The Death Parade

funeralIt’s Wednesday night, I am lounging on the couch full of bologna and liver dumpling soup – my favorite. Despite that, I am a bit glum, it’s been a long week already and my plan tonight is to lethargize my brain with inane sitcoms. As I queue up one such sitcom, my phone rings. A quick peep tells me that it’s my dad.

But it’s Wednesday.

My dad and I chat twice a week – Thursday and Sunday. We are men of routine and this is one we adhere to with gusto. But like other people of routine, any break from that routine is an instant red light – something’s wrong.

It’s Wednesday.


My dad’s voice instantly tells me that everything’s fine. He is jovial, calls me “Dame” and not “Damien,” and apologizes for calling on Wednesday. He had a few minutes to kill and wanted to chat. But a break from routine suggests an ulterior motive. I wait.

Our conversation begins. Our conversations are as routine as our conversation schedule. We talk family, books, food, Philadelphia sports, family again, food again, and teaching. And death.

“Do you remember Jack Simpson from Little League?” He asks.


I don’t remember Jack Simpson, but I know one thing for sure – Jack Simpson is dead.

Some families have innate talents. I grew up with a family that could all fix gas grills. I knew another family who were all horrible at basketball but could all – mother, daughter, two sons, and father – make a blind hook shot from thirty feet.

My family can work death into any conversation. Any conversation. We can work it into conversations on food, baseball, or garden supplies. Granted, sometimes the transitions are awkward, “Speaking of waffle irons, did you hear that Sally Mitchell was hit by a truck?” And sometimes we just swoop in out of the blue with our news. My mother has called me simply to tell me of a horrible car wreck near the house. On Christmas Eve. Involving people dressed as elves. When I asked her what on Earth had prompted her to go out of her way to tell me this, she said “I didn’t want you to worry.” Worry being a thing I was not doing until the moment she called.

One death isn’t enough; one death begets another, which begets another, which begets another. That’s where the conversation has gone tonight, my dad has begun listing the recently deceased.

“Well, you know Mr. Jackson died in January, right?”


“And Mr. Frick died before Christmas. Massive heart attack.”


When he runs out of recently deceased, he simply goes further back in time.

“Well you know that Mr. Orinado died about five years ago, right?”

“Yes. I actually told you about that.”

“Oh. Well his brother died too.”


After listing the dead, everything that has been in my dad’s head all day comes rushing out in a staccato monologue on death, dying, dealing with it, and Little League baseball. Here it is, the reason for the call. I lie back on my couch and imagine us as two old Italian women dressed head to toe in black, in perpetual mourning. We then start eating grapes from a bunch sitting in the crotch of our pantyhose.

When the conversation started, I was simply glum. Now I am evoking various gruesome suicide scenarios involving Little League equipment. This isn’t helping. I desperately try to change the subject to the only other thing we can talk about.

“Dad, what are you going to have for lunch?”

“Not sure…Mom’s at a funeral.”


  1. #1 by greg galeone on March 26, 2015 - 6:44 pm

    Thanks Damo for changing the names to protect the dead.

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