Saturday, March 22

joking with the dead

One day during the last year of her life, Granny Goo and I struck up a conversation about potatoes. When I peel and cut potatoes, I will sometimes sneak a crunchy, wet, starchy slice: water chestnuts without the intrigue of being put into some Oriental dish. A friend had protested my practice, it was grosser than gross.

Granny Goo assured me that eating slices of raw potato was usual in our family, telling the story of her brothers who would snatch bites while Omie was peeling potatoes on the back porch. "What do you think I'm doing??? Cooking for the public?" she would bark in objection. Granny Goo chuckled at the memory.

Since then, and more since she died, I recite it to myself when I prepare some Irish goodness. And I chuckle to myself. I suppose it is my way of joking with Granny Goo; as remembering the event was her way of joking with her mom and brothers.

Each person's humor: unique as a fingerprint. My roomie returned last night from a week away and we are at it again: joking with humor we create together, one that is our own. Wordplay and feigned earnestness, we find these funny. More than unique for the individual, humor is unique to the relationships of the people it inhabits, just like lovemaking.

I was given the opportunity to live in Brazil for a summer. Once there, I found humor the toughest of my language studies. I still am not sure what is funny about "a wooden face." Differences of culture and language render humor less translatable. You know for a fact that Jesus was telling SOME kind of knee slapper when he made his sad joke about rich men and camels and needles, but I still don't get it. Do you? Miles and time make the absurd less funny.

 "To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die." ~Thomas Campbell

Mercifully, the heart pays no mind to miles and time. These people and these moments, they are yours. The people who you laugh with today will go, but the smile will still be there in your heart.  Which is how I know that I have to keep Granny Goo alive, close to my heart and alive. Because I don't want to live without the jokes we made together. Having watched her after she lost so many, I know I don't have to. My whole life, she had a plaque with Campbell's quote on her living room wall. She typified its wisdom.

That is why much to my friend's chagrin, I will eat raw potatoes. I will eat them now more than ever. And I will whisper to myself the intergenerational joke:

"What do you think I'm doing??? Cooking for the public?"

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