How to Talk to a Guy Whose Mom Just Died

Way back when

This is a blog intended to bring the funny. I’m at a weird point in my literary career in that my mom just died, and that really isn’t too funny. She was an amazing woman whose life should be honored and appreciated. She was my number one fan, and the real reason anyone actually reads this stuff. In her honor- I will attempt to make lemonade.

When dealing with a person whose just had a monumental loss in their life (my mom’s passing), interactions can become increasingly complicated and difficult. In the this post, I will attempt to educate you on how best to deal with me. I’m a big fan of the top 10 variety of informational teaching tools, so without further ado – the 10 best ways to deal with me.

10. Do your best to avoid “yo mama” jokes.
This is a tough one, because, as we all know – “yo mama” is an invincible comeback. For example:
“Your breath smells.” Retort: “Your mama’s breath smells.”
“Your face is ugly.” Retort: “Your mama’s face is ugly.”
“I disagree with your opinion.” Retort: “Your mama’s an astronaut.”
It kinda feels like cheating for you to hit me with a “your mama” diss and have me respond with, “my mom is dead.” So, let’s just avoid the whole topic for the time being.

9. Think and pray about other stuff.
I have been blessed with a wonderful support group of family and friends. To a person everyone has told me that their thoughts and prayers are with me and my family during this difficult time. In response – thank you. In further response – when thinking about me think thoughts like – damn you’re handsome; or, man despite the dead mom thing, I wish I was you cause you’re so awesome.

8. Fuck flowers.
Flowers die, and then I need to throw them out. Also – I should thank you for sending them, but I probably won’t. Instead, send a donation to Playworks/eastbay. I don’t think I’ve worked for about 3 months. I can’t believe I still have a job. The only reason they keep me around is because people give money to the organization I work for. Sooooo, help me keep a job – and make a donation. Besides, you’re an adult – and adults make donations. Act your age.

7. Don’t be awkward.
There is nothing more awkward then trying to find the right words for “shit – your mom is dead and I feel bad for you.” Actually – those words are pretty solid. Say it early, and let’s move on . No need to wait for an appropriate moment – a quiet corner of a room, an intimate setting. I know you’re waiting to say it. I know you know I’m waiting to hear it. Get on with it. It’s not that I’ve moved on, but we might as well move on. I suggest we do it over a beer/whiskey/your drink of choice. And don’t forget to pay for it.

6. Laugh a little.
Dark humor was the cornerstone of my mom’s battle with cancer. As soon as news broke 3 years ago – the family asset liquidation began. Dibs on jewelry, furniture and accessories immediately ensued. It’s how I deal with things. (See this blog for reference.)

5. A little nostalgia works for me.
I like stories about my mom. I like to tell stories about my mom. You got a good one – hit me with it.  Memories are what remains. I won’t experience new ones, so lend me some old ones. Shit – that one was depressing. My bad.

4. Teach my dad stuff.
My dad, a world class guy, doesn’t know doo-doo about surviving on his own. He recently made a list of devices he would need to learn how to operate. These items included the stove, the answering machine, the washing machine, his cell phone, “the interweb” and other technological marvels many of us take for granted. I spent the greater part of last night remotely explaining how to print an email. Old dogs can learn new tricks, but he’s kind of really old – so be patient, and give him a good scratch behind the ear when he succeeds.

3. Be selective with your empathy.
It’s not that I don’t care about your problems, it’s just that I don’t care right now. And I definitely don’t care if you had a family member survive cancer. If you’re going to start a sentence with something like, “my mom had cancer,” the next line should end with – “she’s dead.” Lot’s of people survive breast cancer. Save the stories for someone else, cause I sure-as-shit am not down to hear about it right now.

2. Tell me how great I am.
I  was raised by the type of mom who loved and adored every single thing I did – even the stuff I sucked at. Bad art – displayed around the house; posted on the fridge. Dumb jokes  – laughed at. Insignificant accomplishments – embellished and retold. Mistakes – apologized for. Bad haircuts – well – she usually gave them to me, so I guess that was more for her sake then mine, but in general – compliment my overall appearance. Shortcomings – ignore them. Especially the extra pounds I’ve put on. Although, the more I reminisce – she didn’t ignore that one too much. That’s not to say that you can’t though…

1. Have some fucking fun. And don’t curse.
If there was one thing my mom loved, it was having fun. It was central to everything she/we did. She’d hate the thought of a bunch of people sitting around sad-faced grieving over her passing. She loved champagne. Go drink some. She loved riding her bike. Go ride one. She loved her family and friends. Continue that trend. Go to a dog park. Take a vacation. Re-post this blog (honest to god – she thought I was the funniest thing since the whoopee cushion.)

In closing, when dealing with me, let’s just have some fun. She loved living more than most, and that spirit will live on with me.

Love always,

Karen Percy Fox’s son – Stephen (with a “ph” – don’t fuck that up. That always pissed her off.)

AKA The Big Avocado

p.s. If we’ve already spent time together, and you haven’t followed these rules – no worries. And thanks for the flowers. They were beautiful.

p.p.s – here’s the obit:

Baby mama, or rather, mama as baby

Growing up: The Debutant


Happy Family

Loving wife

Rest in Peace. We love you.


About The Big Avocado

A bag of chips and then some.
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46 Responses to How to Talk to a Guy Whose Mom Just Died

  1. Graham says:

    As one who shared her embrace and basked in her smile, I will continue to be warmed by these images set clearly in mind. Pretty cool lady. Lucky me to have crossed her path.

  2. Jeff P says:

    i love your hair and i love your blog. you’re awesome.

  3. goodtogrow says:

    You look really nice today.

  4. Andrew says:

    Steve (steph?), so sorry to hear about your Mom. Its amazing how much she looks like you in those pictures. I will always remember her warm smile at the rink. I cant ever remember seeing her not smiling actually. I hope you and your family are doing well. Take care.

  5. lori says:

    Damn you’re handsome. It looks like you lost some weight.

  6. Dana Erickson says:

    You are sooooooo gooood looking, StePHen.
    When you mentioned your mom loved biking, I had a good chuckle remembering taking BG and Karen to Madison so they could iron man bike their way back to MIlwaukee on that frickin bike trail, only to hear they made it like half a day and someone was in the hospital being treated for dehyradation. I still admire them for even thinking about doing that in 100 degree heat and humidity. Your mom was a badass, and I think about her everytime I drive over that bike trail near my parents house in pisswaukee. Sending you and your family lots of love. GO PACK GO.

  7. AM says:

    Great blog! You really are a very good writer.

  8. Lindo says:

    Also, be sure to get in some “special time”. Always a big concern.

  9. Dora says:

    I’m just glad I didn’t send you flowers. Now I’m gonna go drink champagne and ride my bike.

  10. Graham: I’m glad you met her to. Thanks for the kind words.
    Jeff P.: I’m glad you were paying attention, and I agree with your assessment. I am very good looking with excellent hair *said staring in the mirror ala Stuart Smalley.
    GoodGrow: Danke!
    Andrew: If you think we looked alike, you should see my daughter and my mom’s baby pics side by side. creepy. The Percy/ Fox genes are strong like bull
    Lori: Thank you, and please don’t any closer – I like the tricks your eyes are playing on you
    Dana Dane: BG ran out of gas. I think my mom would have made it. No soldier left behind though. Bad ass and good friend.
    AM: I like your style. Who are you?
    Lindo: Is that code for masturbation? Perv.

  11. Bahbbie says:

    Wait….so you so you put on more pounds? Put the champagne down and ride that bike fatty….

  12. Beth says:

    My mom lost her battle with pancreatic cancer 24 years ago when I was 11. I canNOT tell you how much I wanted to tell everyone else basically what you wrote here. I remember people coming up to me, saying, “I know how you feel.” and at 11 shooting back with “When did your mom die?” and most of them looking down, shuffling their feet and saying, “Well, she’s still alive…” You are an amazing writer and I truly appreciate your posting this. Thanks.

    • “When did your mom die?” – love it. I feel the same way. Of course at this point – damn near everyone had someone die from cancer. Fucking cancer. I gave my mom’s eulogy and seriously considered just getting on the mic – dropping an f-bomb on cancer and walking off stage. Being the good boy that I am, I choose another route.

      Thank you for reading, and the compliments. They are quite appreciated.

  13. Karen Schneider says:

    Dear Stephen; I read this because Lindsay, who is my niece, posted it on FB. I met your mom just this past summer at the wedding, but I was immediately taken with her and thought she was a force of nature. She still is. Peace.

  14. Dana Levin says:

    Well written and you do have good sense of humor.

  15. Tory Folliard says:

    Stephen, I will drink more than one glass of champagne and think about all the great times we had with your mom and dad. She had to be one of coolest moms around – parachuting at 60 and going to Woodstock as a teenager. What a daredevil.
    Glad to hear you are still employed. Keep up the writing!

  16. Anne Lehman says:

    I also read this column through Lindsay’s FB posts (she’s a former co-worker). I especially enjoy your parenting posts; I have a 2 year old, and husband with a similar sense of humor and can vicariously enjoy them without getting annoyed on being the target.

  17. Elana says:


  18. Karen – Thank you. Force of nature – good description.
    Dana- I think your mom’s instincts might have been the right ones. Too funny.
    Tory – Thank you for the well wishes. I am still employed – just barely;) She really was something special.
    Anne – So glad to hear it. I’ll get back to my ineffective parenting, and you keep reading. Deal?
    Elana – I presume you are referring to me? For that, thank you.

  19. Regarding #3, “Be Selective With Your Empathy”… Have you received any pet death comparisons yet? Those are awesome too. “I’m sorry about your mom. I know how you feel, because when Mr. Furkypants died, I was inconsolable…”

    Killer smile on that woman. Damn. Like joy lasers shooting out of her eyes.

    • HA! Funny story – my mom’s dog died days before my grandfather died. She was so crushed. In fact at the funeral parlor we set up poster boards with old war pictures and letters of my grandfather’s life, and wouldn’t you know it – off in the corner, my mom had set up her own poster board for Pete the Pup. It was a lovely visitation.

      I can’t wait for a dog death comparison – or better yet, a cat. Something to look forward to. Thanks Kid. You’re the best.

  20. Ali says:

    My dad died almost 15 years ago. I STILL can’t talk about it. You inspire me.

    Hugs and kisses to you all!

    • I don’t really like talking about it either. But this internet thing is great. It’s like confession, or so I’ve heard. Never been – but the idea of just downloading on strangers is kind of cathartic. If you want to try it out on a small scale – feel free to email me.

      a hug and a kiss for you too!

  21. Andrew says:

    Thank you for inspiring me to write more about my mom’s recent death to cancer. I can totally relate.

    Tomorrow begins another chapter: cleaning out her house. Hit me up for some advice on navigating *that* treacherous road …

    • lexie says:

      I love karen. I loved her sense of humor. She and I laughed to tears several times. We howelled about unfortunate lady parts post long bike rides. We chuckled over power bars and how unpowerful they are. We giggled about inappropriate jokes especially if they centered around bodily functions. She befriended my mom and made her find the true humor in societies most innapropriate things. She raised a boy to be a damn good friend…even if he once referred to me as a hoe bag. My thought and prayers are with you, karen, as I don’t know where else they would be.

      • lexie says:

        Of course my prayers could be focused on making sure that when I steve next, he won’t have a basty neard. And my thoughts are for his bomb wife who has held up my friend like a brick wall in the past years.
        Much love o the four of you

    • Well, you are quite welcome. Please send me a link so I can read all about it. Unless you just journal – in which case, scan that and email it to me.

  22. Lexie says:

    My typos suck. Wow. Never try to post things from your phone….especially if you are trying to be emotional and witty at the same time. Terrible choice.

  23. Dana says:

    And yet basty neard seems fitting for Steve…

  24. Isabel says:

    She’s adorable! I know now how Lucy will look like when she gets older.
    And you’re handsome! 😉

  25. alison says:

    Great post. In response to #8, we keep you around because of #9. Damn you are handsome!!! and funny! I am more worried you’ll leave us!!!

  26. Maggie says:

    You are awesome, Steve !

  27. Sosofine says:

    Steve–Thanks for sharing. You’re just not Awesome you’re Super Awsome

  28. gweenbrick says:

    I really liked this, but it made me sad, so now I feel awkward around you.

    • Damn it Gweenbrick – Rule #7. Don’t be awkward.
      Oh wait, you feel awkward around everybody? Okay – amendment to rule #7 – If you are naturally awkward – or feel awkward around people – you are forgiven for being yourself.

      Thanks for tuning in. For really- appreciate it.

  29. The Weed says:

    Awesome post.

    #3 resonated. My mom has early onset Alzheimer’s, and the thing I hear the most from very well-intentioned people is something like: “Oh, yeah. My grandpa had dementia, too… it was really hard. But he was so funny! He would make up stories about being an astronaut and then offer us cake forty times while trying to ride the vacuum cleaner like a horse!” and I want to interrupt them and be like “listen, I’m really sorry that your octogenarian grandfather had dementia. I’m sure that was hard and also hilarious. My mom is 56 years old and got Alzheimer’s when she was in her late 40’s. My dad isn’t even old enough to retire, and my mom can’t write her name, get to a store, or be left alone for any length of time, and so he is contemplating retiring early or hiring full time help to make sure my mom can do the really complex stuff like going to the bathroom and pouring cereal. Along with her children and husband, her 85-year-old mother–who is in perfect mental health–is devastated to watch my mom’s mind disappear. So… I guess I’m not at the point where this is funny? Sorry!”

    (PS, you are absolved from any responsibility in feeling empathy for my mom. In making fun of others for breaking rule #3 it seems I have inadvertently broken rule #3.)

    • Dude – that sucks. Before my mom passed, the cancer went to her brain – so I know just a little bit of what you speak. Weird. Sad. Disturbing. The brain is such a crazy organ. Thanks for the message Weedy. Hang in there. Do this, and that, and other stuff, and try to feel better. And when she dies – do more stuff.
      Honestly though – thanks for reading and remarking. I appreciate it.

  30. Joanie Read says:

    Dear The Big Avocado,
    I love your blog. You are funny and you must be awesome.

  31. csw says:

    What the hell? How did you manage to become my hero? You’re *younger* than me!

    It must have something to do with Fox family awesomeoscity That’s a word, right? I think it is. If it’s not, just substitute awesomeacious. That’s you, and that was your dead mom.

    Let me know if we haven’t bypassed step 7 so that I can get on with it next time I see you.

  32. I am praying you remain awesome, handsome, and great.

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