“I don’t get this whole Harambe meme,” I offered, pointing at a sign someone held above the mainstage crowd at Bumbershoot.
“Because you’re mildly autistic,” she responded. “You don’t care about animals.”
“That’s not the point,” I rebutted. “I get why people are sad about him. I don’t get why he’s turned into a meme, why he’s popping up everywhere.”
“He hasn’t turned into a meme,” she said. “I haven’t seen him as a meme at all.”
“Really?” I asked. “Then why is that guy holding an R.I.P. Harambe sign at a Father John Misty show?”
She shrugged, looking back at the sign.
“Okay, yeah, I don’t get it. I mean, the sign’s all misspelled,” she spoke again moments later, not even mention the “Your Grandma (heart)s U” on its flipside.
“See? It’s a meme,” I smirked. “Mildly autistic? Fuck you.”
I could see the tears welling in their eyes as I told what I thought of as a half-joke.
The thing about life is, nobody sees their own as a tragedy. Tragedies are things to be overcome, whereas life is just a thing to be lived. Life is the sum total of our experience, and it can’t all be sad.
My dad’s death. My friend’s childhood cancer. These are things that define us, but we can’t call tragedies anymore. Friday night, my friend noted that yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the day she got diagnosed, which I reinterpreted as it’s been 30 years since she started kicking cancer’s ass.
So when I tell these half-jokes, these plans of mine, it’s a celebration, not a mourning. I long ago decided that when my 35th birthday comes, I’m not having a party, and instead, having one a month later, on the day my life surpasses my father’s in length. Comparing lives is subjective in so many ways that it’s impossible to say whose is happier or more fulfilling or who lived up to their potential more, but in one way, I will have bested him, and that’s what all parents want for their children in some way or another.
To me, this is celebratory. To me, this is an acknowledgment of what I’ve overcome.
To my friends, it’s a thing that brings them near tears.