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When I was younger…


…I seemed to have this recurring problem of mishearing things whenever people were talking about someone’s death. For instance, when I was 6 or 7, I overheard my mom talking on the telephone saying, “Oh no….oh, my goodness…that’s awful,” as if she was hearing the story of an unexpected death. I thought she was talking to her sister, so for some reason I immediately assumed my uncle had died.

After formulating this terrible news in my head and convincing myself of its veracity, I wondered why my mom wasn’t more upset or consoling. This would have been the first family death I had experienced, so I wasn’t sure how to react.  I kept thinking about what it would be like to never see my uncle again and decided to pay my respects.

I went and got the gigantic orange plastic horn that my dad had bought at a University of Miami Hurricanes’ baseball game (I never could make the big elephant trunk sound you were supposed to get out of it, probably due to having little kid lungs) and marched up and down in the hallway with it doing the best rendition of “Taps” I could muster. My mom paid absolutely zero attention to me during my public display of mourning, so I played “Taps” a few more times and eventually went to my room where I would have lit a candle for the dead had I been allowed to use matches (and had I owned a candle). I figured when my mom got off the phone she would sit me down and we would have a talk about death and my uncle being dead, but after she hung up she just went right back to whatever she’d been doing. I understood then that this is what it’s like when you’re grown-up and something dies; you just move on. So I promised myself I wouldn’t cry.

It wasn’t until the next time my uncle visited that I finally learned he wasn’t dead. Luckily, I wasn’t really a fan of zombie movies because otherwise his arrival would have been one of the more traumatic events of my life. As it was, I probably just hugged him extra hard when I saw him and then he probably gave me a really painful noogie and dampened my excitement at seeing him alive and well.

All these memories came flooding back last weekend when I misheard someone say that his grandfather had died. I instantly felt this pang of anxiety because I knew it would be really hard to find a suitable mourning horn.

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