Well, we’re kicking off 2018 with the tried and tested tradition of losing people (which will make this a typically Hungarian post). What’s interesting about this is that I’ve lost all family and relatives in January.
Back in 1992 it was my grandfather. I swear I felt it. We were on the French Riviera, a place I’d wanted to go back to since forever, and all I could do is seethe. Which was odd, because all the places we went to were beautiful, and people were really nice. But I’d just gotten word that someone very close to me would be out of commission for a while, and there was nothing I could do about it. The Friday after NYE was the worst. The night before I was so angry and sad at everyone and everything I thought it best to turn in really early and just keep the TV on. We found out a few days later, while I was on the Phone with my friend. My mom told me to hang up as she needed to make phone calls since her father had just died, something I repeated to my friend mechanically before hanging up.
Thirteen years later it was my grandmother. Again, I was on the phone, again it didn’t really sink in properly straight away. Though this time it was my dad who informed us. My dad was next, three years later. Again, it was a phone call, again it was in January. I knew though that he wouldn’t wake up from the operation the day before.
And now I just opened my inbox (courtesy of my phone), and read an email from my aunt, who informed me that while she’d been visiting the relatives “your Uncle became very sick and died.” He didn’t die in January though. She told me the month, but while I am fluent in her and my mother’s native tongue, there are some things I can’t be bothered to learn. Spelling is one of them, months are the other. Given that it was the end of December only this weekend, and she said it was the end of the month, I’ll wager a guess that it was November. My aunt, despite having lived in the U.S. for nearly forty years now says she can’t write in English and can still barely speak it. I heard her back in 1991, and can confirm. Maybe she can’t be bothered either. Anyway, I’m mentioning all this because we struck up a deal. I write to her in English, which she says she can read (though based on her replies she catches about 75% of what I’m saying), and she replies in her native tongue. Though when we spoke it was always in her language.
Death is a funny thing. So is the attitude towards it. A friend of mine stayed with me in my apartment for a week, just so I wouldn’t be alone. She also told me to remember that no one could tell me how to mourn. Another girl I knew made the obligatory condolence call, complete with her girlfriends, because apparently in her culture you never go anywhere alone. I’ve had friends from that culture before, and my godmother was part of it as well, and while the people there are very open to friends of friends and their friends tagging along, going somewhere on your own was also fine. But this girl wanted to let people believe what suited her, so who was I to take away from that. She and her friends (I think I’d met them once) duly came over, and the whole thing was so hypocritical and idiotic I nearly kicked them out of my place. Conversely, another girl I liked about as much as my acquaintance willingly provided a platform for my sudden urge to keep telling jokes. My dad had lived them, so I’m sure it was normal.
To be perfectly honest – and part of the idea to write this down here is to provide a platform for showing others and discussing the fact that you don’t always have to shroud yourself in black and keen until the next person dies – I feel nothing. My uncle was a nasty user who loved to provoke people just to get a rise. I know I wrote about him before (just don’t remember if the post was published), so maybe that was the subconscious obituary.
My aunt was close to him (he practically became a substitute parent for her daughter whenever she went back to the old country, which was at least twice a year, along with his wife), but I couldn’t warm to him. Last time I saw him was in 2007. Which was also when I clapped back, gave as good as I got, and just nodded along to his discourse on why I should aim for a career in business (anyone who knows me would be quick to tell you that was not a wise path to take, that’s after they would have picked themselves up off the floor where they’d been rolling around. I’d be the first to join them in that).
Actually, if you want a good idea of what my uncle was like, just imagine the Dear Leader of Russia. I’m not exaggerating. There were rumors floating around that he worked for the secret service. I never cared much for this particular uncle (or any of the uncles and aunts, not even the one I’m communicating with – albeit on my terms – because I don’t trust them, which they all know by now, because I told her so to her face, and with these relatives gossip moves fast). But I always recognized that he was a soul mentor of sorts. His mission was what he was doing in life, and mine was to learn from that. Which was the reason we were talking in the first place. Though never about anything personal.
It still didn’t make me react to his death with anything other than (mild) indifference. Part of me is thinking how I’ll tell my mother when I get her on the phone, but beyond that I really don’t care. We met only a handful of times in my life. Still, it’ll be weird knowing I’ll never see him again in this shape and form. When we meet again – and meet again we will, of that I’m sure) – it’ll be in a whole other life. One in which maybe I’ll be the bad guy.