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August 21, 2012 8:19 am

CULTURE SHOCK: Poor timing, pouring tears

Written by Dante Geoffrey

Last night I was reading Michael Ian Black’s “You’re not doing it right.”

The half-silly but fully serious memoir is a brutally honest exercise in self-reflection — and it’s making me reflect on things I’m clearly not ready to see.

If you’re unfamiliar with Black, he is a comedian who was a member of “The State,” a comedy troupe that starred in the MTV sketch show of the same name. He co-starred in the NBC sitcom “Ed” (alongside Tom Cavanaugh, with whom he now co-hosts the podcast Mike and Tom Eat Snacks) and has had numerous (failed, as he’d tell you) projects on Comedy Central.

Black is 41, something of a celebrity, very smart and thoughtful. I am 24, a reporter at a small town newspaper and something of an idiot. The things he has to deal with in his mid-life crisis should be things I’m still allowed to willfully repress.

But late in his book, Black discusses a particularly painful episode in which a veterinarian makes a house call to put down his cancer-ridden dog, Mattie.

The scene unfolds with Black calming and holding Mattie while the vet goes about his business. Before the full effect of the injection can set in, Black runs out of the room crying, leaving Mattie to die with the vet.

And I was crying right along with him (not an uncontrollable sob, but a few genuine tears from welled-up eyes that had not released in some time).

Initially I thought, “I can’t believe I’m crying, how pathetic,” followed by “Michael must be a hell of a writer, I’m not even a dog person.”

The next morning (in my life, not in Black’s memoir) I received a text from my dad alerting me my grandmother had been admitted to the ICU.

Things were not looking good, he told me.

I did not cry.

What does it say about me that I am quick to cry at the thought of a dying dog I didn’t even know existed until four pages prior, but I am unable to shed a single tear over the news of my grandmother’s potential end.

Even worse, this happened the same morning my previous column, which discussed my fear of losing a family member while living far away, was published in the Tribune and online.

So I’m sitting on the edge of my bed, not expressing my sadness like a human should, thinking about how poor timing can sometimes be.

(On the bright side, I may be a soothsayer. Keep an eye out for my future columns, “I fear super-models might be sexually attracted to me” and “I’ve got this funny feeling I’m going to have a ridiculous amount of money.”)

In the few hours following my dad’s text, I did my best to keep busier than I usually like to be in order to distract myself from ... whatever that text was about.

But later that day, my mom called me to update me on my grandmother’s condition. My mom had spent the entire night at the hospital and explained to me that things were bad.

In short, if a last-minute dose of meds didn’t produce results, the options were a risky operation or letting nature take its course.

I processed this information, mustered up all the manly genes that I use to bottle up emotion, and then ... I cried.

Not like before. Not like a celebrity’s dying dog cry. But a real, I-can’t-make-words-right-now-because-my-throat-is-full-of-uncomprehendable-sadness type of cry.

I’d say it was even worse than the I’m-14-years-old-and-the-Giants-just-lost-the-World-Series cry I had in 2002.

I don’t like crying. I don’t know that many people do. It brings on a feeling of helplessness and lack of control that I really hate. But I do like knowing that an appropriate catalyst can cause me to cry an appropriate amount.

You know, like how a healthy human being might.

Dire situations aren’t always the best for extracting positives, but at least I now know I can be affected by a situation a bit grander than a favorite comedian’s dead dog.

(Not to say I don’t still think you’re a great writer, Michael.)

Just one of many significant personal revelations my grandmother has opened my eyes to.

Writer’s note: My grandmother passed away this weekend. This was written when I (perhaps foolishly) still thought she would pull through. The thoughts and reflections focused on in this column have since been superseded by another million thoughts my head is working to wrap around. Still, I find this column to be appropriate and relevant — something my grandmother would have enjoyed discussing with me.

I’m going to miss you, Nonna.

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