For those of you who have just started joining my blog, I need to explain that Kurt Vonnegut is like a grandfather to me. Whenever I read one of his books, I feel like I am a little girl and I have crawled into my Grandpop’s lap. He gives me some hard crusty butter toffee candy or those God-awful Mary Jane candies (which I eat because I don’t want to be rude) and as I am losing my molars eating the candy, he tells me a long tale. It takes about three hours and at first I have no idea what the point to the story was. However, the story settles into my brain and I understand the point. I run to my Grand pop and there he smugly sits. He raises his finger in the air and says, “a-ha” because he knows that I now understand.

I started reading Sirens of the Titan yesterday and of course my grand pop is already teaching me lessons in chapter one. So far the story is about a man who just materializes every fifty-nine days. The wife of the man is annoyed and hates that her husband keeps leaving planet earth to go learn about the future. Also, the people in the neighborhood all want to get a glimpse of the man materialize so they camp out on the lawn and wait. Now, the house is all fenced in and the wife never allows anyone to witness her husband’s appearances. People still ask her and they always get the same response…no. The reason she gives is because although this is cool for everyone else, this is really a traumatic event for her and she doesn’t want everyone gawking at her pain.

I just thought in my mind about how we as a nation deal with celebrities and their death. We tend to forget the famous dead person is someone’s child, spouse, father or mother, friend and sibling. What right do we have to demand a spot to look at the coffin? Would you want someone you don’t even know looking at your loved one while you are sending him or her off?

I think back to when my mother died. I got very upset because a busload of kids from my school came to the reviewing. I take that back, I wasn’t upset. I was pissed. This was my mother and I wanted to say my last words to her in private and then shut the casket. But no, I had a classroom of kids standing there watching me. This was my last moment with my mother’s body and I couldn’t even touch her hand because I didn’t want people looking at me. I was not some freak show or an excuses to leave school. No one asked me what I needed at that time. They just wanted to show their support. In the end, it did nothing but agitate me.

My mother wasn’t even famous.

I can’t imagine how I would feel if my mother was famous and all of these people came to “pay their respects”. They never met her in life, why bother to meet her in death? Say your prayers at night for her soul and stay away from the funeral.

This is exactly what Vonnegut is talking about. All of these people in the book just wanted to view some crazy anomaly. They didn’t think what this was like for his wife. They thought they were owed this privilege. But it isn’t a privilege at all. It is a tragedy.

Grand pop Vonnegut serves me my first lesson. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see things how they might see them and not just how you see them.

Can I have a toothpick now, grand pop; I think I lost another molar.