November 13, 2008
After watching Grey's Anatomy, in which a character returns as a ghost, and eating a pear and blue cheese pizza, my grandmother and I started to talk about death.
What she wants to happen when she dies. Funeral, insurance, prices, logistics, cremation versus burial. We remembered other dead people -- so many of her friends and relatives. I told her about dreams I have with my other grandmother, how gentle and wise she had been.
We talked ghosts. When she was little, her father, a pharmacist living in a provincial city in Eastern Europe whose shop used to smell like Eucalyptus, held many seances. Seances in the 1920s, on a wooden table with no nails (according to the superstition that ghosts are repelled by iron). With friends, family, his young daughters.
She laughed, imagining her funeral and what how we might misplace the urn in the garage, and said her friend's recent funeral was a good logistical template. For her, I realized, this is the next shebang. The craziest party she'll (sort of) attend. I take notes at weddings. She also looks at funerals. It's only natural.
We'd never talked so candidly, and I wanted to know more: "Do you think that there is something, after all this?"
She shrugged, smiling. "How can anyone know? But for the people who loved me, I'll always be a thought away! No one needs to get depressed!"
This afternoon, I sat on the deck of Krakatoa, a cafe in the Golden Hill neighborhood, under a fig tree with meaty leaves. (One pictured, above).
Some girls next to me were commanding their dogs in loud, nasal voices to sit, and squealing "Good boy" when they did. A waiter came out with a sandwich on a plate, and one of the girls told him, "Could you make it to-go? I changed my mind." So routine. Asking.
Women who ask are everywhere. They ask about food and death. They ask for themselves and their loved ones, and they're not blogging about it. They're not patting themselves on the back or beating themselves up over the who, how and why. They ask as if it were the simplest thing in the world.
One voice in the dialogue I often have with myself about this project tells me: You got a discount or a bike ride. It's not like you have a career/family balancing act, an oppressive boss, aggressive male coworkers, entitlement left and right. It's not like returning a pair of pants or seeing a sorority matters. So what's the big deal? Why blog? Why a year? Why make it into an "issue"? Why not just ask when I need to, and that's that? One of the privileges of being a woman here and now, after all, is that we don't have to make a big deal about asking. It's allowed, expected. If we don't, we're selling ourselves short. No one is stopping us but ourselves.
And yet. I did used to stop myself, and I'm by no means shy. How many women ask in the workplace? A wire story today says the world's women may be better educated than ever, but they're still powerless. I won't be a student forever, and then I'll really be tested. When the time comes to be a wimp or a bad ass, I hope I choose well. With grace and humanity, but not self-sacrifice or self-effacement, either. I hope the same for you, gentle readers...
Well. What I asked today. I went to two bookstores, and twice requested a very legitimate (according to me! haha) discount.
The first time, I spotted a lit theory book I don't reeeally want, but it would be healthy reading for my dissertation. It was $10. I asked her to take the price down, saying it's a lot cheaper online. She bristled and said no, because online there's shipping. I pushed, saying taking off $2 or $3 would make them competitive. Nope.
The second time, I stacked a few books on a counter at the store across the street and asked if he could take a little off the total. He replied: "If you bought a stack this high [arms a meter apart], that would be okay." I asked if we could pretend the stack was "this high," and he laughed.
I also just called my grandmother, to see if she minds I type this up. I don't normally ask for permission to write about people, but this seemed different. It's about her life and death. And she's my grandma.
Gained: No discounts. One heart to heart.