Friday, July 15, 2011

Death to boring dinner deaths (from 2008)

I like to think maybe someone is sitting at his or her desk and watching the clock roll on in slow motion to 5 p.m. They don’t feel like working. Me, neither.

I have a solution: I’ll post this item from 2008 and if the boss strolls by you can pretend you’re reading something important. The lack of porn on your screen ought to keep you safe.

Have a great night. Do something fun and lively. I’ll try and post something fresh tomorrow.

I put a moratorium on boring dinner deaths the other night after yet another old neighbor lady passed away in her sleep.

It’s not that I’m opposed to morbid death talk at dinner. On the contrary, I’ve always considered myself a death connoisseur. I enjoy lively talks about death and dying.

As a young newspaper reporter, I was daily immersed in the grisly ends of strangers. I’ve seen with my own eyes the mangled bodies of gunshot victims, sidewalk suicide splatters, and hapless casualties of no-win confrontations with runaway trucks.

Their scarred corpses haunt my dreams. I wonder about the searing pain, the fateful recognition that death was imminent. And I invariably put myself in their doomed shoes, hands raised in futile defense the instant before the pin hits the shell.

It’s not death I mind, it’s boredom.

And our daughter, Josie, 7, shares those impulses. So when Val said the other night about the neighbor lady dying in her sleep, Josie was naturally curious. How’d she die? What happened?

“She was old,” Valerie said. “She died in her sleep. Very peaceful.”

It was maybe the eighth old lady who’d died this year. If you’re looking for a tidy, peaceful death, become an old lady in my neighborhood and just bide your time.

I could sense Josie was disappointed. I set my fork down and wiped my lips with my napkin. “Look, I’m tired of all these old ladies dying in their sleep,” I said to Val. “The next time some old lady passes away, you make damn sure you have a good story to tell us. It’s not going to make her any less dead if she was eaten by a bear or struck by lightning. And we’ll all enjoy our dinners a little bit more.”

So recently we’ve had wonderful dinner conversations about Mrs. Miller who was struck by a meteor when she was gardening; Mrs. Peterson, who died heroically trying to save her kidnapped husband from Colombian rebels, and poor old Mrs. Benson who was killed trying to retrieve her wedding ring from the cranky wood chipper in the back yard.

I have absolutely no fear of death as long as it doesn’t have to hurt.

I probably spend a lot of time thinking about dying because I spend so much time thinking about living. I really enjoy my life and know it’s so finite. We’re all born the same way, but death’s a real crap shoot. Even mean rich people can die grisly, untimely deaths and we all feel a little bit better about ourselves when something like that happens.

It’s one of the most fair things about this confoundingly unfair life.

Ideally, I’d like to live to be about 90, stumble drunk out of a friendly tavern and get creamed by a bus. I want the bus to be traveling so fast that bystanders will swear they saw my soul shoot out of my body bound straight for heaven. And that my soul wasn’t wearing any pants.

But I’m guessing it’s most likely to happen in a movie theater where I’ll be gunned down by some rude, yapping kids who don’t like being shushed by an old man who feels it’s his duty to police the audience so every one can hear the witty dialogue animating what I guess will be Shrek 19.

No matter what happens, I’ve started a family tradition that when I do go, it’ll be something that’ll entertain my darling daughters.

Val: “Kids, I’ve got bad news. Your father was killed today. He was struck by a meteor while fighting Colombian rebels with a wood chipper. His body fell off the mountain he was climbing and landed in shark-infested waters just as the nearby volcanic island erupted . . .”

Sure, some of that might hurt like hell, but it ought to give me bragging rights when I run into all those old neighbor ladies who, yawn, died in their sleep.

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