And Sorrow Breeds Hilarity: A Lesson In Extreme Fandom

By tully | "Boredom at Its Boredest" by Michael Tully February 7, 2008 at 4:03AM

And Sorrow Breeds Hilarity: A Lesson In Extreme Fandom

My grandmother is dying. She's in her mid-eighties and she's lived a long life, but she is on her way out. Nothing can change that. This is my mother's mother, who grew up near us in the DC area (my father's mother passed almost ten years ago and lived in Ireland, so I only met her a few times). Since Christmas, she has deteriorated rapidly, to the point where I don't know if my arrival in Maryland on Monday or Tuesday will be too late. I'm hoping it won't be. Anyway, within the past few weeks my parents have relocated her to a nursing home very close to their house. But every day brings more somber news. The strain on my mother, an only child who lost her father when she was just sixteen, is extremely heavy. But she's hanging in there.

Flash to last night. Towards the end of one of the most exhausting days of recent memory (painting non-stop from 9am to 9:30pm), I called my mom to remind her to watch my good friend Jesse Sweet's African-American Lives on PBS at nine (though his episode doesn't air until next week). She seemed distracted at first and then informed me that she was in the midst of watching the Maryland/Boston College game online, because they weren't airing it on local television for some absurd reason. (Let it be known that the absurdity of the following dialogue didn't hit me until after I had gotten off the phone. In the moment, it was perfectly normal and natural.) And now, I present to you, an example of fandom that is destined to go down in history as one of the all-time greats...


MARY ANN is sitting at her computer, watching the Maryland/Boston College game on the internet ticker as it builds to a very dramatic finish. While this is happening, she is talking to her son, Michael, on the telephone, giving him a sorrowful progress report on her mother's/his grandmother's impending collapse.

MARY ANN: (somber) So, I don't think Grandma's gonna make it to Easter, even. She's just... (excited) GET THAT REBOUND!!!!... (somber) She's in the hospice and she's weak and not eating anything and... (more excited) OH, HE MISSED, GET IT!!!!!... (somber) You and Karen might be the last to see her alive... (excited) THEY FOULED HIM!!!! GOOD!!!! (somber) And she's not really alert... (excited) THAT'S IT, GIST!!!! HE JUST HIT A FREE THROW!!!!

Once the game is safely in the Terrapins' hands, Mary Ann relaxes.


I write this not to expose how weird my mother is. I write it for many reasons, which I will list right now:

1) If you ever see me acting strangely over a Maryland Terrapins basketball game, now you know where that passion comes from.

2) There is such a fine line between sorrow and hilarity, and it is at times like these when laughs are the most vital and necessary.

3) I will miss my grandmother, but death is inevitable and her ultimate release will take an incredibly heavy load off my mom, as strange as that sounds.

4) Maryland won another game!

The funniest part to me is that as it was happening I thought nothing of it. It wasn't until I hung up the phone and returned to my quiet brain that I realized how beautifully bizarre that juxtaposition was. I can't think of a better way to celebrate the complexicatedness of life than by sharing this story with the world.

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