Am I Blogging Now?

A blog about writing, reading, art, and history

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

Writers as Murderers

Several months ago, I got into an interesting, if brief, conversation on the message boards for one of my favorite webcomics. There was a bit of speculation going on over whether the comic’s writer was going to kill off one of her characters’ adorable little brother and sister. My initial comment was that she was foreshadowing in order to do one of the following: “(a) kill Vinny’s family or (b) merely make us paranoid that she’s going to kill Vinny’s family or (c) make us think she’s trying to make us paranoid so we’ll let our guard down while she kills Vinny’s family.” To which another user replied “The line between ‘writer’ and ‘murderer’ just… got a whole lot less definitive?” To which I replied, “As a student of both literature and composition, I can assure you that ‘writer’ and ‘murderer’ are hardly mutually exclusive occupations.”*

The conversation got me thinking about occasions where I felt profoundly affected by deaths of characters I liked in books, movies, etc. I can think of several times off the top of my head when I felt out of sorts after reading or watching the death of a particular character. I had to put down and walk away from Frank Herbert’s Dune for a while after Duncan Idaho was killed buying time for Paul and Lady Jessica to escape. He wasn’t a super-important character to begin with, but I kept expecting him to claim a bigger role in the narrative, particularly after he rescued them in the first place. And suddenly he’s dead, admittedly taking down a number of bad guys with him. Similarly, I stalled in seeing Joss Whedon’s Serenity for a long time because I’d heard that he kills two of the crew members. And since I really liked all of the crew, I didn’t want to find out who they were. When I finally saw it, I kinda figured Shepard Book would be one of the casualties, but like most fans I was caught completely off guard by Washburn’s sudden death. I remember feeling kind of rattled when it happened, then feeling kind of hollow for the rest of the movie.

I haven’t read any Shakespeare in several years, but he was notorious for killing off his more likeable characters. I recall reading Romeo and Juliet for the first time back in high school. The story quite nearly wrecked my view of Shakespeare forever, and for certain set it back by several years. (Why do high schools use R&J to introduce students to Shakey, anyhow? Or Hamlet? Or Macbeth? Why not start with something fun and uplifting like Twelfth Night or with a lot of action like Henry V? Do the curriculum designers really think teenagers are going to connect with all that death and drama? May rant on this in a future post.) Mercutio was about the only character I liked from the story–and of course he’s the first character to die. Leaving aside the fact that I had no way of knowing that this is standard operating procedure for Shakey, I recall being slightly rattled and rather annoyed by the loss of the one character I liked and felt any connection with.

Perhaps a better example is Boromir from the Lord of the Rings. I don’t recall having much opinion of him when I read the books. He was just kind of present the whole time. He traveled with the Fellowship for the entirety of Fellowship of the Ring, but he didn’t seem to play  a very large part in their travels. Considering his largest contribution to the story was trying to take the ring from Frodo, then getting killed by orcs, I wasn’t overly affected by his death. In the film however, not only did they give him a larger and more impactful part, but they cast Sean Bean in the role. I’m a longtime fan of Sean Bean and think he’s the most underrated tough-guy actor in the movie industry. His Boromir went from being a cardboard cutout whose only part in the story was a negative one, to a tragic hero worthy of Homer or Sophocles. Boromir essentially gets portrayed as the epic hero who has saved his people from their foes on many occasions–kicked ass and took names against the best that the Enemy has to offer. His only weakness being his desire to protect his people–a weakness which the ring exploits. In the novel, his name comes up in some of the fights scenes, but in the film he’s in the middle of the action, dishing out the damage like the a true son of Gondor should. And where the novel never actually shows us his ultimate fight scene, moviegoers get to see him lay to waste Uruk after Uruk even while mortally wounded and bleeding. I can almost visualize Hector of Troy giving him a fist-bump in the afterlife. It was a death scene that touched me. I don’t recall that I cried watching Aragorn kiss the top of his head as he lay him back against the tree, but I remember getting goosebumps over how well the scene was done.

But I think the time I was most affected by the deaths of likeable characters was reading Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, based on the 1959 murders of the Clutter family near Holcomb, Kansas. Admittedly, the fact that it’s a true story of violent and senseless murders might have colored my opinion a bit, but I felt sick reading the chapters where he introduces the victims. I loved the characters and his descriptions of the lives they led, but felt sick because I knew from the cover that this lovely family of wonderful characters was going to die. Mr and Mrs Clutter reminded me of any number of couples my parents are friends with. The antics of Kenyon, the younger brother, reminded me a great deal of stories about some of my uncles when they were teenagers. And the daughter, Nancy, was described as exactly the kind of girl I was attracted to in high school. Capote’s descriptions made me hate the killers before they were even introduced in the story.**

I don’t recall if I’ve said anything in the blog, but I am writing a novel that’s been bouncing around in my head for several years. It’s a fantasy/adventure story based on an off-handed comment that a former classmate made in one of our graduate courses, and last fall I finally started putting it to paper. I don’t know how long it will be or if anything big will come of it, but it’s been a fun project so far. As I’m typing this, I’ve got the prologue and chapters 1-5, am working on chs 6-7, and have various other scenes typed up for later in the book. I’ve wondered on occasion how readers might react if I killed particular characters from the story. A friend made me promise that I wouldn’t kill off Ryla, the young heroine, halfway through the story–which was an easy promise to make, as I hadn’t intended to anyway. But occasionally I’ve asked myself how my heroine and readers would respond if I killed one of her mentor figures, such as the old scout who teaches her to hunt, track, and shoot or the ex-mercenary who teaches her to use big swords. The sheer number of choices I could make when writing this novel is almost paralyzing, as such I’ve constantly rethought and re-rethought where I’m going with the story. As a fiction writer here’s a certain feeling of egotistical godliness that comes from knowing that I not only control the lives, situations, and emotions of my characters, but the emotions of my readers as well. I’m starting to learn that this is a very difficult privilege not to want to abuse.

I won’t lie, I’ve been rough on Ryla in these first few chapters, and don’t look to let up on her anytime soon. She loses the person she cares about most in the first couple chapters, and will likely lose others she cares about along the way. Similarly, she narrowly escapes a rape attempt in chapter 3 after getting slapped around and molested by the would-be rapists–and again, this likely won’t be the most dangerous situation she finds herself over the course of the story. My brother made the comment, “you must not like this girl. You’re awful mean to her.” But that isn’t the case at all. I honestly really like my young protagonist, and genuinely care about her and what happens to her. But at the same time I enjoy seeing how she deals with the emotional trauma and mortal danger. I like seeing how strong she is emotionally and constitutionally, and I love watching her overcome and grow from these horrible experiences. In the same way I want my readers to hurt for her, to sympathize with her plight, and to root for her as she overcomes the emotional obstacles and various dangers I place in her path. And I think the most potent of emotional obstacles is for her to watch those she cares about succumb to these same dangers she’s facing.

As I type out this thought process, I have to wonder, is this at all similar to the thoughts other writers have when they decide if, when, and how to kill their characters?

A sketch I did of Ryla, the young heroine from my story. Not happy with every element of the drawing, but I’m super pleased at how the pleated skirt came out.

*Opening conversation from the discussion comments at Amya Chronicles, comic #189.

**I can’t recommend In Cold Blood. It’s very descriptive and very well written, but I felt like Capote focused on the wrong characters. There were so many interesting characters and situations he could have focused on in the town’s reaction to the tragedy and from the search for the killers. Instead he focused most heavily on the killers themselves, who I had no sympathy for nor interest in. A pair of bed wetters who’re mad at the world because they were abused as children don’t get my sympathy when they use it as an excuse to kill innocent people.

“The Original Imperial Stormtroopers”

Let's rock!

Something I found from an old project. I took this screen capture from the Creative Assembly’s Rome: Total War.

Ancient Rome remains my favorite area of study. I have twenty-odd books about the Republic and Empire, both seasons of HBO’s Rome, and five computer strategy games that allow players to build and expand the Roman Empire as they see fit–demonstrating that Rome can be built in a day, or even with just a few clicks of a mouse button. There are so many facets of the people and their history that I find fascinating on many levels. From the early days of the SPQR to the fall of the Western Empire, I continue to regularly study and enjoy the Romans and the stamp they left on three continents.

Years ago, I got to house-sit for my aunt and uncle, with their ginormous entertainment system, during a week when the History Channel was having a week-long series of specials on the Romans. That was a good week for me. I missed the special they did on the Roman navy, unfortunately, but got to see some neat programs about Roman daily life and their numerous marvels of engineering. I particularly loved the specials they had on the Colosseum and the Pantheon. I didn’t care as much for the special on Roman vice–the fact that the Romans may have invented condoms was kind of interesting, but I wasn’t particularly interested in learning about what a bunch of dirty old men some of the emperors were.

But I think the program I enjoyed the most was the special they did on Trajan’s armies during the Dacian Wars. I believe the term the narrator used was the ‘original Imperial Stormtroopers’–which, as a long-time Star Wars fan, tickled me to no end. The legionaries are just fun to study, all around. He kept calling them boots, grunts, and squaddies, which, for me, helped paint a picture of the legionaries as just regular fighting-men, rather than the soulless, ethnocentric butchers that twentieth-century anti-imperialist scholarship tends to portray them as. The program drew other effective comparisons, equating the extensive legionary training with that of the British Special Forces.

I recall one discrepancy from that video that bothered me for several years, however. At one point the narrator stated that the average height of legionaries in Trajan’s army was close to six-feet tall. This baffled me because I remembered from high school history classes that the Romans were a relatively short people. I’d assumed initially that my high school text book was wrong and moved on. A couple years later, I had the opportunity to finally sit down and read Caesar’s Commentaries and was given pause by Julius’s comment that the Gauls called the Romans ‘pigmy soldiers.’ Naturally, I wasn’t dense enough to assume that the Gauls were so monstrously tall that six-feet is ‘pigmy’ to them. Eventually, I figured out that by Trajan’s time a large percentage of the legionaries were Gauls. Thus it made sense that they’d be at least as tall as the Dacian warriors they were fighting.

Contrary to what Edward Gibbon would have readers think, the late-era legionaries were about as bad of dudes as Roman soldiers had ever been, even up to the eventual fall of the Western Empire. (Though that’s hardly the worst of Gibbon’s crimes against history. Eddy-boy needs a good, hard kick to the stones for some of the misinformation he popularized.) And, to be fair, the literary evidence from the late Empire suggests high levels of sloppy barbarism in the frontier legions. The physical evidence, however, suggests differently. Modern archeological excavations, such as camp layouts, equipment remains, and quartermaster records indicate that the legions of the late Empire were just as disciplined, well-trained, and well-equipped as those of Augustus’s time. So, what makes up for the disparity between the literary and archeological evidence? Modern scholars such as Adrian Goldsworthy point out that, while most educated noblemen from Caesar’s era spent time in the legions as officers, by the later days of the Empire, the disconnect between civilians and the military was so great that it was extremely rare for those of the aristocracy to have ever even seen an army camp. Thus to the chroniclers of the late era, knowing virtually nothing of military life and service, these dirty, long-haired, bearded legionaries on the frontiers must have appeared as a devolution from the splendid, polished legions described in the histories from the height of the Empire.

Were the Roman legionaries the baddest warriors in history? Who the hell knows? I think you could make a good argument that they are. But I think good arguments could also be made for the Vikings or the Teutonic Knights or the Cossacks or the Spartans or the Mongols or the Apache. The argument isn’t ‘who would win in a fight between X versus Y?’ but ‘what did X and Y do with the hand history dealt them?’ The Roman legionaries took the hand they were given and used it to conquer the entire world from the Scottish Lowlands in the north to Numidia in the south and from Spain in the west to Syria in the east.

I’d say that counts for a lot.

Recommended reading:
Commentaries on the Gallic and Civil Wars, by Caius Julius Caesar
Legionary: the Roman Soldier’s Unofficial Manual, by Philip Matyszak
In the Name of Rome: the Men Who Won the Roman Empire, by Adrian Goldsworthy
Rome at War: Caesar and his Legacy, by Kate Gilliver, Adrian Goldsworthy, and Michael Whitby
Roman Warfare, by Adrian Goldsworthy

Writing Talking

I tend to recall creative writing courses being less helpful than I’d have liked them to be. I took two of them as an undergraduate: an intro-level and an advanced. I liked the teacher for the advanced course well enough, but the prof for the intro class had kind of an east-coast liberal mentality that irked my Idaho farm-kid upbringing. The classes focused on ‘literary’ fiction. Within the first few weeks I determined ‘literary’ means ‘dry and depressing.’ I also found it to be kind of a hypocritical genre of writing in that writers who think of themselves as ‘literary’ tend to look down their noses at other genres of writing as being conventional and formulaic, when literary fiction has its own set of conventions and formulas.

I felt out of my element in both classes for various reasons, and the dry subject matter did nothing to help my mood. Very little of what was written in either class was uplifting by any measure. A couple stories featured murders. A couple more featured suicides. And one featured a murder/suicide. And that’s just the students’ stories, don’t get me started about the assigned readings. I learned also that creative writing students tend to view each other as potential competition, and thus get very defensive about their writing and offensive toward others’. (Writers can be an insecure lot. Me included.) This isn’t to say that I learned nothing from my classmates. There were several very talented writers in those classes, but I learned far more from their example than from their advice.

I think the best example of things that wrecked my respect for modern literary conventions was their opposition to using dialect in narration and character dialogue. Dialect is awesome. I love both reading and writing it. It gives a regional feel to the story, whether it’s being used by the narrator to establish scene or by characters to establish background. I did a simple experiment with dialect in a pseudo-medieval story for the intro class, trying to give a rural family of characters a rustic feel by replacing my with me and you and your with ye. The story included lines like ‘May I check ye bandages?’ and ‘Me father wishes to speak with ye.’ Apparently, that’s where I went wrong. My classmates trashed on it, indicating that it was distracting and made the family inconsistent with the other characters. One smug literature major dismissed it as cliche and infantile. The teacher said it was ‘over the top’–that it was different enough from the rest of the writing to distract readers from the story.

I was wise enough not to use dialect in the advanced class, but one of my classmates did, to a similar response. His story featured a Chinese immigrant who was still trying to master the conglomerative mess that is the English language. He went all-out with the dialect, using wery for very and swapping pronunciation of the ls and rs in the words. It was freaking awesome–some of the best use of dialect I’ve seen since Mark Twain’s “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” I loved it, and said so in my response. I got some strange looks from the other critiquers when I said that it was great and that I enjoy reading stories written in dialect. They trashed on it, much like my classmates from the intro course did with my dialectical experiment. What they dismissed as ‘distracting,’ ‘stereotypical,’ and ‘bordering on ethnocentric’ really brought the character to life for me. It made him relatable, so that I sympathized not only with his struggles in the story, but his struggles with the English language as well.

I’m still scratching my head as to why use of dialect is considered ‘nonliterary.’ As a genre that prides itself on realism and descriptivism, wouldn’t literary fiction writers want their characters to sound like they’re from particular parts of the world? Sure, I’ve read bad dialect on occasion–Clarence Mulford is the first that comes to mind, and his isn’t badly written so much as painfully cliche. But there’ve been many famous writers of the literary canon who write beautiful and believable dialect, but for whatever reason, many modern literary writers who try to employ it get criticized for it’s use. I have to wonder if it’s one of those things where one famous writer or self-proclaimed expert said it should be avoided, and suddenly all writers who can’t think for themselves eliminate their use of it altogether. Kind of like when Strunk and White said to avoid using passive voice, or when Stephen King said ‘adverbs are not your friend’ and their mindless followers start going out of their way not use passive voice and adverbs.

Writers can be such conformists sometimes. Emerson would be ashamed.

Anyway, all this reminds me of a joke. How to talk like a hillbilly:
Hillbilly 1: M R ducks.
Hillbilly 2: M R not ducks.
Hillbilly 1: M R 2 ducks.
Hillbilly 2: naw, M R not ducks.
Hillbilly 1: S A R 2 ducks. C M wangs?
Hillbilly 2: L I B, M R ducks.

Picking at Movies’ Nits

I used to take great offense to the many film and television productions that don’t stay faithful to their source material–such as books or historical events/people or even previous film renditions of the screenplay. For a long time I was one of those people who felt the need to nitpick every movie I watch that’s based on something else–and to a degree, I think I took a certain amount of pride in being in a position to make such criticisms. Verily, it was like I saw it as my duty to find and point out every time a movie deviated from its source. While I like to think I’ve freed myself from that kind of negativity, even now I occasionally catch myself unconsciously picking nits and have to remind myself to just enjoy the !@#$ing movie.

The Lord of the Rings movies might be the first set of films where their deviations from the source material didn’t really bother me. I felt like, for the most part, Peter Jackson’s omissions were surgical–cutting out a lot of dead weight that would have slowed the pace of the film–and, again for the most part, his additions to the film helped bring out a better understanding of the characters and situation. I felt, for example, that enlarging Arwen’s part in the flick helped gave her character depth and relatability.* (I mean, in the books, she’s just kind of… present–I think she has one line of dialogue in the entire trilogy.) Similarly, the omission of scenes like Tom Bombadil’s forest and the Barrow Downs and Gan-Bury-Gan’s tribe really broke the pace of the story in Tolkien’s books, and I felt, both then and now, that removing them from the films was justifiable.

I believe it was seeing Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that did most change of attitude toward accuracy in movies. I went in to the theater expecting it to have little in common with Douglas Adams’s wacky sci-fi series–and thus found myself pleasantly surprised at what they did get right. While Sam Rockwell’s Zaphod Beeblebrox was a bit over-the-top, I enjoyed the movie and wasn’t overly bothered by the many deviations from Adams’s original vision of the story. I thought Martin Freeman’s portrayal of Arthur Dent was hilariously effective, and Warwick Davis and Alan Rickman were awesome as body actor and voice of Marvin the Robot. Plus, this was my first experience with Zooey Deschanel, who is delightful in everything she does. And I wasn’t particularly bothered by the scenes the directors added, as I felt they kept with the overall spirit of the story (and largely were additions Douglas Adams made when he wrote the screenplay).

From a standpoint of events and chronology, HBO’s Rome was only moderately historically accurate. As a lover of Caesar’s Commentaries and an avid reader of Adrian Goldsworthy’s studies, it wasn’t hard to go through and spot the historical deviations. I’m sure this would have bugged me years ago. I mean Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus were rival centurions briefly mentioned in the Commentaries, but the film makes Pullo a legionary, subordinate to Vorenus and makes both of them key figures in the cataclysmic events leading up to the fall of the Roman Republic. Similarly, almost nothing is known about Octavian’s mother, Atia, but in the film she’s a key character and a central, moving force to the events surrounding the civil war, Caesar’s assassination, and Octavian’s rise to Emperor of Rome. But what it lacks in accuracy, I feel it more than makes up for in brutal honesty. It tells tales of people from all levels of Roman society and the dirty, violent reality they lived in. And I feel does so with respect for the characters and their culture and time period. And, unlike many film representations of the ancient Romans, doesn’t carry a bunch of heavy-handed, anti-imperialist undertones.

I’ve discovered that, in general, I tend to enjoy movies better since my change of attitude. I’m sure I enjoyed Kingdom of Heaven and Gladiator much more than than I would have had I seen them a few years previous. When The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe came out in 2005, I thought it was delightful and very well done–despite several of my colleagues’ arguments to the contrary. Master and Commander: Far Side of the World, was immeasurably better than the novel Far Side of the World, a god-awful story by the otherwise incredible Patrick O’Brien. I’m one of few people who read the novel Jurassic Park before seeing the film, but find that I don’t like Spielberg’s vision any less than Crichton’s. I haven’t completely forgiven George Lucas, but I think I tend to be less hard on the Star Wars prequels than I used to be. And, now that I think of it, Disney’s animated films are seldom faithful to the stories, novels, fairytales, and folklore they’re based on, but on the whole I enjoy those as well.

This isn’t to say that I’ll tolerate just any such change to a story. There are plenty of films that I’ll likely never see again because of how they deviated from an original storyline. The first movie that comes to mind is the 2004 movie Troy (or Brad Pitt and the Giant Toga Party, as I once heard it called). And while I haven’t seen 300 in it’s entirety, I’ve seen enough to know that I don’t want to see the rest as it’ll just make me mad. The Fantastic Four movies were hardly accurate to the source comics, though that’s hardly the only thing that makes them bad movies.

I feel like so long as the production treats the source with respect and makes the change for reasons beyond making it appeal to modern audiences, it’s a change that I can rationalize. And, honestly, if someone is that bothered by deviations from historical fact, they should probably never read Shakespeare’s many wildly inaccurate historical plays.

*The only issue I had with the way they added Arwen to the LotR films was that they had her replace Glorfindel–easily the most badass of the surviving elves. I mean, dude rode a Balrog down a cliffside in the Silmarillion; I’d like to see Orlando Bloom top that!

Coloring Book

For my godson, Paul, for his birthday, I drew, inked, scanned and printed a series of twelve Medieval, fantasy-ish pictures for him to color. Paul and his big sister are really in to Greek Mythology right now, which is cool, so I made sure to include a few mythical creatures. My choice of pics was pretty random, consisting of pretty much whatever I could find that looked interesting to draw. I posted these to Facebook shortly after, and I think now is as good a time as any to add them to my blog. They should be full resolution, so feel free to print and color them yourselves.

In the order in which I drew them:

Babe with battleaxe

Every princess needs a battleaxe, right? This first picture I based on an image I found by an artist identified only as Heegur.

On the hunt

I based this drawing on a painting by historical artist, Angus McBride. The image was of a Pict on horseback, and I turned him into a centaur.

Step back, nonbeliever

Another Angus McBride image. This one of a Teutonic Knight. I get the distinct impression he’s about to mess somebody up.

If you run, you'll just die tired

I based this knight off of an image I found of the Knight Exemplar from Wizards of the Coast’s Magic: the Gathering. I’m kind of a sucker for tough women in practical armor.

Across the courtyard, through the portcullis, past the smithy, nothin' but face

Some kind of an archer/sniper. I don’t remember where I got the pose from, but the outfit is based loosely on the character Maxim from Girl Genius.

Original ship-of-the-line

Sailing the wine-dark sea. This one is a Hellenic-era trireme war galley. The Greeks knew how to build kick-ass boats. Of the set, the trireme was easily the most challenging.

Not a bird, nor a plane...

The Tempest Drake from Magic: the Gathering. After drawing that boat, I needed something simple to work on.

This is Paul, my godson. I took one of the pictures his mom gave me and drew him wearing half-plate. The armor is based on the Seven-Fathers set from Lord of the Rings Online.

Another Drake

Another Magic: the Gathering image. This one is based on the Azimat Drake.

Roman Legionaries cresting a hill. Trajan’s armies are on the march; run for the hills Dacian dogs! This one’s a compilation of images from screenshots from Rome: Total War.

Cue the lame “This is SPARTA!” references. Actually, this hoplite is from Corinth. Also based on a screenshot from Rome: Total War.

A wizardy sorceress. I got down to the end and realized I didn’t have a wizard of any kind. I decided to revisit an image I drew of Gwynn of Sluggy Freelance as the Black Mage from Final Fantasy.

Cancer

Grandma Marilyn passed away early Tuesday afternoon. I recall reading at some point that fast cancers are rougher on the victims, but slow cancers are rougher on the victims’ families. I can’t attest to that, but I do know how horrible Grandma’s cancer was, not only for her, but for all of us. Grandma wasn’t the first in our family to get cancer, nor the first to succumb to it. But unlike other family members we’ve lost, I was close by geographically and was involved in the day to day struggles of not just Grandma and Grandpa, but my parents and aunts and uncles as well.

Grandma was diagnosed with lymphoma about twelve years ago–and beat it back a couple times. She spent the past five years in and out of the hospital. And I think she averaged two doctor appointments a week for the last six months leading into her hospice care. Grandma started hospice back in May, during the final stages of her cancer. The doctors tell us she broke records–what should have been the last few days of the lymphoma lasted almost two months.

The most frustrating part is that Grandma took amazing care of herself all her life. She fixed home-cooked meals made with fresh vegetables from Grandpa’s garden, baked bread and cookies (friggin’ awesome cookies), and canned raspberry jam. Perhaps most importantly, she was physically active her entire life. I have memories of her coming back from swimming at the gym or golfing with the ladies or even just riding her bicycle. And she walked every day, down the old ditch-bank roads around the fields farmed by Dad and Grandpa. I don’t remember her ever being an idle person–not until the cancer made her too weak to move around on her own, anyway. Into her seventies, she was in better shape than a lot of women twenty years younger. Yet she spent that last three months bed-ridden and fragile, unable to bathe or even feed herself.

I wasn’t with Grandma when she died–and I think that’s for the best. But Mom and Dad were. Mom called us just minutes after. I called a cousin to let her end of the family know. Then I went to my room, lay down, and stared at the ceiling for a while. It was (and is) weird to think that Grandma is gone.

And the rest of us are left to try to understand the unfairness of it.

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