoyed reading and laughing along with this entry; thanks so much for writing it!

My uncle had no idea he had said it, in fact as we all laughed someone had to explain what was so funny. I'm glad you enjoyed it, thanks for reading.

That was a great piece, made stronger by the way you wrapped it up. I'm surprised he could make a joke like that, but sometimes it's necessary to help everybody keep themselves together. The one tough experience with death I had, we did things like that too. That's why it's good that families tighten up at that time.

Thanks so much! The best part is that it wasn't an intentional joke - my uncle had no idea what he had said or why it was funny until we explained it. Yeah, being with family who had a black sense of humor saved us all that week.

LOL! "I want to speak to her now!"

No you can't, she's dead.


I can understand how funny that incident can be to relieve the tension during a tough time of your Grandma R's passing. I wonder what the words that were felt by the person on the other end of the line.

Great story and I am sure the memories of your Grandma will be cherished forever.

I still want to know what the person on the other end of that phone conversation thought, I can imagine the stories they tell now.

Thanks for your kind words.

Nicely told. I can't imagine would it would have been like to be on the other end of that phone!

I can't imagine it either, how do you politely deal with that? It sounded like the person in this case mostly ignored it - I've never asked Uncle Steve.

Thanks for reading!


"Terribly sorry, she's quite dead at the moment. Why, yes, I can take a message, though it might be a while before she gets back with you..."


I used to live with a guy who loved to torment telemarketers. It was actually so bad that normally we didn't let him answer the phone.

Anyway, one night, it's late, I'm irritated, and the phone rings. My maiden name was quite complicated, so I always knew when they stuttered over it that it was a sales call. I grimaced and just passed the phone to my friend.

He adopted a spot-on British accent and said:

"Oh great heavens...have you not heard? Were you close to the {maiden name here}s? No? Well, I have such TERRIBLE news...they're all dead, love. All dead. Died in a horrid car explosion..."

And on he went. He had the poor woman offering to send flowers by the end of the call. Terrible, I know, but still makes me chuckle.


The best part was Uncle Steve had no idea what he had said! His confusion as we all started laughing made it more fun.

My dad used to blow raspberries at telemarketers - but your former roommate sounds like he had developed the torment to an art form.

I really liked this. In many ways, what you wrote here, parallels my feelings, when I lost my grandfather at age 22. People were talking, laughint, sharing memories, and I was just angry. There was so much of my life left, and he wouldn't be here to see it.

I like the concept of people only being dead right now. That's awesome!

Thanks so much. It took me nearly a year to get over my anger completely, it's always hard when you lose someone unexpectedly. But I'm grateful I got past it and remember the happy times now.

LOVE your uncle Steve!

He's always been one of my favorites.

Excellent post! It reminds me of a Steel Magnolias quote... "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion"...

well done!

That is a great quote - and exactly the idea.

Thanks for reading!

Great post! She sounds like a great person. Hilarious about the phone call.

Thanks so much! Yeah, Grandma R was awesome.