I have this monthly ritual with G-Mac. I go pick her up and drive her to my parents' house where we have dinner and gossip about all of the latest dating scandals at her assisted-living center. Then I drive her back home and walk her to her door, arm-in-arm. On more than one occasion she has yelled out to geriatrics we've passed in the hallway, "have you met my new booooooyfriend?" And she says "boyfriend" holding out all of the Os just like I typed out.
Sunday was a G-Mac dinner day, which meant that it was something of a "perfect storm" Sunday because once a month Bob and Cathie have all seven of their grandchildren over for dinner as well and this month the G-Mac Sunday happened to coincide with the grandchildren Sunday.
By the end of the night my anxiety had a headache. Yes, you read that correctly.
G-Mac and I both took turns saying the safe word ("GETMEOUTOFHERE!") and then promptly got up and left before she could build enough of a case for elder abuse.
When we got in the car and started to pull away, she told me "children are wonderful. But usually from a distance."
Every single time I drop G-Mac off she asks me why I haven't "done an ipod" with her recently (translation: "interviewed me for the podcast"). She tells me she still has things to say. I tell her that you all want to hear those things and that there are repeated requests for more G-Mac content. I promise to deliver on that sometime soon.
In our October episode we brought someone else's grandparent to you. Meg's grandpa, who called me "Levi" no less than five times during our interview. We also had some really fun segments from a few others, including the wonderful writing of Meg Morley Walter.
Do yourself (and us) a solid and click on the little play button thingy below. I promise you won't regret it. Bonus: the second you hear my voice in the first few seconds you'll start growing more magnificent hair.
And for the hearing impaired, and to hopefully entice the rest of you to check out the episode, I've included the text from a story I shared as an intro for this episode below.
I grew up learning about my older sister, Christine, who died tragically in a car accident on prom night. Her tiara was the first thing they found. She had been crowned queen only an hour before. Everyone expected her to win. She was also Ms. Utah for three years in a row.
I found out about Christine when I was 7 because my two living older sisters told me about her. They explained that Christine died a week or two before I was born and so I never had the chance to meet her.
She was blonde, they told me. And beautiful. She sang like an angel. My sisters had tapes of her singing. The recordings always sounded distant and haunting. And suspiciously like my living sisters. But that made sense. Christine was, after all, my sister as well. They showed me pictures of her, too. Pictures that had been cut out of magazines (Christine was a model). She looked so nice. So full of life. I was sure we would have gotten along.
I was told repeatedly that I could never talk about Christine in front of my parents. The wounds were too deep, and my mom and dad had decided after the funeral, which was beautiful by the way—her casket was carried in by ponies and the queen attended—they decided that they would never speak of Christine again.
I was a little annoyed that my parents were going to go their whole lives without ever letting me know that I had an older sister. But I also understood that pain can make people do crazy things.As the months went on, Christine’s presence in my life became more and more tangible. My sisters explained to me that Christine actually haunted the basement, where their bedrooms were, and so it was probably best that I didn’t go down there unless I wanted to see a ghost.
From time to time I heard haunting cooing sounds coming up the stairs from the basement. On occasion Christine would leave messages for me written in bright red lipstick on the bathroom mirror. They were simple messages. Vague, in the way most messages from ghosts are. “I am with you” one said. “Don’t forget,” another told me.
Around the time that Christine started trying to communicate with me from the other side, I decided I should begin telling the neighbor kids about her. Jared Dimick next door was an obvious choice for my confidence. He and I had spent countless hours over the last year telling one another stories about our encounters with aliens who we were sure were zeroing in specifically on our suburban neighborhood 35 minutes south of Salt Lake City. By the way, I had sold those alien stories so convincingly that I actually believed them myself.
I told Jared about Christine. I showed him the pictures. Played the tapes of her short-lived music career. He accepted all of it. And he suggested that we set up a tape player in the basement to try to capture her voice.
I had no interest in this. I knew better than to disturb the dead. She terrified me. And all I wanted was for her to go away. But I had brought Jared into this, and I didn’t want to look like a wimp in front of him.
We consulted Jared’s older brother Jon for help. After explaining the situation to him, Jon started poking holes in the narrative. Jon was smarter than us because he was really old. He was 9.
He asked me if I thought it was strange that we only had pictures of Christine from magazine cutouts. He asked me how it was even possible for my parents to have had a child in the late 60s considering that they didn’t get married until the late 70s. And he suggested that my sisters’ direction that I never bring this up in front of my parents was at least a little suspicious.
I didn’t want to believe that this was all a lie. Christine had become such a real force in my life that it was nearly impossible for me to accept that she may not have ever existed. I had cried over her death. A dozen times. I even wrote a letter to her once and flushed it down the toilet. I don’t know why I flushed it. I think it had something to do with my father forcing me to watch Steven King’s IT when I was six.
I ran home. My parents and sisters were in the kitchen. I stood up straight so everyone would know I was serious. “Mom, dad, did I really have a sister named Christine who died in a car accident before I was born and now haunts the basement?” I asked. My parents looked at my sisters and then to each other. I could see them trying to figure out what they were supposed to say.
Finally my father spoke: “she’s back!”
For the next year my parents participated in my sisters’ attempt to convince me that our house was haunted by their fictional first born.
The apples didn’t fall far from the tree.
~It Just Gets Stranger