How My Grandmother’s Ghost Helped Me Overcome Loneliness
The lessons she taught me play a part in all the fiction I’ve ever written
As a child, my grandmother mailed me monthly letters. I wrote her back but not nearly as often. My preference was for fiction, and I filled notebooks with charcoal pencil scribblings about living in a city, fighting crime, and becoming a local hero.
I was alone often, but life was fairly easy. Then, in the seventh grade, a teacher I worshipped was fired for molesting a boy in our school. She denied the allegations and asked me to help her get her job back. Instead, I wandered the halls of the school wondering how this could’ve happened — how could someone I love so much have done something so bad?
There was no one to help process what happened, so I wrote about it in short stories and longer fictions, island survival novels where the main character is betrayed and left alone to fend for herself. My fictions helped keep me alive as my teacher and I eventually cut contact and she moved to another state.
In high school, just after my dad was deployed to Iraq, I started taking private writing classes from an English teacher at another school. I had a severe eating disorder and spent most of my days dreaming about getting away from my mom. Writing was what got me through the stress of most days.
My teacher was strict and gave me lots of practical advice. She also told me I was too young to be a “real” writer. “You haven’t experienced anything yet,” she said. “You have to grow up a little bit. It’ll change when you’re older.”
As time passed, I continued to write when things were hard. I attended college, recovered from my eating disorder, and entered into a marriage where nothing ever seemed right but I couldn’t figure out why. I graduated, then got my MFA in creative writing. During my last semester, my grandmother died. Two weeks later, I realized I had fallen in love with a friend — a woman — and that I was most likely a lesbian.
I graduated, divorced. I quit my job, joined AmeriCorps, moved a thousand miles away to Key West, Florida, where I knew nobody. I played with crabs and starfish on the shore of…