Tragedy is when I have a hangnail. Comedy is when you accidentally walk into an open sewer and die. – Mel Brooks
Where did you meet your girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s parents?
I met my girlfriend’s family, in the morgue.
Top that one!
Think about that one for a second. And I’m NOT making this shit up to impress you, or DEpress you, either. It’s simply a fact.
Can you think of a more awkward way to ‘meet the parents?’
I doubt it.
When Patience and I had just started dating, she called me one morning on her way to work, in tears, the kind that comes with difficulty in breathing.
“Tony, my brother-in-law, was killed in an accident last night.”
“Oh my god,” I said, “No!”
I was instantly sad, myself, though I had not the chance to meet him. I hadn’t met anyone in the family, yet, but I knew from Paysh’s description, that Tony was a person I was looking forward to knowing.
“I’m supposed to go down to Hastings!” she said, in between sobs, “but I don’t think I can drive right now.”
“I’ll drive you!” I said without even thinking. It was simply the only thing I could do for her at that moment, so I said it without even thinking about what it meant.
So, I drove my new girlfriend, to the morgue.
And that’s where I met every adult in the Felt clan. All of them, including her poor sister, Heidi, who had just lost her husband.
Talk about surreal. It was, in the extreme. I did my best to just be a wallflower. I felt very much like I was invading a very private space, like watching a stranger take a shower or something. And my emotions and feelings had nothing to do with the family’s words or actions toward me, far from it. In fact, they did their best to be gracious and thanked me for driving Paysh down and all that, but this was definitely not the place any of us would have chosen to meet. Who would?
But I’m not writing today, to tell you how awkward my ‘meet the parents’ experience was. I’m writing to talk about the meaning of life, and how we can make it as good as it can be.
I’m here to talk about the relationship between Tragedy and Comedy.
Most people think that the two things are mutually exclusive. I do not. I tend to agree with the great Mel Brooks; tragedy and comedy depend entirely upon one’s perspective. And one’s perspective changes over time.
Now, I’m not going to argue that Tony’s death, itself, will ever be reason for laughter. But his life certainly was. Of that, I am certain.
How do I know?
Not because I met him in person, but because he is no more dead–in spirit–than I am in flesh. He lives on, every day, in the hearts of his children, his widow, his family, and his friends. And I know that that statement can sound like a platitude, a catch-phrase we all use in situations of death and tragedy. But in Tony’s case, it’s just a fact.
By all accounts, Tony was one of the funniest men on Earth: full of life, laughter, compassion, loyalty, and all the other traits of a great man. I am actually shedding tears as I write this, and I NEVER MET HIM!
But I feel that I have. In fact, I HAVE met him. I talk with him, hear his stories, his jokes, even his laugh, through the stories his family tells of him. Not one family event goes by without several ‘Tony Stories.’ His life is an endless well of smiles and laughter, and is there anything better that one could say about us when we’re ‘gone’ than that? I think not.
But when tragedy strikes, as it did when Tony died, it’s very difficult to remember the funny stuff, for awhile. The pain is too great, and the closer you are to the tragedy–as Mel Brooks pointed out–the harder it is to bridge the gap from Tragedy to Comedy. A hangnail can be a bitch, man.
From Tragedy to Comedy: Narrowing the Gap, Rewriting the Story
But I think that the key to life–and I do mean the main key–is to shorten that gap till it’s almost non-existent. I mean SQUEEZE that fucker till it POPS!
If we can learn to laugh, at anything, to find the comedy in all situations, if we can do it almost instantaneously, then we will be laughing Buddhas, enlightened ones. What is to be happy, to be joyful, other than that ability? Life is chock full of tragic events, personal ones, family ones, human ones. Are we to go around weeping and lamenting them, constantly?
Fuck no! That would be a very sad existence indeed.
I tell people, often, that when I die, if I swoop down over the funeral and see a bunch of people weeping, I’m gonna come back from the dead and kick their ass! I want to see a party, the likes of which has never been thrown before! I want to see fire, and booze, and BBQ, and axe-throwing, and laughter, or I’m gonna become a fuckin’ poltergeist and run them all out of my yard!
LAUGH people. Life isn’t serious. It simply is not. It might be sincere, but never fuckin’ serious. Personally, I think it’s a comedy. I didn’t always think that way, but I’m becoming more and more convinced that it is.
We can choose how we want to live our lives, how we write the story around it. No one else writes our story. No one else; it’s ours alone to write. It is our most potent power. Will it be a tragedy? Or will it be a comedy?
Tony chose to live his life as a comedy; that much I know for sure. I think I’ll join him. I wish he was here, in body, to talk to, to eat BBQ with, to drink beer with, and to laugh with. But I’ll have to settle for talking to him, eating with him, drinking with him, through his family, who have taken me in as one of their own.
Today, we’re all headed up nort (north) to hang out and do all of those things, at one of his favorite spots on earth, and to scatter his ashes on his favorite lake.
I’m sure there will be tears, but I’m also certain that they will be quickly followed by smiles and laughter. Tony would want it no other way.