Death and Technical Writing

Yesterday was pretty weird. Imagine me saying that like Larry David: “Pretty preeetty weird.” It started off normally enough, considering that I had just scheduled yesterday’s job interview at 5 p.m. the night before. I was hustling to fill out an application, gather writing samples, and defuzzing my favorite interview shirt. I was mentally girding myself to speak with five people in a three-hour gantlet, finishing with the recruiter, which kind of made it six. It was exhausting, but I feel like I made a connection with all five of the people, including the person I would be a direct report to. They may feel differently. And HO SNAPPLE I have another interview tomorrow, which also involves writing. I am not ready to tell you about my retail training yet, but I will soon.

As I was walking out and daydreaming about a nice glass of wine as I dematerialized into a puddle on the floor, I noticed I had a message. Franny’s grandpa called, and I figured he wanted to snag her for the weekend. It was not what I expected: Franny’s grandmother died yesterday morning.

I have never written about her. She was my mother-in-law for eight years. When Franny was one or so, they announced that she had early-onset Alzheimer’s. She was still in her 50s. I did not know the woman who became confused, and then later frequently violent, as she was described to me. I knew only a woman who was quiet and gentle. They say at the end she was refusing food and water, and ripping out her IV. On some level she was done.

I returned the call and got Franny’s dad instead of who I expected. “Want me to bring Franny?” I said. “I’ll be nice.”

I brought a big bottle of scotch and the kid. We talked about politics and drank and talked about old times. We tried to remember where we got the clawfoot tub that lived in our backyard for so many years. It was pretty weird having the new wife there, though in reality I am the odd one out now. Probably in the end she will have more years with them than I did. SeaFed always seems subdued now, older, diminished in his power.

It was nice somehow, though. It felt like an old family gathering. Any annoyance I felt at SeaFed was always put on hold at those times, because I always enjoyed talking to his parents. Franny’s grandfather mentioned that Auntie Jaguar is coming up to see him and that we should all get together. I hugged him before I left and he said, “You can’t get away, you can’t choose your family.” That and his mention of having a big reunion made me realize that the past, when we were all together was some of the best times in a way. I always clicked with him in a really perfect way and I felt like I was his third child, not the feckless one or the bossy do-gooder, but the prickly, funny one.

SeaFed had a couple of moments where he actually said some nice things to me, about how I was with his mom. About how I was the first to cry when they announced she was sick and the first to get up and hug her, and how that meant a lot to her. Stupid starchy WASPs. Of course that’s what you do. You cry and cry until you’re all empty, and then you start over. I think his new wife fits in better than I did–she seems nice and calm. Franny’s other sister sidled over to Franny gently and stroked her hair and face, whereas Strudel jumps on Franny and says “DO YOU WANT TO PLAY FUCK YEAH CAPS LOCK!” Probably Auntie Jaguar likes having complete bossy-control over his family now. Franny tells me stories about being disciplined by Auntie Jaguar that makes her jaw clench as she tells them.

Sometimes I feel a lot of regret in leaving that family, but still not SeaFed. I think about if I would have stuck around so I could have reaped the benefits of all that time and love and history. It was being loved, even at times I was terribly uncooperative and contrary. But having SeaFed around…it’s like living with a donkey in your house so you can hear the bells on its harness tinkle sometimes.

Franny in mourning
stays away from school today
autumn leaves swirl down