Today marks the 23rd anniversary of my grandmother’s death.

Over the years, I have shared many stories of how fabulous Gran was. How she owned any room she entered (unless she deemed it too “dreadfully boring” to own!), had an impeccible sense of style and was seducing men well into her 60s (when she still rocked her chocolate brown leather dress).

I have often said that Gran was my Auntie Mame and I was her Patrick Dennis.

It’s an apt description. I adored Gran.

And we were an airtight pair.

From the time I was five and she taught me how to “ease into the beat” of Miss Peggy Lees “Is That All There Is?” and Frank Sinatra‘s “That’s Life.”

Right up until her death when I helped the mortician place her in a body bag. And zip it closed.

But, over the past year, as I’ve sold the family house, let go of almost everything that was inside it (including Gran’s beloved antique furniture) and written a show about the whole experience, I have come to realize that saying Gran was my Auntie Mame doesn’t go far enough.

Becauase, you see, Gran was far more than a character (or is it caricature) to me. More than a whole bunch of fabulous stories that made many of my fellow gays wish that they, too, had a Gran in their lives.

She was my grandmother.

An elder who took me under her wing from the time I was a sickly little boy who seemed to fit in more with the adults who sang Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra than the kids who rode bikes and played ball.

An ancestor who held me tight til her last breath…and beyond.

Always, always there to steady me when I was unsteady. To believe in me when I did not believe in myself.

Yes, Gran taught me how to own a room, how to dress, how to ease into the beat and, even, how to seduce (though I have not yet mastered the art of wearing a leather dress….).

But more than that.

My grandmother.

Gave me love.

A love stronger than any story, no matter how fabulous. A love that, twenty-three years after her death, still carries me to this day.

The Practice of Being Alive is a collection of stories about getting through this thing called life.