Like Miserable Shitehawk, I too can be an awkward social conversationalist. I often catch myself reflexively responding to people with jargon that hasn't actually had the opportunity to be processed by my brain. One of my worst conversational reflexes is "you too." Waitress tells me enjoy my meal, "you too." Flight attendant tells me thank you for flying with us, "you too!" Boss tells me have fun on vacation, "you too."
Well rewind to about 10 years ago. I was home from college for Summer break and had started hanging out with some high school buddies who I hadn't seen in a while. While hanging out it is mentioned that one of our other high school friend's mother had passed away suddenly after a quick battle with cancer. I hadn't seen this particular friend in some time, but we had been pretty close in high school. My mother used to drive us both to high school on her way to work until we each made older friends with cars who started driving us separately. So after some debate I decided it would be a good gesture to attend his mother's wake since some of my friends who remained close with him after high school had also planned on attending.
I get to the wake and apparently the death has taken a huge toll on all the immediate family members in attendance. There is hardly a dry eye in the house. I look around and do not see a single familiar face. I immediately start to regret my decision of showing up. For some reason I feel like a bit of a fraud because I didn't really take the time to stay in contact with him since we graduated and felt out of place compared to all of the people there who were obviously personally affected by this tragedy. I keep telling myself that seeing a friend, no matter how close the relationship, is always a good thing for people in mourning at times like this. I have nothing to really base that on since I've been lucky enough to have never lost someone close to me at that point of my life, but I still thought it made some sense.
My plan was to seek out my friend and tell him how sorry I was and give him my condolences and tell him that I am there for him if he needed anything. I know everyone says those things regardless of whether they mean it or not, but in that moment, seeing my friend broken up like that and remembering all the great times we shared in our youth, I really meant it. So I start to inch my way up to him on the back of a line of other friends and family members stopping to exchange condolences with the immediate family who are positioned a few steps in front of the open casket.
As I get closer I am getting more and more anxious. I feel like everyone in front of me knows my friend and his family a lot better than I do. I feel like they are all looking at me and know that I am out of place. I am finally next to have an opportunity to speak with my friend. His dad and his two sisters are positioned ahead of him and I know that they have no clue who I am. I awkwardly go to shake his father and his sisters' hands and nervously stumble out "I'm sorry for your loss" to each of them. I quickly move on to my friend who looks like he has been crying for days. I glance at his mother's casket right behind him and try not to look that direction again. I immediately forget whatever niceties I was prepared to say to him and want to get out of everyone's way as quickly as possible.
He greets me with a half-smile. I smile back. I shake his hand and he puts an arm around my back and grabs me in close for a friendly embrace. I tell him "I'm so sorry." He tells me "thank you." I ask him how his family is holding up. He says that they are doing the best they can. He asks me how my family is. I am almost too embarrassed to say "really good." We shake hands again and I begin to lean my body away from him and start to plan my exit, but he had one last pleasantry to exchange. "Tell your mother I said hi." "You too."