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When Life Goes Sideways

Posted in Uncategorized by cesco7 on October 12, 2017

And so here we are. Regular readers who look at today’s strip and have seen this a long time coming—especially after it was perhaps inelegantly foreshadowed—may be thinking, “So are we looking at weeks of no humor and all heartstrings?” Non-readers who come across today’s comic may be thinking, “Hey, it’s that unfunny Sally Forth strip being unfunny again.” And both perspectives lead to the same question, “How much of a downer is this going to be?”

We’ll get to that. But a first a note about the above strip.

Today’s phone call occurs in the middle of a completely unrelated story arc (“Ted vs. Leaves: Episode XXXIV”) because such calls always come out of nowhere, even when you’ve spent months steeling yourself for that eventual ring. Mine happened at 4:30 in the morning, proving that dramatic movie cliches originate from somewhere. But it is still a narrative cliche. And having a character wake up in bed to a call doesn’t capture the true tonal shift that happens in real life, no matter what the time. And whenever my thumb is wet I can’t access my phone’s ID button. Add all that up and we find Ted, in the middle of the day, in the bathroom, both surprised and knowing exactly what is happening.

Why the wet thumb joke? Because for better or worse this is going to hew very close to my own experiences, with my dad, last year at this time. (Well, not too close, given that Italians can be quite loud and argumentative.) Now, I know that when a writer says they are going to be “real” they may mistake that with “grim” or “humorless” or “everyone is now an alcoholic.” So for those who will be more than kind to read our strip for the next few weeks and either fear or understandably feel they know every narrative beat coming, it is only fair I tell you a little of what to expect.

First, what you won’t see: A miracle recovery, a mention of angels, someone saying “He looks so peaceful,” a deathbed sudden and total reconciliation, the steadfast belief my own experience is universal or even understandable to all, and the feeling that one can every properly and completely say goodbye to another, especially a dying parent.

Second, what you will see: Hours defined by the exact same hallway and vending machine, realizing no matter how much you say you will always feel it is too little too late, the fucking surrealism of purchasing a casket for your parent, knowing the use of Google is at times both absolutely necessary and inappropriate, the use of pop culture to both express and encapsulate emotion (and finally the reason why pop culture became so important to Ted throughout his life), and disco. Lots and lots of disco, to the point the reader will actually be asked to play a particular song.

And yes, humor. Dark times not only necessitate humor but at times engender it (without the humor itself being dark.) This is a humor comic strip by design and definition. And so most strips during this story will have humor, not out of nowhere or the feeling there must be a punchline but from the very character and situation (resulting in one particular line that I believe is funny and know is true but may bother people by its directness).

I will be posting about Sally Forth throughout this story line. I won’t over explain anything or ever say, “This works because it happened to me so just accept it” because what strikes true to one will not strike such to another. Instead I’ll post a few asides, a few happy memories, and link to a particular Taxi scene that if you know Ted and you know what he will say you already know what to expect.

To anyone who wishes to opt out of reading Sally Forth for the next few weeks because they don’t wish to be sad, because it is too familiar and/or fresh and so is painful, or wants their humor strips to focus first and foremost on the humor, I understand completely. To those who stick through it all, I appreciate it immensely. This may not be an easy comic to read for a few weeks. This wasn’t an easy comic to write (my blowing our deadlines in the process). But if you have connected with the characters to some degree before, if you can relate to what is happening now, and you like Donna Summer even a little, you may very well make it through after all.

Oh, and there will still be a Halloween trick-or-treat Sunday comic, just with an understudy playing the role of Ted.

Thank you for hearing me out.


7 Responses

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  1. kedamono said, on October 12, 2017 at 11:00 am

    Having lost my dad a couple of years ago to pretty much what I expect is happening to Ted’s dad, I’m willing to stick it out for the duration. Yes, there’s a lot of humor in the passing of a parent. When me and my brother had a private viewing of my father at the funeral home, we couldn’t help but mention that he looked like the Joker, especially with the make up the funeral home did to his face. Macabre, but funny.

  2. Bill said, on October 12, 2017 at 11:01 am

    What Ted is going through and what you went through is what I went through 10 years ago next week. You won’t lose readers because you have always told the stories that need to be told.

  3. oldskool said, on October 12, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    As others have said, this is something we all either dread or have already gone through. I am now so invested in your re imagining of these characters, there’s no way I’d miss such an important storyline.

  4. Thumper said, on October 12, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    It’s gonna break my heart all over again, but I’ll stick with it. And I’ll probably laugh at the dark humor. Hell, my dad’s funeral was one of the funniest things my family has ever done. We laughed way too much, and I know somewhere my dad was looking down, both offended and proud.

  5. Karen Friend said, on October 12, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    This is important and I’m glad you’re doing it.

  6. BillR said, on October 13, 2017 at 9:35 am

    My younger brother died a couple weeks ago, from alzheimer’s so I know all about humor and death. Both are fundamentally of the human essence.

  7. Nina said, on October 25, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    I’m late to this story-arc (I really need to get back to reading the daily strips, as I always enjoy your work) but I wanted to add my voice to those who appreciate this. My father died very suddenly, 14 years ago, and so I had none of the awful waiting that you depict here, but everything else you show has really rung true to me.

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