your pal, erin

Author & Psychic Superhero

Goonies Never Say "Diarrhea"

Ripped from my Facebook status updates this past week: Goonies Never Say “Diarrhea.”

There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned case of food poisoning to elicit a series of “grosser than gross” stories on Facebook; even better when they invoke the memory of awkward family funeral.

Growing up, my kin regularly bonded over bathroom humor, most of which originated with my dad’s side of the family. As one of seven kids in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, Pop was routinely ratted out by his tattletale siblings: “Ma! Bob fahted and it’s wicked bad!”

Fart shaming is a longstanding family tradition, so much so that when my brother Mike chauffeured my high school boyfriend and me to the movies on our first date, he announced that my favorite practical joke as a toddler was to sit on people’s laps, rip some serious cheddar and run away cackling with glee.

Even though Mom prided herself on being impervious to Dad’s dreaded “Portuguese Curse,” (which, truth be told, was actually more of a love potion, concocted of kale and chorizo) she once confessed that my stoic nordic grandparents had bonded over fart jokes in the early years of their marriage.

It was a shocking revelation, especially considering that for most of her life my grandmother suffered from a personality disorder that standup comedians would diagnose as “a tough room.”

She told this story in the days following my grandmother’s passing; a crumb of her mother’s happier times that she could hand down to us kids. And we needed it. The days prior to Grandma’s death were spent watching her aggressive decline from Parkinson’s Disease related dementia. It was unkind transition that was hard to witness, even for those who had been routinely subjected to Grandma’s cruelest tirades.

As the “oopsie” baby who was born when my siblings were teenagers, I was sheltered from Grandma’s mean streak for most of my life. By that point, my parents had moved hundreds of miles away from her iron clutches. This put me in the objective position of tending to Grandma in her final days sans emotional baggage.

Two days before Grandma died, I awoke at 5 a.m., sensing that it was her time to go. Instinctively, I drove to her bedside to comfort her and listen to her thoughts about her imminent passing. Later that day, she told my mom that a nice preacher lady had stopped by to let my grandmother out of the cage where the demons were keeping her as their pet.

A few hours after her death, my family gathered at Grandma’s bedside to pay our last respects. One by one, everyone kissed her goodbye and retreated to the family grieving area.

My brother Mike and I were the last ones remaining in the room. As he stroked her silky white hair and kissed her cheek, I stood warily at the foot of the bed, freaking out just a little. Even thought I was comfortable with the metaphysics of death, I had never seen a dead body outside of a casket.

Between her green grey skin tone and lax mouth muscles that opened in a straight line, Peanuts cartoon character-type grin, Grandma resembled a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle without its eye mask and armor. There was no way I could bring myself to kiss her. The best I could possibly do on short notice was to lovingly give her a pat on the cheek.

Fearing I would chicken out, I scrambled to Grandma’s bedside, stirring the stench of her death in my wake. From the horrified look on his face, Mike had clearly smelled it too.

As per our genetic coding, we immediately busted into tearful fits of inappropriate laughter.

Mike wrapped his arm around me in a headlock that muffled my chortles, making them sound more like sobs as he dragged me past the nurses’ station, into the family grieving area.

Upon our entrance, everyone was dying to know what was so damn funny. Before I could open my mouth, Mike pointed at me incredulously and accused, “Erin FARTED on Grandma’s deathbed!” 

To which I shrieked, “That wasn’t me! That was Grandma!!”

Even though my brother was a veteran first responder, he seriously thought that I was the one responsible for stinking up the joint. I'm inclined to dismiss his mistake as olfactory damage from his years as a firefighter. He'd likely tell you it was a testament to the caustic nature of my bowels. We're probably both right.

Days later, the entire family gathered for The World’s Most Somber Funeral, in which dysfunctional members in various states of denial tersely negotiated their way around the white elephant in the room: how to tactfully remember a woman who spent most of her life acting like an asshole.

Inevitably, the poor padre tasked with delivering a pitch-perfect eulogy crumbled under pressure, referring to Grandma as the “Dearly defarted…DEPARTED.”

I’m probably gonna burn in hell for saying it, but thank goodness for the wailing sobs of my little cousin Barry, whose grievous noise masked the snickering by those of us hardwired to uncontrollable fits of laughter.

Thanks for taking one for the team, kiddo. We love you.


Originally published in Connect Savannah