@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
The Driver. The Spider. The Pedestrian.
The driver swerved towards a pedestrian on the side of the road, before swerving away from the pedestrian. The pedestrian, went from oblivious to afraid, to angry, then finally relieved. The driver, now poorly pulled over, had the drivers door open, kicking the door. What sort of madness was going on with this young woman. Then she hurriedly closes her door. The pedestrian keeps to their step, not without their neck craned, watching the scene. This is New York, and stranger things have happened. The pedestrian neither offers help nor curse words. Just carries on. Like nothing happened.
The driver didn’t offer an explanation, but if she could, she would have explained that a white spider creeped out of a vent and caused her to panic and swerve and in attempts to kill it, came off like a lunatic or maybe like a driver under the influence. But I swear to it on my recently deceased grandmother, that the only thing I was under the influence of was the mere threat of a venomous spider bite— even if I’m unsure that particular type of spider would bite a human. But I didn’t intend to find out. I failed to brush the spider out of the door, it only landed back in the seat with me. So I squashed it, as any logical person would do.
And creature confrontations didn’t end there for me. Oh no. Later, the same day, I’d once again be behind the wheel of my car. I was making a right turn out of a parking lot, when I looked down and there was ANOTHER spider, this one not quite as big, near the joy stick of my Jeep. I speared this one with a pen, but it took a few tries. Cars beeped behind me. Impatient New Yorkers thinking, why won’t this lady make her turn? In their defense, I would have done the same thing. But in those moments in my car, I was fighting a battle. Also, I was wondering, “how many goddamn spiders are in this car? How are they getting in? Is there a nest in my engine or something and am I going to continue to drive and watch creepy crawlers pour out of the vents like a scene from a horror movie?”
Though, it had only been a few days since a spider I let live and “befriended” in my apartment had gone missing or died. I guess my relationship with spiders goes like this— if they are very small, I may not fear them and may even cohabitate with them, if they are bigger than a finger nail, they might as well be a demon sent straight from the ninth circle of hell to torture me.
Dare I say I missed that spider in my apartment? I had been been engaging in a hunt for a mosquito in my apartment that was feasting on me in my sleep when I noticed this little spider in my windowsill near by bed. I told the spider I would allow it’s life and safe keeping in my home if it caught this mosquito. “With Gonza as my witness.” Gonza is my beta fish. I keep true to my word. Even when my words are to arachnids that I assume don’t speak “human” in any language. After a couple nights of resting near each other, I discovered a mosquito caught in the web of the spider.
How I praised that little eight legged thing. “You did it! You got the mosquito hunting me! I am so proud of you. And as promised, I will let you live in the windowsill and you can watch TV programs with me. I hope you like scary movies. Tis’ the season.” I was so proud of the spider, I even texted some of my friends about the spiders accomplishment and my new found friendship and roommate. Though, the spider eating the mosquito that was eating me basically means the spider was drinking my blood by proxy? A real circle of life happening in this studio apartment. I guess I really could have brought it full circle if I ate the spider, but I did make a promise I wouldn’t harm the thing, and alas, spiders aren’t really on my desired menu of a meal I ever want to eat.
Many years ago when I was just a small child, my family went to Disney World and stayed in a condo just outside of Disney properties. My Grandma and Pop-Pop, who lived in Florida, would come stay in the condo with us. We visited them at their home, but their home was literally a trailer home (I come from really classy people) so we didn’t care to have any sort of extended stay at their house.
Anyway, my brother and I were quite young children and we shared a bed. We were fast asleep, probably dreaming of Disney World, in an adolescent bliss, when my mom came into the room to check on us. My mom, notoriously terrified of all bugs, screamed with horror as there was a giant tarantula on the head board, as big as our heads, right above our sleeping noggins. Neither myself nor my kid brother woke up (thank goodness), so this is a second hand story. But my Grandma came in, calm and unfazed by the hairy creature with a tissue and killed it. The kids were safe (though tarantulas aren’t even really harmful to humans so I’m unsure we were ever in danger). Mom was safe. Grandma, the hero. I slept through the whole ordeal.
Perhaps it is because her life was never easy, the youngest of 20 children in a home with an outhouse, or a marriage to my Pop-Pop who wasn’t a doting or kind husband, that made my Grandma so at ease with life. I can’t think of a single time she panicked or even exerted an ounce of anxiety. She boasted a nickname “Easy Emily” which was supposed to be a nod to her easy going nature and not a lewd “easy” though it did make us giggle at the inappropriate way it could be taken. I think that, her lack of stress is what allowed her such a long life, without illness. In this way, I wish I could be more like my Grandma.
It was kind of a strange week, to be on top of the world one minute, when my comedy album, the culmination of my stand up career, briefly topped the charts as a #1 album, to losing a matriarchal figure. The ladder, unfortunately, was more predictable. I wish I could write that I had some sort of celebration at the success of my album drop. I didn’t even see anyone. I spent those days home, alone, just working. I didn’t have anyone around to go out and celebrate. Pride, I’ve learned, is a feeling as fleeting as any. I didn’t even have the spider in my windowsill. Even the spider moved on.
On Thursday, I had received a call from my mom that this was it for Grandma. She had days, at best, left. From there, I picked up friend and comedian Adam Ferrara, who I’d open for at Mohegan Sun. On Friday morning when my mom called, I knew what the call was going to be about. I knew Grandma passed, and as sad I was to hear the news, I was equal parts relieved. Her time had come. And good amount of time she had. Even though I love working with Adam and the shows were a blast, the road does lend itself to an isolation, a certain loneliness. Writers and comedians alike are known for their reclusive lifestyles. Here I was, mere hours between a win and loss, equally alone. With the stillness one feels in grief, even when grief is expected and the natural order of things. Even when death itself becomes the best option for a person.
My Mom wrongfully feels guilt she was not at her Mom’s bedside holding her hand as she passed. To spare you some details and protect my family, I will say that dementia had fully set in and Grandma was no longer herself in those final moments. I don’t think my Mom should feel any guilt at all. Grandma went on in the wee hours of the morning anyway, on morphine. I can say for sure in the times I was hospitalized and given morphine, it’s a pretty spectacular drug. The thing is, my Mom has been there so much for her. It is not the final breath that’s important to hold someone. It’s all the moments leading up to it. Everyone dies alone, ultimately. To think otherwise is a childish fairytale.
There’s a quote in the finale of the series “The Haunting of Hill House” from one of the characters who is a ghost that I think about a lot. Her family feels guilt they couldn’t save her in the end. She says, “I wouldn’t have changed anything. I need you to know that. Forgiveness is warm. Like a tear on a cheek. Think of that and of me when you stand in the rain. I loved you completely. And you loved me the same. That’s all. The rest in confetti.”
The character, Nell, talks about moments and time being like snowfall or confetti falling all around you. In my years working in a nursing home, and witnessing my other grandma lose her mind to Alzheimer’s, it does seem that in the decaying mind time is no longer linear. Their minds become spider webs, memories and fact tangled in a half reality. Only we, the fully living, experience time linearly. The dying experience time differently. And if there is an afterlife, I assume time to a ghost is merely nothing. And at no point in time will a ghost revisit they moment they died. They will visit everything in-between.
So to anyone who carries the weight of loss with a side of blame, let this blame go. To carry blame is to assume we have control over the mystic, time and fate. We have no control.
My Grandma, when she was healthier, loved to walk. She loved to walk about and she would brag about how much she walked (and bragged about how much younger she looked than she was). I imagine that when my Grandma passed, she walked on as at ease like that pedestrian who simply continued on despite my erratic driving briefly threatening them. And the only spider is the anxiety in our own head. And what would Grandma do is she saw a spider? She would calmly get rid of it to protect her family, and walk on.