Death: A By-Product of Living

I got a lot of Dead People, is usually what I tell people.

Sometimes they let out a laugh of surprise. Sometimes they somber up. Sometimes they get super awkward super quick.

I don’t mean to be tactless about having Dead People. It’s just…I’m nineteen. I’ve got a dead stepmom, father, uncle, grandfather, aunt, and a few distant relatives. From the time that I was eleven until I was sixteen, someone died every year. That stopped until I was eighteen when my dad died. So, I’ve got a lot of Dead People.

I’m at a point where I can comfortably say that I understand Death as simply a by-product of Living. Which, I think, is probably a John Green quote or something.

What I’ve been trying to say is that I’m comfortable telling people that I’ve got Dead People. I’m comfortable answering questions, and I do so with 100% honesty. I treat it all as facts. Because they are.

The struggle isn’t telling people about my Dead People. The struggle is telling people about my Dead People before they were Dead.

Tonight I realized I had made some academic fumbles–which, I’m sure, I’ll write about sooner or later. To cope with the kind of overwhelming academic stress that makes me want to cry, I bake. But I can’t bake in a dorm room, so I called my Big, who lives off campus, and made a quick Walmart trip. And I baked homemade cookies in her apartment.

While I was there I met her roommates for the first time. The stress of school overwhelmed me so much that I couldn’t even be nervous about meeting new people. We all fit in together perfectly. I was comfortable and happy.

My Big and I talked Frat stuff, and boy stuff, and school stuff. And then, somehow, we talked Family Stuff.

That’s great that you don’t drink, one of her roommates’d said. And I smiled but didn’t say more, because I really didn’t want to have that conversation.

A little later, it came up again.

Why don’t you drink? If you don’t mind me asking.

And I didn’t look at Taylor, but I think she expected me to be as tactless about it as I normally am. I can tell you, but it will make you uncomfortable.

Why? Is it something stupid like “Drunk People are Dumb”?”

Just tell her, my Big said.

So I did. My dad was an alcoholic who drank himself to death.

And her face froze up, and I watched her not know what to say. I laughed to hide my annoyance (Told ya.) and went back to moving cookies from pan to plate.

My grandfather died from the same thing, like he literally drank himself to death too.

I wish I could live in the minds of people right before they respond to my statement. Because the “I understand you” is absolutely the worst. Closely followed by, “I’m sorry.”

Her family is like really screwed up, my Big said about me.

And, yeah, it is. But she kept going, Her stepmom died when she was fifteen.

And, yeah, she did. One part of me itched that someone else was spilling those facts. Another was happy that I didn’t have to say them, for once.

The only person who ever got it right was Steven. A blimp of a person in my life, who wasn’t significant for very long but had a lasting impact.

When I told him that I had a lot of dead people, he said, Me too.

And he was a soldier, so I believed him.

When I told him that my dad was dead, he apologized.

Don’t be sorry, you didn’t kill him.

And when I told him my stepmom was dead, he didn’t say anything.

Sometimes people want their grief to be analyzed. Sometimes people want to be told–It’s okay, they forgive you, they’re at peace.

But me? I just want to talk about it on my terms. I want you to let me. Then I want to move on.

-HH

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