Forgive me if this is outside of my usual subject matter, but there is something that's been weighing on my mind and I'm writing this post to process it a bit better.
Here goes... My favorite author died and I'm grieving her loss.
Yes, I'm experiencing grief for a person I've never met. I hope that doesn't sound too weird.
Her name is Sue Grafton and she died from cancer on December 28, 2017, at the age of 77. She was a mystery writer and her books were named for the alphabet: A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, C is for Corpse, and so on. Her crime novels featured female private investigator Kinsey Millhone.
I was introduced to Sue and Kinsey in 1997 when I was in college taking a literature class. Our homework assignment was to read A is for Alibi. Lucky for me I fell in love with Kinsey and the 300 pages just flew by. From then on whenever I would see one of Grafton's alphabet books being featured at the library or on a shelf at the Goodwill I would pick them up and read them. I read them sporadically and out of order over the years, but so enjoyed each and every one. I would often get caught up in reading her books for hours and when I'd finally put it down would find myself wondering what Kinsey would be doing as if she was an actual person.
When I had my son in May of 2012 I decided to spend my maternity leave reading all of her books in sequence beginning with A. At that time Grafton had completed the series up to W. The books were a godsend in those first few weeks when you feel underwater and out of sorts with a newborn to care for. Having an old familiar "friend" to turn to was comforting and it forced me to get out of the house each week to get to the library. Kinsey's brave, no-nonsense, witty, but vulnerable demeanor was what I needed to get me over the hump of those baby blues and gave me some confidence in my new role as a parent. What's funny is that Kinsey herself had no interest in children!
At the time of her death Grafton completed up to Y with Y is for Yesterday which came out in the summer of 2017. So now in my mind, the alphabet will always end at Y.
I felt compelled to write about the experience I'm going through as it's hard to mourn a public figure who you've never met. Somebody wrote on her Facebook page that they're feeling "loopy" mourning Sue's passing as if she were a family member or close friend. Well, I'm feeling just as loopy as they are!
I know that there was a generation that mourned the loss of John Lennon in a profound way. The generation of my youth mourned in a similar fashion to Kurt Cobain, a singer/songwriter and leader of the band Nirvana who took his own life. Then more recently there was the death of Michael Jackson that was so difficult for many. Though Grafton is not as famous and well-known in the industry as these celebrities, she still touched a lot of people with her words and through the endearing character of Kinsey.
Here's where I'll turn this post into a little something more organizing-related.
The character of Kinsey Millhone is truly a lover of organization and I would call her a minimalist before her time (the books take place in the 80s through the early 90s).
Here are some examples:
- She wears a uniform of jeans and turtlenecks with boots or tennis shoes. Hello, capsule wardrobe! And she only owns one dress which she refers to as the "wrinkle resistant, all-purpose, little black dress."
- She is an upholder of habits and daily routines as she gets up every morning and runs 2 miles along the beach in fictional Santa Teresa (based on Santa Barbara) near her home and she always has to tidy her desk before she sits down to work.
- She doesn't get bogged down with decision-making fatigue as she frequently eats cold cereal for breakfast and peanut butter and pickle sandwiches for lunch or if she's really pressed for time - "QP's with cheese" at McDonald's.
- She trims her hair with nail clippers when it gets too long. Talk about being frugal and using what you have!
- As a child, she grew up in a trailer with her Aunt Gin and enjoyed the tiny living lifestyle early on.
- As an adult, she lives in a garage turned apartment which she describes as a ship's deck with built-in furniture and a cubby for everything. The saying "a place for everything and everything in its place" rings true with her living quarters.
- She always carries a toothbrush and a clean pair of undies in her purse. I love that she's always prepared for anything!
- She cleans her bathroom and scrubs her toilet when she has a problem to solve or is feeling stressed. She clearly understands that outer order contributes to an inner calm and a sense of clarity.
- When working a case she writes pertinent details or bits of information on her trusty index cards which she always keeps a stack of in her purse. Kinsey knows you should never take "mental notes!"
- She values spending time with others over material possessions and most nights can be found sharing dinner with friends over Hungarian food at her neighborhood pub.
Can you see why I like her so much? And did I mention that I started reading these books when I was in college studying for my social work degree long before organizing, simplifying and minimalism were even on my radar?! Talk about being drawn to these themes and concepts early on!
I have yet to read her last book Y is for Yesterday. I'm sad to know that it'll be the last time I'll get to embark on an adventure with Sue and Kinsey. It's hard to believe that these figures have been a part of my life for over 20 years.
Goodbye Sue Grafton and thank you for bringing a bit of organization to my life through your beloved Kinsey!
I encourage anyone to pick up her books. You can start with whatever letter you choose; you certainly don't have to read them in order.
If you've made it this far, I thank you for reading this post. Like I said at the beginning, please don't think I'm too weird (or loopy)! Can you relate at all to this kind of loss? Feel free to share with me below.