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You Don’t Always Have the Time You Think You Have

·521 words·3 mins
Family of Origin Writing

“We go way back, don’t we, Page?” my grandmother says. We’ve just walked out of my grandfather’s funeral. We’re standing outside the church waiting for the funeral procession to coalesce in a tidy formation so we can drive to the graveyard.

She was wobbly as we walked out of the church, but now she clutches me to her chest with sudden strength.

Mainers don’t really say things. We imply them.

And right now my grandma is channeling the brown paper grocery bag of old Godzilla VHS tapes that she picked up at a yard sale in the early 90s when I was crashing at her place. Giant bowls of buttered popcorn we ate together while watching monsters fight on her tiny television.

Her amber hair. Her tinny laugh.

We know who we are to one another — that we accepted one another at a time when no one else did. Virtuous outcasts who had to be satisfied with the fact that at least _we _knew what we were doing — even if the neighbors didn’t.

It was grandma and me against the world back then. I’m still not sure who won.

I think it was a tie.

Because we’re still kicking, grandma and I. And so is the world, with all of its idiosyncrasies. With its joys and disappointments.

She’s not getting any younger — and neither am I.

“I love you and want to read your books,” she says.

“No, grandma, they’re not really your thing,” I reply. At this point in my career, I’ve only written how-to books for open relationships.

“Seriously,” my sister adds, “you’d think her books are nasty.”

“Oh please,” my grandma says, “where do you think she gets it from?”

Once we’ve all stopped laughing, my grandmother adds,  “If it’s not too much, could you write a book that I’d like to read?”

I nod. “Okay,” I say. It’s a new goal that I set then, in the fall of 2017: Write a book your grandma would enjoy.

Although we live cross-country from one another, we continue to write each other long emails, the kind that ramble and gossip. Trade compliments, book recommendations.

When my father passes away, she’s one of only three people in the whole world who can comfort me without making me angry.

Four months later, in August 2020, my first novel comes out — Psychic City — the book I promised her that I’d write. It’s not exactly tame. There’s murder. The main characters are three woman who are all in a long-term relationship with one another. But my grandmother loves it. She whips through it at lightning speed, sends me encouragement, and makes my aunt read it.

I don’t have the strength in me to really accept that one day my grandmother will no longer be here. Losing my father was so hard; I suspect losing her will be just as brutal.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned this past year it’s that you don’t always have the time you think you have. So I treat every email like it might be the last one. Eventually it will be.


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