The leaves keep turning

As this is being posted, Stella and I are on a flight down to North Carolina for the funeral of my grandmother, who I wrote about back in May. At that time, she’d suffered the first real bout of ill health in her 92 years of life, and had been moved into an assisted living facility, where her health had continued to decline. It had seemed then that her final days were nigh.

Well, they weren’t. She backed away from death’s door in the spring, enjoyed a resurgent summer, and continued plugging along through the fall. Two weeks ago, not long after enjoying her last restaurant meal – a few slices of pizza with my aunt and uncle – her frail organs finally began to fail. She died this past weekend, after spending five days on a constant morphine drip, breathing ever more slowly until she finally stopped.

I knew she was really dying this time, but I still felt shocked when that final call came on Saturday night. As recounted in my earlier posting, my grandmother and I weren’t close, though over the years she seemed more and more eager to see me. When I did call her, she sounded euphoric to hear from me. And as I write this, her rasping, birdlike voice is saved on my voice mail, telling me for the last time she hoped I could come down to see her soon.

I feel so much more sad than I thought I would. Perhaps it’s because she was my last surviving grandparent, so her death marks the end of a sweeter, more innocent time of life. Perhaps it’s because I never found a way to really forgive her for hurtful things she said when I was younger. I didn’t spend a lot of time while she was alive thinking about all the good memories, the lifetime of small moments that made up our relationship. Now I almost can’t stand to think of them.

It feels all the more unsettling because there are other changes afoot in my life. After a decade of ghostwriting, I’ll soon be leaving the book world for a while, at least, to work on a blog website related to a gay-themed TV show. I’ll be spending a lot of time in California, and a lot of time doing a completely different kind of work than what I’ve been doing. I’m not only moving out of a career I know intimately and perform well in, but I’m entering into a Hollywood-esque world that I know little about. It’s discombobulating, to say the least.

I’m excited to do it, of course, but the juxtaposition of having my first all-day meetings marathon with TV people, then packing to fly down the next morning to North Carolina for my grandmother’s funeral, just has felt strange all day. It never fails to amaze me how, no matter how much older and wiser we think we’re getting, these moments of uncertainty continue to creep up. Perhaps that’s why we take chances, or shake things up.

There’s so much more that I’m feeling, and more that I’d like to write. But it’s late and our flight leaves early. I have to pack. What does one wear to the next phase of one’s life?

11 responses to “The leaves keep turning”

  1. MarleyFan says:

    I loved the line that was often used on the TV series NYPD Blue:
    I’ll hold a good thought for you”.

  2. Scott Godfrey says:

    Lisa, my deepest condolences for the loss of your grandmother.

    I lost my last one a couple of years ago. Because (due to a stroke and severe brain damage) she was a shell of herself, I wasn’t going to allow my self the luxury of sorrow. But you know how those silly, little plans never really work out. The grandparentless world is a little colder and scarier. I cried for myself.

    What does one wear to the next phase of one’s life? Something comfortable.

  3. Stephanie Wells says:

    My funny, cynical, articulate grandma’s 98th birthday was two days ago. She is still somewhat healthy and mostly completely lucid, but so sick of it all, I think. I know it’s coming soon, but I’ve thought that for so long and been wrong for so long that now I no longer believe it, so I know I have a horrible surprise coming up soon that I won’t be ready for.

    I really love the way you sketched the parallel between these two transitioning stages of life. I often think when a friend’s parent dies what a huge change in one’s personal identity and position in the world it must be, and as Scott points out, a grandparentless world, though slightly easier, is also a new paradigm. I’m glad you have a positive transition happening in tandem with this one, and thrilled for our own selfish reasons about your good news! As for your brilliantly phrased last line: Something red!

  4. bryan says:

    lisa — sorry to hear the news about your grandmother; terrifically excited about your new job news. we’ll look forward to reading.

    scott — i’ve never known lisa not to wear comfortable clothing.

  5. Lisa Tremain says:

    ms. parrish,
    be metaphorically naked.

    ms. tremain

  6. WW says:

    Red Shoes.


    So sorry to hear about your grandmother.

  7. Tim Wager says:


    So very sorry to hear about your grandmother. My last remaining grandparent, the only one I ever really knew, my mother’s mother, died 3 years ago. Due to physical and mental illnesses, for the last several years of her life she was not the woman I had known, so I felt like I had already lost her before she passed on. I think the strangest and hardest part of it for me was seeing the change in my mother, who came to realize that she’s the last surviving member of her immediate family from when she was a kid.

    Safe travels there and back. I’m looking forward to meeting you soon out here on the West Coast and hearing more about your new job.



  8. Jeremy Zitter says:

    My grandmother had been sick for years, ending up in a vegetative state fed through a tube in her stomach before she died. We all knew it was coming, hoped for it in fact, and I was still shocked by my response. As a speaker at her funeral, I could barely sob through what I wanted to say. I’m sorry for what you’re going through…

  9. PB says:

    I am always amazed at how life unfolds, never a gain without loss, never a fully good day without a sense of something just out of reach. How beautifully as always you have captured this–the ambivelence that makes the tiny moments of perfection, even if from memory, all the more filling. I am so sorry about your grandmother’s death. I am so proud and excited for your new adventure. And I would wear psychic armor for work, there is weirdness in Hollywood. Red for home, though. Does this contradict the methaphysical nakedness? Because that sounded cool as well.

  10. Lisa Parrish says:

    Hi, everyone – We’re just back from stormy Fayetteville, NC, where the graveside service was nearly blown away in gale-force winds while we sat shivering under thin funeral-home blankets and a leaky tarp. Thanks so much for all the words of support – and the wardrobe recommendations. For the record, I am planning to spend the next few months garbed in comfortable red psychic armor, but as always, naked as a jaybird underneath.

  11. Hi, kids. I hope you’ve all been following Parrish’s L-Word debut this week at OurChart. Look for the column called “The Hookup.”