It's my dead friend's birthday today.
Facebook reminded me. Which is, really, the only thing Facebook is good for. Reminding people of birthdays.
I find it kind of ludicrous. This artificial facsimile of living that continues after Jen very much died. But it makes sense too, since Facebook is how her mom told everybody that she was gone. Her mom takes pictures of purple sunsets and posts them to Jen's Facebook. Her mom thinks that they're a visible incarnation of her daughter's memory. I imagine her mom thought she'd be a grandmother by now.
I get a lot of calls for Jen at work still. More perhaps this month than previous months. There was a day a couple weeks back where almost every 3rd call was for her. People calling for her, using her maiden name. My gut response is to correct them- it's not Rotramel anymore, it's Ronhovde. But that's a moot point and I remember in the next beat. Her proper name means nothing to the callers, who weren't at her wedding. A wedding held a week after her diagnosis. So she could be married while she still had her crazy long, fiery red corkscrew locks. But after she'd had the port placed in her chest.
I just tell the callers that she's no longer with the company. Which, every time, strikes me as a heroically optimistic understatement. Fuck do they care anyway- they're all selling something, and I have it on good authority that she isn't buying.
I remember Jason saying that he wouldn't be going to the funeral. He just sort of blurted it out 3 days before. Like you would with something you'd forgotten until the last minute. Or like a declaration of something important to you but that you expect nobody else to care about one way or the other. A visceral afterthought. I couldn't react quickly enough to hide my disappointment. It was such a work thing to begin with. Every day at the office begins and ends with the tone Jason and I give it. Silently agree upon. The jokes we tell. The side eyes we give. How was I going to get through a work funeral without my work twin? We were gonna carpool. And then drink a lot, stoically. And then never speak of it again.
We have yet to speak of it, so I suppose that worked out okay.
And I went anyway. There were many work people, and many devout Catholics. Many people I hadn't seen in a long time. It was all sort of tribal actually.
At the end of the service Jen's family was arranged in a receiving line. And everybody filed past, and said appropriate things, and gave meaningfully understated shoulder and elbow pats. I found myself standing in front of Jen's mom, who looked relaxed. She was smiling and nodding, and not bewildered or awkward or grief stricken visibly. She looked calm; wry and sweet, the same way she'd looked a year before at Jen's wedding. In the same church, actually. I just stood in front of her for a moment. A beat too long probably. And wordlessly I sort of flung myself bodily at her. Because that's what you do when you're so very overwhelmed and somebody near you is just towering over everything, great waves of MOM pouring off her. She was very sweet to hug me, very sweet not to make me talk or feel bad for having nothing worthwhile to say. Very sweet to give me comfort when all I could think was "why are you standing here taking care of me when your daughter is dead?"
I agreed to go drinking with some other people and wandered out of the receiving hall into the late afternoon parking lot. I had lost the sense it required to stand in a room with people like a person. The process of eating macaroni salad baffled me. It all struck me as very white. I worried I'd start making a noise of distress that would start in the back of my throat, thinly, and that would transform into a roar of crazy. Something animal and senseless. Something that would sound like pitiful panic and confusion. I figured if that was going to happen, it should happen in the parking lot and nowhere near the macaroni salad.
So thanks Facebook, for reminding me of that. I'd not forgotten about her. I don't know why her birthday should be so significantly triggering. She's not more dead today than she was yesterday. Not more gone. Guess that's how it's gonna go for millenials though. This is just a new thing my generation will have. Like Jay's old Livejournal page. The farther I get from my days in Detroit, the more the dead folks hurt. Maybe I've gotten weaker for having been away so long.
Or maybe Facebook is just an asshole that told me I should buy my friend a Starbuck's giftcard this morning to celebrate her birthday.