My brother said the other night that whenever I called I was reporting bad news. I think he meant recent calls because I have called him, before these last few weeks, just to say hello. (He rarely calls me but that’s another story.) I call him when I think about him or when I know something I think he’d want to know. Many times I’ve known about stuff happening with the family in St. Louis before he does…and he lives there.
What he said got me to thinking about bad news and being a harbinger of it.
I want to know if a friend, former colleague or acquaintance has taken ill or passed. (A few years ago, a woman who had been very good to me when I was in my early twenties had an illness for a few months and then passed. We’d lost touch and so I didn’t know she’d taken ill. The friend who knew us both in common didn’t tell me. She assumed I knew. I didn’t and I was full of sorrow that I hadn’t been able to visit her in the hospital.)
I want to know if a friend is looking for a job or could use a few extra dollars. I will share what I have when I can.
Today I had some more bad news of interest to my brother, but I sent it via email instead of calling him. Wouldn’t you know it, after our email exchange (he knew the news before me this time but hadn’t thought to call me), I picked up the paper where a lovely, young Black woman’s photo leapt out of the obituaries. As I read the text, I realized that she was the wife of a guy my brother had hung out with when he lived in Boston. Whenever I ran into T, he always asked after my brother. I always called brother and told him T had asked about him.
So, should I tell brother or not? Is the friendship so distant that it probably doesn’t matter to him to know? Should I wait until hell freezes over – which will happen before brother calls me – to mention it? Should I not mention it to brother at all and send my own note of sympathy?
“Don’t nobody bring me no bad news,” the wicked witch in The Wiz sings. “(If) you got to bring me something, bring me something I can use but don’t nobody bring me no bad news.” (Written by the late Charlie Smalls, sung by Mabel King and The Winkies.)
I recently blogged about plugging my ears to keep from hearing bad news. But bad stuff is unavoidable! You have to struggle to remember to notice the good which also exists in abundance but doesn’t race through the mouths of friends, family or media to land full-force in your ears and heart. I don’t report bad news gleefully, I report it from deep sorrow or from utter amazement or with a tsk, tsk, tsk depending on its weight.
So, I ask you: do you want to be informed of bad news about people you know?