March 14, 2012


Today’s column is all about family—you know—those people who put the “funk” into “dysfunctional’?

I don’t know what your family is like, but I was lucky to get through childhood without being eaten.  At Thanksgiving, my mother always had to stuff the turkey with Valium just to keep the bloodshed and gunplay to a minimum.

But now that I am an adult, I can look back on all that if not with a chuckle, at least an ironic smile.  I survived.  I succeeded.  I got my first novel published—and not self-published, either.  Somebody else thought my work good enough to pick it up and pay me royalties.

It is about this book that I write today.  Well, not the whole book, but more specifically, the dedication.

But let me give you a bit of background info, first.

In my family, I have one aunt who is a particular favorite of mine.  We are very much alike.  As a matter of fact, if my cousin wasn’t two years older than I, I would have been convinced that I had been switched at the hospital and handed off to my mother by mistake.  That’s how much alike my aunt and I are.   I should also mention that she is 92 years old.

Sooooooo, I decided to give her the highest honor and the best gift I could bestow, in my amazingly deluded opinion.  I would dedicate my first novel to her.  I labored over the dedication, striving to get the words right.  Here is what I came up with:  “To Mary Rasmussen—a treasure beyond measure.  Love you always, Mare.”

Pretty nice, right?  I thought so.  Of course, there are times when I think SpongeBob Squarepants is real, too, so I may not be the best judge.

Turns out, I wasn’t.

My aunt, apparently, was insulted.  My birthday and Christmas came and went with nary a word.  I haven’t heard from her since sending her the book and telling her to read the dedication.  And to answer your next question, no she hasn’t died since.  I called her house in Connecticut to see if she’d answer the phone, and she did.

I tried hard to figure out what she could have taken offense about.  Did she not cotton to the fact that I dedicated a dark fantasy novel to her instead of some sparkly, diabetes-inducing beach book?  Does she now regard me as the Spawn of Satan?  Is she afraid of me now because she had no idea that my thought processes worked this way?


I keep receiving crosses in the mail.  Right around the holidays, a wolfsbane wreath was delivered to me.  I hung it on my door, and it had the added benefit of not only discouraging wolves, but Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well.  I suspect they recognized that whatever unholy entity that lived within was not making a secret of it anymore, and high-tailed it to find someone who was actually worth saving.

A gallon of Holy Water was next.  I drank it and now I glow in the dark—handy if you want to read during a blackout.

But the revolver loaded with silver bullets and an anonymous note suggesting that I “do the right thing” was really beyond the pale.  But I melted down the solid silver ammo and fashioned a nifty napkin holder, so it wasn’t a total loss.

It’s a good thing she’s in Connecticut and I am in Arizona or she’d probably show up on my street with a crowd of torch and a pitchfork wielding nonagenarians!  Can’t you just picture it, though?  The walkers and the wheelchairs scraping down the street, the colostomy bags flapping in the breeze, amid a sea of blue hair and baldness?  A priest, jaundiced from cirrhosis, clutching his side and hobbling down the street at the front of the crowd, swinging an incense burner, and passing out from the fumes?  The members of the crowd with Alzheimer’s, who have walked in the opposite direction and are now having their 40th cup of coffee at Starbucks, because they can’t remember drinking the previous 39?

It’s all well and good for you to laugh, but I’m having freakin’ nightmares over this!  It’s like the attack of the LIVING zombies!  I wake up screaming in the night!  The mere sight of Metamucil results in a panic attack.  I break out into a cold sweat at the thought of Geritol.  And I can’t even begin to describe what Hugh Downs’ hospice commercials do to me.  I can’t listen to the song, “Old Man River” anymore, or shop at stores on Senior Days or when social security checks are delivered monthly.  My life is spinning out of my control… all over a dedication.

So my advice to you, dear readers, is to dedicate your books to your favorite charity.  Even if they are insulted, you’ll never know it, because they still want your money.