A Grandparent, A Speech That Wasn’t

A week and a half ago my grandfather passed away. He was 90. it was fast. This weekend I flew to Florida for the funeral, to Belleview, where there are four Hames generations buried in the cemetery and a street named after us, and relatives in overwhelming number.

Granddad had a church service and full military honors. The 21-gun salute, the folded flag. I had never seen a flag folding ceremony before, the two Navy officers holding gazes as they turned and tucked the fabric of the flag by touch. The grandchildren were pallbearers. Caskets are very heavy.

At the service there was an open moment for family members to speak. I thought about standing up, but didn’t have anything prepared and was afraid, in any case, that I would go to the mic and simply cry. But I wanted someone from our generation to speak, and I think that if the invitation had been held open another moment of two, I might have managed to stand up. Here is what I might have said, if I’d had a little more time to think or a little less hesitation in that moment. It’s raw, and complicated, and perhaps it is best that it lives here and was not spoken then:

it’s a strange road to get to know a grandparent, as a grandchild. You spend a lot of your childhood with these people in your life who are distant monuments to the idea of growing older, whom you love—as you love all of your family, with the blind duty of childhood—but whom you do not understand as people, because they are really much too old.

Then you grown up a little and you realize that it was never that they were that old, but merely that you were that young. You grow up a little more and start to understand your grandparents, like your parents, as complicated human beings with histories, struggles, and triumphs. I am grateful that my grandfather, as with my two passed and one surviving grandmother, have been (are) present in my life as I became (become) an adult. I am grateful that I had the chance to know each of them in turn as more than the caricatures created by childhood. And I regret not knowing each of them better.

Here is what I know about my grandfather. He loved his boat. He loved his wife, and his family. He liked games, and taught me dominoes. He traveled the world, and served in the Navy, and believed in God, and voted Republican. He had a booming voice and a laugh that carried, and a hearing aid that made him lean toward people as they spoke. He played a steadfast counterpart to my Gram’s more fluttering presence. I know that when she died it tore him up. I remember coming back from Australia for her memorial service and being stunned to see him so skinny and sad.

I was my grandfather’s only granddaughter, among six children of my generation. I think that meant he treated me a little differently; that I got different advice and a gentler version of him than my brother and cousins may have had. I know that he loved to have his grandchildren call him. I know because I did try to call him, sometimes, when I was on the road or when given a reminder. I remember talking to him while driving on the highway home in Freeport, maybe three years ago, and he told me that he worried about me and wanted me to find a husband. I was so mad at him. I remember that was one of the first times I moved past being mad at him and tried to share in his perspective. I wish that I had called him more, now. I wish I had come to his birthday party. I wish I had heard more stories from him directly, though I am glad to hear them through our remaining family and explore them through our photographs and books. I wish I had asked him more questions.

You can’t see it now to look at him, because death makes people take on different shapes, but he and I had very similar noses. I used to wonder where I got my ski jump of a nose in a family of more Roman inclinations, until I saw a photo of Granddad from the 40s and realized it was his. That was the first visceral connection I felt to him, as family. That nose hasn’t survived his age and death and preservation, but his ears have. That made me cry more than anything else today, I think, seeing that his ears are still perfectly the right shape.

I’m glad he’s being celebrated today by a family with this much love and history. I wish he were here to celebrate with us; I have more questions to ask him, still.

Day 33: Ways To Write About Him

Hallo lovelys,

Today was hard. It’s hard to know what to put on the Internet and what to keep secret. And it’s hard to acknowledge that I am still having a rough time, even though it’s been weeks and many good things have been happening. I still feel under water. Soon the video of the talk I gave at RUCKUS about burnout will be on the Internet, and then I’ll have a handy reference point for what the hell I mean when I say “under water”.

Supposedly Steven and I have been approved for an apartment, which I have privately dubbed The Apartment Of The Glorious Kitchen. Unfortunately it seems that there is an unspoken agreement in the land of rentals that making an appointment for a lease signing requires merely a day, as though setting specific times or even portions of the day such as “in the morning” or “afternoon” are irrelevant. The consequence is that Steven and I have struggles to clear our schedules twice so far and are still not on a lease. But this too shall pass. Supposedly it shall pass on Wednesday. I remain hopeful. Oh glorious kitchen. Be mine. I will love you, and tenderly roll fresh pasta dough out on your granite countertops for many months to come.

Steven continues to be a rock and a champion, and someday soon I shall find ways to write about him.

Lastly, and speaking of secrets or not-so-secrets and how one might keep them or share them, I will add that my grandfather died last Thursday. Soon I will find ways to write about him as well.

For now, goodnight.

Day Fifteen: Sexiled

A quick post before I lay myself down to sleep. Work continues apace. I am having a hard time writing. I write here, which is nice and makes me feel as though I haven’t completely lost the ability to put words on paper, but when it comes to writing blog posts and stories I am struggling. I have struggled before, but this feels more insurmountable because of how hard these past few months have been. It feels related to being broken. I know it’s not; I know it’s just me having a hard time focusing right now. We’ll get there.

Here is the first public post I have ever made under my real name about some of the practical implications of poly. Namely, I am sexiled tonight from our apartment, because Steven has a date. I wish there was a way to write that word with tone, so that we could all be clear that I say it in a teasing, loving kind of way. I have a comfortable couch to sleep on and am happy to yield my bed, for a brief time, to the pleasures of others. I am grateful to have couches to go to and friends who understand what that means.

I don’t know the secrets of poly. I know some of my secrets of poly, which mostly have to do with being ferociously communicative and emotionally neutral in the face of jealousy. I clearly understand how to take care of myself in relationships better than I understand how to take care of myself in work. Note to self: explore crossovers.

Additional note to self: go to bed.

Day Fourteen: So Much Work

My goodness, friends, so much work. Blogging for Genderplayful and Fermented Adventures and Tor, stories for so many places. Websites abound and must be updated. Today Steven and I started looking for apartments. This weekend I present at RUCKUS (I have given my tickets out but you should still get one for yourself – until tomorrow!) and next week I will think about new ways to make money. Perhaps I will sell smut again. I was briefly good at that, once upon a time.

My presentation for RUCKUS is about practical strategies for dealing with burnout. I am trying to make something snappy and fun that is also genuinely useful for people like me, people who do burn out every once and a while. My notes so far say, “Self-care. Calm the hell down. If you won’t take it from me, take it from yourself. Ask for help. Ask for help.” Once I have a real outline, I will ask for additions from you, friends.

P.S. I hope to write in full about how amazing issue 3 of 24 became, and how grateful I am to every single person who helped to make it happen. Click:

Meanwhile, good night.

Day Ten: Maaaaaagazines

Tomorrow is twenty-four! Tomorrow is twenty-four!

That’s all I have, really. I’m at the Haven, who have generously agreed to host us, and have set up our food, our computers, our space. We are missing signs, but they’ll come. I’ve gotten a little less stressed about this process, but only a little.

I’m going to ground for a few days until we finish this ridiculous, beautiful, roller-coaster of a thing. Come say hello to us, please.

Day Eight: And Scene

Today was my final day at Landmark, where I leave many good people who will hopefully keep making exciting things happen, by hook or by crook. It’s sad to leave the circles that spring up in offices, but this one’s for the best. It’s been three years and two months almost to the day; I remember because I got the job offer on Bastille Day. Perhaps at another time I’ll muse over the leaving of jobs, the untangling of thread by thread and the way that we always seem to leave things dangling.

I’ve little to say tonight. The magazine approaches (my one link for the post) and tonight over drinks I listened to our two art directors make plans, trade color ideas and debate textures. Sketches of geometric shapes were made on bits of note paper, alongside lists of supplies: cold-press coffee, bourbon, single origin chocolate. This issue is exciting, and will be splendid. I am curious to see what we’ll do with a negative theme. Negative on the surface, at least. Saying that violates my unspoken personal rule to not pass judgement on our themes in a way that might influence the contributors…but I think I’ll let that one slide, for the moment.

Steven says that these posts feel a little like report cards for him, ways of knowing he’s been a good boyfriend for the day. Tonight we watched The Daily Show and I did an impromptu erotic reading of the video loading screen. I like making him laugh.

Graces will appear, and there’s an end.

Day Seven: Weekends

I didn’t blog over the weekend, as after my stint as a Brooklynite party-goer Friday evening I went to bed with a sore muscle just above my collarbone and woke up feeling as though someone hit me on the head with a squishy hammer. Ah well.

My weekend can probably be summed up in the following words: sunshine, NyQuil, networking, walking, tears, sleep.

We failed to go to Philadelphia to see a friend’s show, which was sad, but did mean I was home to help another friend with a relationship hurdle. Read: listening, drinking wine, eating chocolate, painting her nails and fending off Steven’s (rare) snarky comments about the stereotypes associated with said behavior.

Sunday I felt a little better, and so Steven and I walked along the Highline and then into the village. I took him to The Meadow and we ate salt, and our stomachs complained. We went to Astor Wines to hunt down a cherry liquor that was served to me at Journeyman last month. We found it, wrapped in a fake straw weave, and I have been slowly sipping into it like a hummingbird. It is deadly sweet, like being smacked across the tongue by liquid sugar. I made amazing egg salad, almost by accident. Everything I make well in the kitchen seems to be by accident.

Sunday night I walked myself right off an emotional cliff and ended up in tears for a very long while. Eventually Steven coaxed me out of them, and I lay aside my worries for a time. It’s not as though I can fix them all on a Sunday night before bedtime.

Today was my first full day back at work on site, necessary but tiring. After work Steven and I went to a party for the Brooklyn Book Festival, which was run in part by a lovely friend of his whom I was sad to not meet more fully. But I don’t think I’m cut out for bar parties; the music makes me have to shout and blocks out most of the words from people around me, my head starts to hurt, and the sheer volume of strangers makes me wish I could transmogrify. I’d be a turtle. I bet turtles have fun parties all by themselves inside their shells. I would. I’d get a little stereo system and everything.

Turtles in headphones. That’s what I’ll dream about tonight.

Day Four: Party to Party to Party

I’m not going to be albe to post this right away, I think, because the internet is down all over northern Brooklyn. I think I can hear the screams of the forgotten through the open window, carried in on the breeze. It’s madness, I tell you. Madness.

This morning I was thinking I’d write about politics in this post. The more time I spend with Steven, the more I follow politics, because he cares so much about them. I like listening to him. I like hearing about events through his liberal, feminist, male lens.

But instead today became about the parties we went to one after the other this evening. We started at The Campbell Apartments in Grand Central, drinking cocktails in honor of my friend’s new teaching job. The cocktails were all excellent, but highly interchangeable in my mind: drinkable, fruity, delicious, gone. Rise, repeat. Perhaps that is what cocktails are supposed to be about?

From there we went to the two year birthday of a business I consult for, a bakery with a new storefront in Greenpoint. They specialize in savory / sweet combinations. Espresso shortbread, this is what I’m saying. Steven and I held a single cookie in our mouths for the photo booth. We sat outside in the warm night with our friends Peter and Mayan, while Peter and I talked about his company (I’m on his advisory board) and about all the ways in which meetings can go wrong.

Eventually Peter turned to me and asked if we’d like to go to the Williamsburg fashion show. “What, now?” I said. “Yep,” he answered, and he drove us there. Steven collected grapefruit punch from the bar and we stood around in a crowd of people, all dressed their best. It’s curious how that idea of dressing one’s best varies from person to person. One person is wearing an emerald dress in a 50s cut with dreadlocks piled high and spiked shoes. Another is wearing a ripped flannel shirt and drop crotch jeans. But they’re at the same event, and somehow it all makes sense?

Odd sensation, running from party to party to party. Warm air, vodka, sleek hair and shine. I’m glad that this is my life. In my city I am always missing something. There is always another place to go. It is easy to have adventures. But then, perhaps it is easy to have adventures anywhere.

Day Three: Morning to Night

I like this blogging every day thing. I remember when I used to do this. Granted, on LiveJournal.

Day three didn’t start very well. Last night after posting I went to bed happy and lay awake with Steven, until eventually we turned toward each other and had sex in the dark. Good sex. I so rarely have sex with the lights off; it seems silly to remove that sense from the vocabulary, somehow. I like to see my lovers. So sex in the dark is a little bit of an adventure, in skin and sound and the manipulation of condoms and the sometimes unfortunate placement of hands. And of laughter.

But after the good sex, the oh-god-yes-I-missed-you sex, after the roll over and cuddle and lay quiet, I started to worry. And once I started I couldn’t stop. I was suddenly bright awake and worrying in circles, about money and the magazine and money and more money.

Eventually I left the bed and I lay on the couch reading The Hunger Games, until I fell asleep at 5 in the morning. At 7:30 I dragged myself back to bed and rested a little while longer, but it meant that the day started with sadness and a funk and a feeling of tiredness that made me want to crawl away under the blankets and stay forever.

Instead, I got up. I worked. I sent an announcement for the magazine. (There is my one link for this post. For serious I love this issue already.) I sent it into the world and breathed easier. I ate a good lunch and breathed easier. I called my old temp boss and he laughed and cheered me over the phone, and I remembered that I know how to make money when I need it. I worked some more, wrote the beginnings of posts for two new blogs that I’m joining (I will link them later, since I’ve used up my one link), and then rode the train uptown for dinner with Steven and two of my dearest ladies. We ordered from Vine, by Columbia, and I had bubble tea with a side of college nostalgia. We told stories about guinea pigs. Also sleep apnea, dating, sex and drugs. No rock nor roll, however. It was so good.

My friends are emailing me kind words these days, or delivering them in person. I hope I am doing a good job of expressing how grateful I am. That is not always an easy thing for me.

So that’s a day. Just a day. But a day that started badly and then got better, because of specific actions taken in order. We fix all things with logic here. Logic and persistence and possibly bubble tea.

Bubble tea solves all. It is because of the bubbles.

Clearly, bedtime.