One of the things I love most about books are their ability to connect people in even the most horrible or tragic circumstances. Case in point: my 97-year-old grandmother spent the last 18 months of her life in bed unable to communicate. My visits consisted of me telling her stories about what was going on in my family's life and what was going on in the world. I talked and she listened. Or at least I assumed she listened. It was hard to tell because she just mostly lay there with her eyes close, unresponsive.
But there was one visit toward the end of her life where I was trying to fill the antiseptic silence with stories that would entertain her, if she could even hear them. I was going on and on about what writing I was working on, what my two boys were doing in school, etc. And then I told her that my poetry group had just studied Dorothy Parker. Suddenly, her milky eyes opened wide and she looked right at me and said, a bit garbled, "I LOVE Dorothy Parker."
It was like a little light went on in her tired brain. Of course! Grandma had faithfully read the New Yorker at the time Parker was writing for it. And, like Parker, Grandma was extremely bright and had a very acerbic wit. I read her a few of Parker's short poems and she started making a horrible phlegmy noise. I thought she was coughing—and worried she was dying, but then I realized she was actually laughing at Parker's words.
Grandma only said three more words to me after that visit: "Love you, too." Now I will always think of Grandma when I read Dorothy Parker and I will always remember that moment of clarity and spark. I LOVE Dorothy Parker.
Julie Richie is a mother and writer who was inspired to write by the book Beat the Turtle Drum by Constance C. Greene when she was eleven years old.