A few weeks ago I got a call from my mom. She sounded stressed and I could tell instantly something was wrong.
"Nonna has been rushed to the hospital. We don't really know anything yet, but it doesn't look good."
We call my mom's mom "Nonna." It was a nickname we gave her twenty years ago. Grandma had been poor all her life. My mom tells stories about being raised by grandma, a single mom of ten, and having little to no food in the house. Throughout my childhood I heard tales of grandma giving each child a teaspoon of something to eat for lunch and making a soup with one onion, plus some salt and pepper, for dinner. "I can't remember her ever buying anything for herself," mom has told me on many occasions.
In the early 2000s, my uncle Will started taking grandma on thrilling international trips so she could see the world. She had hardly left her Death Valley farm town in half a century and now she was suddenly, in her 70s, riding a camel in Egypt and hiking in the Andes.
One of the first trips they ever took was to Italy. Grandma had a remarkable gift of drawing people to her. She was kind and empathetic in a way that felt superhuman. As they traveled through Italy, people would stop and talk to her. They called her "nonna," Italian for "grandma." We all started calling her that from then on.
The last time I saw Nonna in person was a couple years ago. Skylar had a break in his schedule and we decided to drive to southern California to see her. While we were in town, grandma started to come down with something we were worried might be covid. Trying to be safe, Skylar and I stayed at a hotel and only visited with her from a distance.
On our last day in town, she asked us to bring her lemons so she could make some lemon tea (she believed this would help with whatever illness she had). My uncle was living with her and the two of them were avoiding going anywhere until they could confirm they didn't have covid.
We placed the bags of lemons on the doorstep, rang the bell for my uncle to come grab them, and stood on the front lawn so we could wave goodbye.
Nonna opened the door, standing in her nightgown, and kept saying over and over, "oh, you don't know how much I love you. You really don't know how much your grandma loves you."
Mom was right to be worried a few weeks ago. Nonna lasted two more days in the hospital, long enough for all ten of her children to travel and be with her as they said goodbye.
Nonna was 93. I facetimed with her regularly and last spoke with her just a few weeks before she suddenly got sick. I called her around 7:00 PM, her time, and it was clear she was already in bed. I apologized for waking her up. She dismissed the apology. "Your grandma is never too tired to pick up the phone and tell you she loves you."
I know I'm lucky to have made it almost to 40 with both of my living grandmas, healthy and very important parts of my life. And yet, 2023 somehow still feels too soon to lose one of them.
This has been a quiet year for me in a lot of ways. I confess that has been half welcome after the one that preceded it and nearly killed me. But 2023 was a year of goodbyes and struggle to find new purpose. That perhaps sounds more negative than I mean it. Or maybe it is a bad thing and I'm depressed and just hedging a bit because I don't really want to admit it. Who knows.
In 2023 I walked to a monastery with corgis. I reintroduced triathlons into my life. I worried about high blood pressure? I thought that was for old people. I went to a lot of community meetings and watched my husband charm the room. I said goodbye to my favorite knitting store. I finished writing a book. I won an award for being a gay lawyer that I wasn't sure I deserved. I changed a car battery all by myself and acted like I built an engine from scratch. I xeriscaped my yard and let Skylar drag me to every nursery in the state looking for desert plants. I spoke about bad Mormon films at a conference and didn't offend my parents. I watched my husband teach his mother to ride a bike in France. I snuggled my dogs. I worried about my friends in Ukraine. I hosted a few Strangerville Live shows and couldn't believe people attended.
I started writing this very stupid website when I was 23. Then, suddenly, I'm almost 40. I know I spent four decades building up to that so maybe it's not accurate to call this "sudden." And yet, it still manages to feel as sudden as anything else in my life ever has.
This website's archives contain nearly 17 years of what is probably an embarrassing evolution. At times I've been tempted to go back and mass delete to cover my tracks. But then I stop myself because if we can't let evidence that we're imperfect just dangle out there for the world to see, well, what are we even doing.
This website has been a valuable and constant companion for me for a long time. It has opened doors. It has connected me with a really beautiful world I might have never otherwise known. It has been a spot to share stories. Jokes. Tears that come from all sorts of places. Announcements full of trepidation and news barely worth writing about. I guess this website has never really changed even if I feel like the rest of us have. It has always been a messy, sloppy, gathering place full of anecdotes. Updates.
Thank you for being here.
I hope 2024 Just Gets Stranger for you, if that's something you want, of course.