Another dead stepfather

Who's gonna clean up your mess?

The last thing Grant needs is another dead stepfather. It seems like just the other day that the last one died, leaving all kinds of things to be cleaned out of the house. Even though Grant is a four-star scavenger, he's still pretty particular about the trash piles he'll pillage, and his dead stepfather's stuff didn't exactly meet his standards. This is largely because Grant's older brother lived a lot more within rummaging distance, and all the good stuff had already been picked over. So by the time Grant got there the only things left were one laptop and a pile of his stepfather's leather clothing, which was not enticing. Up until the day he died, Grant's stepfather had been known as "Leathersmeller" due to the time he was discovered naked in his bedroom closet sniffing his wife's boots and humping a pile of old coats, so it's no wonder all Grant left with was the laptop.

Anyway, Grant's present-day stepfather is not dead yet, but it's not exactly a good sign when one second he's strolling around in the back yard and the next he all of a sudden falls over unconscious and starts spewing from every orifice. In the end it turned out he had a stroke, and after hearing how it came upon him I will do everything I personally can to avoid my own stroke in the future, let me tell you, because I had no idea strokes could be so embarrassing.

Anyway, doctors must not be all that alarmed by strokes in Florida anymore, because evidently they just cleaned Grant's stepfather up and sent him home a few hours later, and now he seems to be doing fine. Still, Grant is all atwitter over the fact that his stepfather could have a stroke in the morning and be home to finish his oatmeal later that afternoon.

"They must have missed something," Grant surmised. "Either that or strokes aren't what they used to be."

I could not give any advice, seeing as how my own dad dropped dead from an old-fashioned heart attack back when heart attacks were still a big deal. These days it's a whole different story. These days a heart attack is hardly cause for alarm. Just the other year a man had a heart attack on the same plane I was sitting in and I had no idea it had happened at all. It does not say a lot about me that I was an actual flight attendant on the crew, either, and I only learned of the heart-attack passenger as we were checking into our layover hotel after the crew coordinator overheard me tell the clerk that our flight over had been uneventful.

"Whaddaya mean 'uneventful'?" she hollered at me. "A man had a heart attack, for chrissakes." Lord, did I feel like an idiot. All I can say is it's a good thing I am no longer relied upon to care for people in planes.

But if Grant had a heart attack or even a stroke, I would care for him if he needed me to. I've even told him this, but it doesn't comfort him all that much. He keeps saying I have to shoot him in the head if he ever falls over and starts spewing from every orifice. I argued that that's a stupid reason to shoot someone, but he's pretty adamant that he doesn't want to have to spend the rest of his life being grateful to the person who cleaned up after him that day. "So just put a bullet in my brain," he said, without even considering the fact that if I did that, then his brains would be just one more thing for me to clean up. I swear, some people are so selfish. Besides, Grant knows that I'd nurse him even if there's nothing left of him but wires attached to his head in a fish bowl.

"Bitch," he insists. "I said put a bullet in my brain."

Grant has been thinking a lot about this stuff, because if this stepfather doesn't recover, it will be at least his second dead stepfather in his life, and that isn't even counting his real dad, who is not dead but has been having a lot of toes amputated lately. But that's just the way it is with parents, I say. They keep getting older and they keep dragging you along with them, and before you know it, you're a parent yourself and your kids are probably looking at you like you're dragging them somewhere, too. Grant's own daughter hasn't started looking at him like that yet, but I often make sure to remind him that it's just a matter of time.

I suppose I'm lucky that both my parents died young and before either had amassed a very big mess, I guess. So I can't talk but I can wonder. For example, I wonder what else is the purpose in life if not to make sure you collect enough people you love in your heart to help you clean up your messes when you make them.

Hollis Gillespie authored two top-selling memoirs and founded the Shocking Real-Life Writing Academy (

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