Essentially, there is nothing funny about death. Essentially. Then again, you’ve never been dead in my family. Death in my family is sort of hilarious.
The actual end of the person’s earthly existence we take quite seriously. The Sikdar family exercises a staggering command over our funeral-giggles. But after that, it’s kinda funny. Not the fact that they are gone and will never come back. That’s not funny. But everything else? Everything else is deeply funny.
Saturday. Feb. 4
Morning: On Coping and Egyptian Cotton
My 91 year old, pin-thin, tie-himself-in-knots, Yogi of a grandpa dies.
We all thought Grandpa would make it to 100. He looked an awful lot like C-3PO from “Star Wars.” I was fairly certain he was the Indian version of the bionic man. Apparently, I was wrong.
I lie in bed crying — hoping I might asphyxiate in my sweaty, snot-ridden sheets — and then remember that it’s not tragic but tacky to smother yourself with low thread count, extra long sheets you bought at Bed, Bath & Beyond. If I die in bed, it best be in 800 thread count, Egyptian cotton.
I extricate myself from my cheap sheets and decide that I am totally composed enough to drive back home to New York [Cue: a terrible idea.]
Afternoon: Some Run from Grief
I run down Chapel Street, away from a friend who is trying to keep me safe while being supportive. Finally, in the middle of the sidewalk, I whirl around and scream, “Stop trying to hug me! I don’t want a hug! Please don’t touch me! Just leave me alone.”
[This incident is entered in as evidence Item 743c, by the prosecution in the case of The People Who Say Jana Has Issues Accepting Love V. Me, Jana]
My friend then proceeds to drive behind me the whole way back to New York — because I threatened to push out, onto I-95, anyone who tried force their company (er, comfort) on me.
Now let’s see how the rest of the Sikdar siblings handled the situation.
Evening: Others Hide or Self Medicate … But Some Actually Rise to the Occasion
My oldest brother ended up remaining in Philadelphia. It was decreed by my father that this whole thing of flying up to Rochester for the funeral etc. should not be a major production. “Don’t drop everything,” were his exact words. Followed by, “this should not become a big inconvenience.”
Now, this is my column, so let me issue my decree: Dead people will only inconvenience you once … because then they are DEAD! So even if that means that you need to drive, fly, rent a camel and then hitchhike/perform sexual favors for strangers in pickup trucks to get where you should/need to be … do it. Most likely, the dead person in question is not a part of some Jack Bauer-staged-death-government-plot … they’re actually dead. Today. Next season. Next year. Forever. So go ahead and inconvenience yourself a little bit.
Brother Two was far more responsible. He put my sister on hold while he answered call waiting. The person on the other line had better be one of two people if you interrupt grieving to answer call waiting: 1. Grandpa placing an inter-existence collect call from the afterlife or 2. God, patching Grandpa through switchboard operator style. Odds it was Grandpa or God — slim to none. Odds it was my brother’s dealer — slightly higher.
Little Sister Sikdar researched direct flights to Rochester, fielded phone calls, made sure I ate dinner and generally proved to be a far more competent and together adult than I. While we’re on the subject, she’s also hotter than me. So there you go.
Sunday, Feb. 5
Morning: Oh, the Places We’ll Go (for Dead People)
My sister and I board a small boxlike contraption with propellers (and bicycle pedals that make the engine go) that will supposedly take us north to Rochester, N.Y.
I realized that there are three major travel warning signs:
1. There is no reason to ever purposely travel north in winter — unless, of course, you are fleeing from a gathering of white men brandishing flaming crosses and costumed in robes of low thread count white bedsheets.
2. If you and your companion are by far the most attractive people on the plane — you are going to a land of ugly people. Seriously reconsider your choice of destination.
3. If you are the person who is most likely to be mistaken on the flight for a terrorist — you need to get off the plane quicker than the snap of a latex medical glove.
Evening: Oh, the Places We’ll Stay (for Dead People)
What could be more distressing than a funeral? Having to sleep in a dead man’s room.
Yes, that’s where my sister and I slept the night before the funeral. There is just nothing else to say on that topic. I don’t think at the age of 22 those types of experiences can actually damage a person. I’m beyond the point of being damageable — right?
Monday, Feb. 6
Morning: Even When Dead, We Colored Folk Cause Trouble
Prior to the cremation we held a small service at a very respectable white person funeral home.
“What makes it a white person funeral home (besides the fact that Jana is oversensitive and deliberately inflammatory about issues of race and ethnicity)?” you wonder.
While performing a puja (you know, invoking our Hindu Posse of Deities, etc.), we set off the fire alarms in the place. That’s right. There we were: A room full of darkies. A dead man. A little fire in a bowl. And a screeching fire alarm. The white folks just stood there shaking their heads. “We outsource jobs to these people?” their bewildered stares seem to say.
Afternoon: The Refractory Period — when is it too soon to start busting out the jokes?
Once all the official business was taken care of, my family sat around and reminisced. It took us about an hour to go from nostalgic reverence to guilt ridden — albeit hilarious — fun-poking.
The lesson in all of it is this: Don’t die. Because people will still talk shit about you. And you’re dead, so you can’t smack talk them back.
Though it may seem odd to others, I dedicate this column to my grandpa. He was, among many other things, a writer. Granted, his book, “Rudiments of Village Health Care,” had a slightly different tone than my column … but it gives me great joy follow in his footsteps each time I put pen to paper.
Jana Sikdar may not be immortal, but she eats her granola and does 30 minutes of yoga to Enya every morning, so scene’s betting that she’ll live longer than all of us.