On Obituaries

I have the local paper delivered to the house every morning. Years ago when I moved to Raleigh it was something I wanted to do–have home newspaper delivery–because I'd never lived anywhere, except during college, where there was home newspaper delivery. So, naturally, I wanted to get my newspaper in the morning, read it over coffee and breakfast, and be all urban and professional.

My grandmother reads the paper, too. The only part of the paper she tends to read is the obituaries.

Her mind invents stories about the deceased. One time she read the obituary of a doctor in Florida, in his early 90s–“son of a close friend,” she said. Today it was Billy Preston–“He'd come and play piano at my house fifty years ago.” Complete strangers are woven into the tapestry of her memories, and there they stay for an hour or a day. She believes the stories, she feels connected to something. But it's frustrating to hear, difficult to take seriously, the stories she invents about the dead and the role they played in her life.

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