Well I just opened my mail and found a letter from Project Night Night. They were overwhelmed with how many of you reached out to them. Over $8,000 was donated in honor of my sweet granny and I cannot thank you enough. I don’t have the words to tell you how incredibly touched my whole family is. Hundreds of kids in need will be getting a tote bag with a book, a stuffed animal and a security blanket. My granny would be absolutely thrilled.
So this morning I was in the front yard with Dorothy Barker and this guy walked past my house and yelled, “HEY. IS THIS YOURS?” as he pointed at a dead squirrel in the road that had been run over by a car and I was like, “NO. THAT’S…um…THAT’S NOBODY’S, DUDE” and he looked at me like he was trying to decide if I was telling the truth and then nodded and said, “OH, OKAY. JUST CHECKING.” And I honestly don’t know if he thought I was littering dead squirrels or if he wanted the body and was asking if I had dibs but it has been haunting me all damn day.
I don’t have an ending to this story but it’s too weird not to share.
In entirely different news, I did a really lovely (virtual) talk at Richland Library in South Carolina and if you’re bored you can watch it because I did a small reading from Broken that might distract you.
Last week I was too overwhelmed to open my mail and get my shit together but today I’m back to work and that’s why I have something special to share with you:
Why, yes, that is an advance copy of Broken thankyouverymuch. The real ones in April will be bigger and nicer and hardback and will have end pages all that jazz, but having an actual copy of this book in my hands felt like an amazing accomplishment during a time when I often feel like I’m treading in quicksand. I mailed a copy to my mom and one to my sister but I still have one left over and it’s going to you. Just leave me a comment and I’ll randomly pick one of you to send an autographed copy to. (But you have to live in the US because I’m using a pre-paid book mailer so that I don’t have to go to the post office in the middle of the plague. Sorry!)
This week I started recording the audiobook of Broken and usually that looks like a small but fancy recording studio in New York, but in the age of covid it looks more like my closet. Because it is my closet. They sent me cases filled with equipment and I learned how to set up everything and today I recorded the first few chapters with my lovely team listening in live to direct me and point out when they could hear my stomach growl or Dorothy Barker bark or my wedding dress fall off the hanger onto me. When the door is closed the small space and the soft clothes create the closest replica to a sound studio so this is how recordings are done now. I know a lot of people would think hiding in a closet for hours each day is a step down from New York but I suspect those people don’t have anxiety disorders and it’s kind of a blessing in disguise to be able to have the cats on standby if I need them as I pretend to be an old-fashioned phone operator.
Life is weird. But so am I.
PS. There have been several scammers on Facebook pretending to be me and sending out friend requests. My Facebook page is public so you don’t need a friend request to be my friend. Please report them (and anyone who asks for your credit card to facebook). This is me if you want to be friends, but honestly I get overwhelmed on Facebook and am way more of a twitter sort of girl.
Today is my granny‘s burial and in a normal time all of our families would be flying in from all over to celebrate her life, but covid makes the world strange. Her death was one of too many in a Texas hotspot so there will be no funeral and my mom and her brothers will watch (at a careful distance from each other) as she goes into her grave on top of my papa.* I’m sad to not be there but so grateful to have a family that puts the safety of others first. We’ll celebrate her life next year when things are safer. The rules are looser during these moments and it’s easier to give grace and space to others as we all find our way. It’s something I hope we carry on when covid is a memory.
My mom wrote the obituary and it’s very lovely. My sister asked why I didn’t write it but then I reminded her that any obituary I write will inevitably include recriminations of all of my real and imagined enemies, several secret codes, clues to a buried treasure and a video of an otter eating cereal instead of a photo and then she was like, “Oh, right. I forgot.” But my favorite part of granny’s obituary was the ending. Well said, mom.
In lieu of flowers, care for one another.
So today, since there won’t be a church filled with people celebrating my granny’s life, let’s celebrate out in the world. Today, tell someone how much they mean to you. Do something nice for a friend or a stranger or even yourself. And if you’re not sure where to start, you can check out Project Night Night, which helps displaced or homeless children. A $25 donation gives a child in need a new security blanket, an age-appropriate book, a stuffed animal and a canvas tote bag. Right now the need is greater than they can handle so if you can help I know they’ll be grateful.
And if no one has told you yet today, I love you.
*As an aside, yes, on top of my papa. They didn’t want to waste money with two burial plots so they just bought one and agreed that whoever died first would be on bottom. Granny was like, “I told your papa he better die first because I don’t want him dripping on me. Ew. I’ll be the one dripping on him, thankyouverymuch” and he laughed because that is totally granny. And my mom and her brothers won’t be alone because I suspect they’ll be there at the burial as well, as granny smugly says, “Well thank goodness that’s settled” and papa laughs as he puts an arm around her shoulder.
I miss them already. And I’m so glad I had them in my life.
So a few days ago I told you that my sweet granny was in the hospital with covid and wasn’t expected to make it. This was fraught with complicated feelings because she has dementia and wants her parents and was absolutely ready to go to see them. None of us could be with her because of covid but hospice was there in the hospital and I know that the covid units (while flooded) are still filled with nurses and doctors who care so she wasn’t alone.
Yesterday we got the call that she had passed peacefully and it was sad, but it was also a relief. If heaven exists she’s there with her parents and her husband. I talked over the phone to my mom and sister and we alternately laughed and cried together because we look for joy whenever we can. In fact, my grandmother’s name is Joy. It’s a family name. She was Joy Nell. My mom is Nelda Joy. My sister is Lisa Joy. Her daughter is Gabi Joy. And it fits because my granny was the most stubborn, joyful, quietly fascinating person. She was a country girl who sewed all of her own clothes. She was a black-jack dealer in Reno. She was a factory worker in Texas. She was a single mother of three young kids when single mothers were not really a thing. She was a voracious reader and I inherited all of her Stephen King and Ray Bradbury and other dark novels that inspired me growing up. She dumped the serial cheater (sorry Grampa) and never looked back and found my Papa, a wonderful man to spend the rest of her life with. She was amazing and sarcastic and always let you know that she was in charge.
My calls with my mom kept getting interrupted bc a million people were calling her about arrangements over the next few hours and I joked with my sister that every time it happened I assumed someone was calling to say granny was alive again because she’d decided she wasn’t ready after all and was too stubborn to stay dead. We laughed. I told my mom the same joke when she called back and she laughed. We made our plans. There will be no funeral because it was too dangerous. Their town is a hotspot and their covid units are full. My mom and her brothers would be there when they put her in the ground. And next year when things are better (please let them be better) we’ll have a memorial and celebrate her life together. I desperately want to go to the burial but it would break my heart even more to see my mom and not be able to hug her or go to her house so I will mourn from here.
A few hours later I got a call from my mom. “So…remember when you were joking about granny coming back from the dead?”
“Yeah. She’s alive again.”
Turns out there are a lot of patients in the covid unit and the hospice worker who’d called my mom got their wires crossed about who was dead, and the reason we even knew she was still alive was because when our funeral home went to pick her body up the regular nurse was like, “Well you can’t have her because she’s not dead yet.”
The hospice worker was beside herself with apologies but luckily my mom is the kindest person in the world and found herself laughing because this is exactly the kind of story my granny would find fascinating. So mom got off the phone to call everyone to tell them granny wasn’t dead. I waited about an hour so she’d have time to call everyone and then I texted my sister.
Turns out mom hadn’t gotten to Lisa yet because she was too busy telling people to stop digging graves and retract death notices and other things you don’t expect to be doing on a weekday so Lisa found out by text that our granny had returned from the dead.
And it was an incredibly complicated afternoon of feeling sad yet relieved that granny was dead and then guilty confusion when we found out that she wasn’t dead and also punch drunk hysterics over a story line that granny would have fucking LOVED. My mom had to put a pause on the obit and I mentioned that she definitely needed to put both of granny’s death dates in there when she did eventually die. Lisa and I decided that if granny didn’t have her first and second death date on her tombstone it would be a total waste of a tombstone and we started figuring out how much it would cost for them to add both because we were definitely springing for it.
Victor would check from time to time to see how granny was and I’d say, “Oh, she’s still dead” and he’d say, “WHAT?” and I’d be like, “Wait. UNDEAD. She’s still undead. Or ‘not dead’. Fuck. It’s confusing dude.” And then he’d go hide in his office because he didn’t entirely understand the quickly alternating heavy tears and peals of giggles as my sister and I told granny stories to each other as Gabi Joy yelled, “IT WAS JUST A DRESS REHEARSAL” in the background.
And then a few hours later mom called me again and was like, “Okay, she did it this time!” and I was like, “Are you sure?” and she was like, “I mean? Pretty sure?” And instead of getting super sobby like the first time granny died that day we were able to laugh and it was the most healing sort of thing. I have no doubt that granny probably planned all of this. It was late so I didn’t call Lisa but this morning I hadn’t heard anything so I texted her just to check:
I’m almost certain granny decided to die twice on the same day because she knew Lisa and I were going to buy a new tombstone and she really hated it when you spent money on her.
Victor sent me a photo he’d taken of me with granny and papa and my mom on one of the last times we’d all been together. We were looking through her photo album and she was telling me amazing family stories and we’d all laughed until we cried. I wish I could back in time to tell her that she’d created one that will live on forever in our family.
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