Kathy Hepinstall is a maniac. She’s also one of the best writers in America, whether she’s writing novels, ads, short stories or blog postings. Every sentence she writes is exquisite on its own—and she deliberately makes every sentence an advertisement for the next sentence.
When one of America’s best writers emails me a few questions to answer in this space, I must answer them. Here goes:
Do people treat you different now? In what ways?
I see differences mainly in the little things. People who come to see me are nervous before they come in. They wonder what I’ll look like—how sickly will I be? I can feel them relax when they see I’m not much changed. (In fact, I’m a whole lot better than I was under some of the chemo programs.) The other, very nice change is that everyone makes a point of telling me they love me. I’m old enough to remember when guys didn’t do that.
People still love reminding me of the goofy things I’ve done over the years. Everyone has a story about me. That never changes.
What is your first thought every morning when you wake up?
It’s not about my cancer or my mortality. It’s about the little things I hope to get done that day. It’s shocking to me how little I get accomplished. I start each morning feeling today’s going to be different.
I usually have one or two things scheduled during the day, so I do a little once over to see how I’m feeling because if I’m going to cancel something, I’d like to give as much notice as possible. So how’s my breathing? Is my stomach upset? Do I have that dull all-over ache? A headache? Coughing or hiccups? How tired am I? (I don’t want to give the impression here that I’ve always got all these things bringing me down. I don’t. Usually I feel pretty good. I just know what to watch out for now.) I’ve cancelled a number of visits the past few days because I was feeling punk. I hate doing that.
What is your last thought every night when you go to sleep?
[Warning: this answer will get pretty corny.] I used to go to sleep lying on my left side. I can’t do that now: it exacerbates my breathing difficulties. So now I start the night on my right side. Which means the last thing I see before I close my eyes is Ginny. She’s tired of me saying this, but I worry that she spends so much of her time and energy taking care of me. (That’s always been true, but now it’s more true.) I worry that the extra stress she gets from my condition might weigh heavy on her condition. After all, we both have cancer. But mostly I reflect on how happy I am that she’s in my life. A gorgeous, sexy, funny woman who likes the same kind of movies and tv shows I like, who makes a spectacular meal, who (usually) thinks I’m funny and who is perfectly comfortable making all the decisions about finances, home and travel. Am I spoiled or what?
What is something you really appreciate these days that people don’t know about?
Ginny, Jason, Carley and my sister Patti are making plans for the future—and they’re telling me about them. They’re excited about their ideas. Ginny’s going to have a second home in Beacon, NY, where Jason and Carley live—and they’re already planning a guest room for Patti. Jason and Carley are finding more ways to flex their entrepreneurial muscles. Cool stuff. It was awkward at first to talk about their lives after I’m gone, but now it gives me great comfort to know they’re going to do well. (Actually, I’m not surprised. Everyone who knows Ginny and me has always known that I had to be the one to go first—I’d be hopeless on my own.)
Kathy: Thanks for asking.