My real surname, I certainly hope you’ve already realized, is not Cannibal.

“Why would you choose such a trashy name?? My gawd, people are gonna think your mama didn’t raise you right,” my grandmother once said. This from a woman who only partly affectionately referred to me as “Squaw-Who-Looks-Like-Elvis” and her late husband, whose given name was Lee Force as “Fyodor Sonovabitch.”

I tried to explain to her that it was more in the way I made my art–finding old stuff and “cannibalizing” it–cutting out the good parts and putting them into something new. “Well, just make sure it’s at least pretty. I don’t know why so many women want to put things on their body that make them look uglIMG_2253y. There’s enough ugly things out there. You’d think they’d have more respect for themselves.”

My grandmother died two years ago–she slumped over the ham sandwich tray at Daddy’s funeral. “Well, Squaw,” she said as I brushed the crumbs off her forehead while we waited for the ambulance, “Death by irony. Don’t you dare write about this on the Facebook.”

“It’s just ‘Facebook,’ Gran.”

“Like I give a shit,” she said. “I’m dyin’ here.”

“I ain’t promising anything Gran.”

She grunted. “Weeeelllll–don’t be making any more ugly art, then. There’s enough of that goddam ugly art in the world.”

I agreed.

“And you do know that Elvis ain’t your daddy?”

“I figured that out pretty early on.”

She nodded as they loaded her into the ambulance. “Well at least you got some sense.”

And those were her last words to me.

She had plenty to say to a lot of other people: the paramedics, the emergency room doctors and nurses. My mother.

But those were her last words to me.