Terrible, Thanks for Asking

Black Widow - Transcript

This is a transcript of a “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” episode entitled “Black Widow.” The text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future for accuracy.

Listen to the episode here.


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I’m Nora McInerny, and this is “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.”

Leslie Streeter is the Black Carrie Bradshaw. And that’s a reference to the HBO show “Sex and the City “for anyone who:

  1. Didn’t spend her 20s hungover on a couch watching that show OR

  2. Wasn’t old enough to watch it the first time and is also not old enough to watch it now in a form of fake nostalgia — like Gen Z enjoys watching “Friends” for reasons I do not fully understand.

The point is: Leslie, like Carrie Bradshaw, was a single lady. A writer. Totally fine with being unmarried because look, there are more important things than being married. That’s actually something I fully believe, having been married twice. Marriage is not THE THING. It’s A thing.

Leslie is a person whose writing — and life — are just full of pop culture references. Within just a few minutes of our conversation we had discussed:

Rom coms...

Leslie: That “Sweet Home Alabama,” "You brought a baby... to a bar!" Yeah. So we did that once. We went to a restaurant that is really a bar. 

Quentin Tarantino...

Leslie: And there's a video of us dancing to Harry Connick Jr.’s "It Had to Be You,” but we're doing the Uma Thurman/John Travolta. 

We had talked about police procedurals...

Leslie: I watchedLaw and Order” by myself.

We talked medical dramas...

Leslie: “Gray's Anatomy.”

And reality TV...

Leslie: It was like “American Idol” for wrestlers. 

Leslie is a Black widow. Not a spider. A Black human woman whose husband died. Because eventually, when she least expected it, she DID find a guy, who she had already found before… which is ALSO a Carrie Bradshaw parallel. No spoilers for the ending of that series. The first time Leslie met Scott, it was ninth grade in Baltimore, Maryland.

Leslie: He was sitting in front of me. And it was the ‘80s, so the clothing was probably all terrible. It was terrible. I remember him having this series of very loud-colored shirts that kind of clash with themselves, because that's what you did. It was the 1980s. It was 1985. And he had very dark hair, and it was wavy, and it kind of curled to this point in his neck. It's what we call pretty hair, “You have pretty hair.” And he was loud and a goofball. He was a wild and crazy guy. And he was also incredibly smart. He had dyslexia, which had been... in the 1980s was still a new thing to be diagnosed. They just said you were dumb and they put you in a class someplace. But his mom, who was an educator, figured this out kind of early, so it gave him both a sense of accomplishment, because he was able to do so much with it and also kind of a chip on his shoulder. So we had that kind of like... “We're going to gamble in the hallway and. crash parties and drive my Camaro too fast.” He just was hilarious. And I did not know him very well, but I knew him well enough to know he was cute. And that also he was a lot, and I was a dork. I was kind of a popular dork, but I was a dork. And so our sort of extracurricular lives did not really converge at all. 

Not until they were all grown up and it was time for their 20-year high school reunion. And they reconnected on Facebook. Lots had changed. Leslie wasn’t a nerd. She was a cool writer who lived in Florida. Scott’s pretty hair was gone — he was now fully bald — but he was still funny and smart, and they got to messaging and texting…

Leslie: “Hey, remember me?” I'm like, “Yeah, whatever.” And he was like, “You know, I have family who live in Boca, and I've lived there actually recently, but I've moved back to Baltimore probably temporarily. If I come back, I'll look you up.” And I was like, “That's great.” And I was in a series of bad relationships that particular year, so I didn't have time for, like, other people in my head because I was busy dealing with dumbness. So by the time he came back in December and asked me out, I was done with horrible people for the moment. But he was so nice and funny and kind of awkward. And it just... I was like, wait, do I think he's cute? What is this about? Because he wasn't terrible, so why would I find you attractive? He was a functional human being. 

When you’re used to dating non-functional human beings... when you call yourself Carrie Bradshaw and you’re good with being single (or jumping from crap relationship to bad relationship)... the possibility of a good relationship kinda freaks you out. And Scott was going to be a good relationship — Leslie could tell.

Leslie: And I think part of what scared me about him is that I knew, too. And that I knew that I was going to then have to stop being an idiot. All these years I'd said, “Oh I want this. if only I found the right person.” And then I would pick these people that were not the person. My friends would say, “If you really want to settle down and get married, why are you dating the artist who lives in the studio? Who talks about his process all the time and wants to basically live in a van down by the river? That's not your guy. Why are we talking about that guy?” And you're like, “What?! He could be. I could change him.” Did not. Did not change that guy. And it’s fine. So when I met Scott, I had to really say, “This is not only a viable option, this is someone that you instantly were intrigued by and care about and have so much to say.”

So she gets her act together, and she goes ALL IN with Scott.

Leslie: You're not dicking around when you're 38, you know? Because you're like, “All right, let's do this thing.” So we were like, yes. You know, we talked about wanting kids, we talked about adoption. We talked about whether or not we felt our kids had to be biological. And if we did not, if we got married, if we did not conceive, you know, naturally or easily, were we going to do a lot of stuff, or would we be pursuing adoption and other methods while we were doing that? And we went, “Yeah, let's just let it go. We'll do it. We'll do all of it.”

Leslie and Scott DO end up having trouble conceiving. When they do that testing and  get the results back, it’s inconclusive. And since their wedding, they’ve had so much grief in their family. There have been deaths back to back to back to back: Leslie’s dad, Scott’s mom, grandparents, great grandparents… just this constant grief train. So maybe it’s that. Maybe it’s not. And the two of them put the conceiving-a-kid thing on hold, and they start to consider adoption.

Leslie: My sister just had a baby, and she got pregnant very easily. I did not. We're twins. So that's always fun. And I was too far into it to be like, “Now I'm going to spend time waving my fist at the sky and asking God, why, oh, why Jesus, why?” No, I was like, “You know what? It'll happen if it happens.” It didn't happen. So we're like, okay, now it's time for us to start these classes. So we started in December. We went six months after my dad died, and for whatever reason we didn't finish the classes then, so we started over again in the spring. Most of people in these classes are white who are doing the adopting, and most of the kids are black or brown. So we'd have these classes where they would go, “OK, so say your neighbor's racist and they say something racist to your kid. Right? So what do you do?” And Scott's like, “You beat ‘em up!” We're like, “No, you can't beat them up. We can't be beating people up [laughter].”

Maybe you can, you just shouldn’t talk about it in class where they determine if you should have a child. But Leslie and Scott pass the classes. They get their home study approved. And they’re ready for an older kid — a kid who’s already in the foster-to-adopt program, whose parental rights have already been relinquished. That’s the plan, at least. That’s the ideal. But instead…

Leslie: A relative called to say that this baby had been born and he was two days old. And I was like, “Oh, OK, this is great. I don't know what to do here.” And she was like, “Well, you know... I cannot take him. So we're looking for a local family as well. But I know that you and Scott are in this process to adopt. So what do you want to do?” And I was like ahhh! [Screams.] And I remember —

Nora: Also two days old is so... like, so fresh. That's a very fresh human. 

Leslie: That is a fresh human. And so we were thinking we would get, like... we would have to be the parents that got a 4- or 5-year-old through some trauma in their life. You know. Not like a fresh out the womb person who doesn't even, like, know he has feet yet. It's just, like —

Nora: A person who has no object permanence, and now you’re like, wait, wait wait...

Leslie: Not what we thought. So I remember I called Scott. Sometimes he picked up his cell phone, sometimes he didn't. But he did not like me to call him, because he was working, you know? And he was a manager and you know call him at his desk. But I had to call him, because I needed to get this moving, you know. And when that happens, you feel like there is... a stork is hanging over the baby, “Imma take him back. Imma take him back. I'm gonna fly him someplace else.” Nooo! So I called him...

And Scott says heck yes! And Leslie calls her family member and says heck yes!

Leslie: It was a six-month process to get him here. But we went almost every month to Maryland to see him. And it kept being hard, but we had done hard. We always did hard. We were looking forward to the easy part.

All the parents in the world are laughing at the idea of an easy part, even Leslie. But those six months of waiting to bring the baby home are long, and they are hard. At three months, they got their first overnight visit with the baby. He spent Christmas Eve with Leslie and Scott at Leslie’s sister’s house, which was their first sleepover and their first Christmas together.

Leslie: And that was the longest night of my life. Day was night. Night was day. Cats and dogs living together. It was the worst night, because this baby was a three-month-old baby. He had no idea who we were, where he was, but he wasn’t happy about it. And so we're at my sister's guest room. And so Scott had been like, “Listen, “I'm gonna make sure we're doing this equally.” But it did not feel that way to me during that night. So I come out of the room, and I have an afro. My sister is like, you look like the girl from the ring. My hair was all over my head. And I come out and the baby's screaming. And my husband has the temerity and the audacity and Beyonce's 2013 to be laughing and talking with my brother-in-law. And I go "ahhhhh!" and he goes, "Oh I'm so sorry. I gotta go get it." You have to go get the baby! You know. So that was a crazy night. And my mother said friends are calling like, “How she do?” and she's like, “It's going to work out I guess.”

Three months later, they get to go back up to Maryland and bring baby Brooks home with them for real. Brooks is six months old, and he’s spent those six months of his life with a foster family who has also been falling in love with him.

Leslie: They’re lovely people. But adoption is loss, because that child, they're with you now because they lost a connection to their birth family that should be intact and is not. So... I always get squicked out about people who were like… I hate — and I'm going to alienate some people — but there is a term in the adoption world, Gotcha Day. And I don't like it, because to me, it sounds like you tricked somebody into being your kid. It's like, “Gotcha! Snuck up on ya! Put ya in a basket, taking you home!” It's like, not the... what? I don't like that.

They didn’t sneak away with the baby in a basket. They packed him up. They got on a plane to bring him back to Florida, which made them so nervous — flying with a baby? But this baby slept the entire flight like a little angel. So maybe it won’t be as hard as that one Christmas Eve overnight. Maybe Leslie does have this!

Leslie: So we get to the parking garage, and we can't find the car. We cannot find the car. So this brand new baby and I spend our first hour in Florida together, sitting on the floor of the parking garage at Palm Beach International Airport as Scott looks for the car. And he's pooping, and I'm changing the diapers, and people are like, “Is she homeless? What's happening? But she can't be homeless, her luggage is very nice. I don't understand. Who's this baby? What's happening?” And I’m like, “We’re looking for a trash can [laughing].” And so I felt at that moment I was then ushered into this club of mothers who were like, “We don't know what the fuck we're doing either.” And I felt better because while we're waiting to figure out if we can keep him and do all the stuff. And, like, the social workers come over all the time, and sometimes it's scheduled, sometimes it's like “pop quiz!” you know, and they just show up, and... just the stuff, because this is not yet your baby.

The three of them become a little unit. That cocoon that had enveloped Scott and Leslie when they’d lost so many family members, it includes Brooks now, too. Like Leslie said, they’re his foster parents — they’re not his parents, yet — so his privacy is really important. It’s important for all kids, FYI, but foster parents can’t post photos of their baby. They can’t share his identity. And Leslie is a columnist for the Palm Beach Post, so she’s a person who does share her life, just not this part.

Leslie: We were kind of leading a double life, because at first we couldn't tell anybody. You know, our friends knew but we couldn't publicly talk about where he came from. And people have all those questions. And then people go like, is he African? No, he's not African. He's from Baltimore. 

So the woman who used to be the Black Carrie Bradshaw is just toting a mystery baby around. He comes with her to restaurants that she’s writing up for the paper. He goes to bars. 

Leslie: Sundays were my favorite day because we would go to Ravens games to watch at a Ravens bar that was local. And we would go in the first half and watch with Scott, and he'd be so happy. And he’d talk with the baby. And then at halftime, I got to go home, which was brilliant, because then the baby would be asleep, and I would put him to bed, and I would open a bottle of wine and I would order Thai food and watch “Law and Order” by myself. And Scott would call and say, “Hey, listen, it looks like another game’s starting and there's some guys here. Do you mind if I stay?” No! “Stay longer!” because I got to be alone and no one got to tell me there was too much “Grey's Anatomy” and why is there medical stuff, and then the baby… I was like, this is my house. It's mi casa es su — yeah, I live here, baby. I live here.

That’s how it is with the three of them for a year and a half — their little unit, going to dinners, watching football games and a lot of TV. 

We’ll be right back.

We’re back. And you already know from the title of this episode — and the title of Leslie’s book — that she’s a widow. That Scott died. And that’s what we have to talk about now. It’s July 29, 2019 and they’ve just had a big dinner out at a restaurant with Scott’s family.

Leslie: So we get back and put the baby to bed and we watch the end of “Tough Enough.” And our favorite guy didn't win. So we're like “Ehh.” And he hadn't been feeling well for like a week and he you know, it was a big guy who had, you know, a history of heart disease, he had Type II diabetes. He did not monitor it well. He would take his pills like every fifth day, maybe. I didn't always know this, and I would say, “Hey, you should do it,” but, you know, you’re nagging the guy. He has to do it himself, and he's 44 years old. So what do you know? You know?

So he wasn't feeling well, and I figured it's, like, allergies or whatever, but he kept saying, “I don't know if I feel real good.” He was… it was a Wednesday — it was a Tuesday night. And he was going to bed. He was starting a new job the next Monday. So he said, “Maybe I ought to start weaning myself back onto the medication, so it's somewhat regulated before I go back to work,” and I go, “Do what you do.” 

And he never took pills with water because he was disgusting. And he took a Sudafed and shoved it down his mouth and swallowed it. And I'm like, “You're disgusting.” He was like, “Noted.” So we go to bed. I had a story I was supposed to write the next morning. And my thing is, if I didn’t feel like doing something at night, I just woke up at 4:00 in the morning and did it. Because, you know, as a mom, no one is awake. If everyone's asleep, you can do your thing. I would wake up and watch my own TV shows, do my work, whatever. So I woke up in the morning at the same time he woke up because he went to the bathroom, and the baby was asleep, and he came back and he said, “Did your alarm go off?” And I said, “No.” And he goes, “You want to make out?” "You want to fool around?" was the quote. And I said, sure because why not? You know, we start kissing and stuff, and it hadn't really gone anywhere real serious, and he said, “Something's wrong.” And I, of course, am annoyed... ‘cause it's getting going. You know, hey hey hey.

Nora: Yeah! You started this, dude. 

Leslie: You started this. So I turn on the light, and it's four o'clock or three thirty, four o'clock in the morning. So I'm not super, like, alert. Clued in. And his head is shaking. And I went, holy shit, like you know. So, you have no idea in those moments what you're saying, your volume. I imagine I was shrieking. But I couldn't tell. I was like, “Scott, what's wrong, what's wrong?” And he fell into the bed. And I'm like, holy shit. So my phone was down the hall. So, it could've been five seconds, it could have been five minutes. I don't know. You don't know in those moments. So I go running down the hall, trying to find my glasses, because I didn't have my contacts in, and I am blind as 80 bats. I'm so blind. So I go running down the hall and I find my glasses and I'm convinced he's just passed out because no one dies in their first stroke or heart attack, whatever, right? Also, we didn't have a lot of light. I think... for some reason he had taken — because he was a diva — he had taken the light out of the ceiling fan. So I go down the hall and there's a little light, and I go to it and I'm like, “Scott, Scott, I'm calling 911, I'm calling 911.”And I call 911, and I'm trying to explain to them what's going on, and it annoyed me because they said, “Has he taken any drugs?” And I said, “Yes, he took Sudafed and his heart medication last night.” And he goes, “No, no. Drugs!” And I'm like, no! And once again, that's their job, right? You know, they have to ask that. But I was annoyed that how dare he… you said drugs. I said drugs. It's drugs that were prescribed to him by a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic.

So I attempt CPR, doesn't do anything. I mean, I tried the breaths, whatever. Now I'm panicked, I know I sound crazy. I go outside, and I'm waiting for the ambulance. He's lying there. Once again, I'm convinced he's passed out. Right? I'm like, they'll be here soon. They'll be here soon. Baby's still asleep. It's a miracle. So I run down the hall. I'm pretty sure I'm barefoot. I put on shorts, so I'm not standing outside — or a dress, and I’m not standing outside like a naked person. So I call my mother and I say something is happening to Scott. And she goes, “OK, call me back,” and I called my sister and told her. And the ambulance comes and they’re working on him and they’re working on him and I don't know if it's good, and the baby's still asleep, and I'm standing on the driveway, and the guy comes out and says, “Listen, he's not responsive.” 

Leslie calls her friend Lauren. Calls her friend Elizabeth. She doesn’t even know that she’s doing this.

Leslie: I said, “So it seems that Scott has died, and I need you to come and watch the baby. Okay, bye.” And I hung up the phone. And I know I made phone calls like that to people, and I've told my friends and family to never tell me what I said, because it was so painful. But God or evolution or the fairies or whoever made us so that the shock kicks in so that we can do what we have to do before it all goes black.

Nora: Oh, I love shock. I know. 

Leslie: It was amazing. It was the best drug I've ever had in my life. And I don't do drugs. But that day, we drive to the hospital, and I just go into it but everybody was shitty to us. Everyone. The cop who greeted us was shitty. The guy at the desk was super nervous. And he said, "Oh go wait in that room." We go in the room and there's a doctor or nurse with his… all his electronics plugged in into the bad news room. We're like, you don't belong in here. So we couldn't even get the sad, mournful telling of the death right, because there was, like, an idiot in there. So the doctor comes in, and he was hot. I do remember that. He looked like Justin Hartley, who plays Kevin on, “This Is Us.” I swear to god. He looked like him. He walked in. I was like, “Oh, hello! Oh no that's right, your husband’s dying.” But it was like God was like, “You should have a pretty mouth tell you this. Something bad is going to happen. And the prettiest person in the world should tell you.”

Nora: I fully believe that that might... might be a strategy that they have. Okay?

Leslie: Yeah. They're like, “Who's on today,” you know? “Troy, is Troy here?” You know, “Who is the hottest? Who’d she like? I don't know. Whatever. We'll send him in. Troy works for everyone. We'll see what happens.” So, he comes in. They tell me they weren’t able to restart his heart, he... whatever, he passed away, whatever. And I was like, fuck. Of course. Because what else do you say? So I have very — as you know, shock — little memory. I called his brother. I called my mom back. I called my sister back. I called my friend Shauna, who is a very close friend of ours, who's also Jewish, because I knew that she would know what to do because I thought, “Okay, now I'm in go mode.” I don't know how to do a funeral, but I certainly don't know that, and I didn't want to fuck it up. So I was like, OK, what do I do? So she goes, “Got it.” So in that time, we're in the thing, we're calling people, Lauren is fielding phone calls... 

Leslie’s in shock, and she’s also just in that mode where you’re just doing stuff. You’re just getting stuff done. And in this barrage of phone calls coming in and out of her cell phone, she calls Kenny, who is Scott’s cousin.

Leslie: When Kenny gets to the hospital, I called him and his cousin Kim, who lived in Boca, and I said, “Listen, this is happening. Can you come?” And they want to say goodbye. So they come up to the hospital and there was a show on A&E — I don't think it's still on, called “Sex Sent Me to the E.R.” —  and Kenny says to Scott's body, “Dude... if you had just survived this, you could have been on that show.” [Laughs.] I just went ahh! Because what else can you say? It was absurd and stupid and wrong. Because he would have done that. I would have had to have fought him not to apply for that show. 

Time for a break.

And we’re back. Leslie’s husband Scott has just died. Sex sent him to the ER, and he didn’t even get to live to make that joke and then apply to and get on one of the reality shows that he and Leslie would watch together. It’s not fair. It stinks. And now comes the paperwork. The million ways you need to make this loss official in the eyes of the government and the credit bureaus and your wireless network and your doctor’s office and, and, and… and, and.

Leslie: The boxes that you click on everything when you apply for something? Single, married, divorced. And now there's another box… widowed. And literally you go from, “No, that's not your box anymore. Your box is down there.” And it's the last box. Widow is like the... well, not like this would ever happen. It’s like: heart attack, diabetes, eaten by a shark. You know, it's like that’s the shit that’s not going to happen. Widowhood is the “eaten by a shark” of marital status. So having to think of myself as this thing — A.) not married, not single because he literally is still warm, you know.

But I remember maybe two months or so after he died, I did a story about going to places in gas stations where you can get really good food. Like, there will be, like, you know, Indian food and, like, Caribbean ladies making the stuff, you know, like biscuits, whatever, like, places around Palm Beach County that they have actual food or food trucks. So I go to this gas station in Delray Beach. And I'm still wearing my ring, obviously. Because it's still quite not real, you know. And I go in, and there’s this lovely West African man, and he doesn't see my ring. I'm just, I assume, a pretty lady. I felt like dog crap, but OK, let's say I looked pretty that day. And he goes, “Oh, hello.” I'm like, “Oh, shit, I gotta do this again. I gotta do that “I gotta boyfriend thing.” Wait. No, I'm married. Sort of. And I go, “No, no, I'm married,” and he goes, “Oh, I'm so sorry,” and his friends go, “she’s married!” and I’m like, “No, no, it's fine.” Then I felt crappy. But if you say, “I'm widowed,” A.) no one's going to believe you B.) then that makes you feel bad.

Leslie is a widow, though. Even if she was still wearing her wedding ring. Even if she hated the word, hated the label, never wanted it. She does eventually find comfort in the fact that she’s not alone. That plenty of people, real and fictional, have been here. And spoilers for “Grey’s Anatomy” follow. I had not gotten this far in the show at the time of this interview.

Leslie: I never liked Meredith Grey until McDreamy died. I don't know what it was. I just didn't like her character. I thought she was whiny and annoying and whatever. So when McDreamy died -- and he died six months before Scott did. Four months. So I remember watching that episode back before I wrote my big story for the paper about Scott. And I quoted her monologue about I'm a widow, because she gave voice to it. You know, “I'm like you in the movies and the TV, the books. I'm a widow.” And I went, shit, yeah, OK. You know you are the widow when you were in the receiving line. You know you are the widow when you were the one who has to sign shit, you know? But it still doesn't seem like it's a thing you are. It's like a role you're playing, you know? In the role of the widow, who has to do the thing is me.

Leslie is a widow. And she’s a parent. And she’s about to be officially and legally a mom. Brooks’ adoption is ready to be finalized. They have a date to go back to Maryland and make their family of two legally official. And this is the big feel-good moment we get to end on, right? With Leslie and her mom and her baby on the way to the airport at 4 am on their way to a 6am flight because that’s the cheapest option…? Sure!

Leslie: So we're getting in that, in that Uber and I get a phone call that says, “Hello is Southwest Airlines, your flight is canceled.” We're like it's been what now? So I'm like, we'll figure it out when we get there. So I'm on hold with Southwest. And when we get there, I see this line of people, I can see through the window in front of a desk, and I go, “Crap.” We finally get up to the desk and the guy says, “So can you go tomorrow?” And I go, “No.” And I go, “This is my baby. My husband died and I must be at his adoption.” And he goes, “OK, sorry.” And he's looking going, “Wait, wait, no. No, that’s not. No. OK.” And then he says, “Can you get to Fort Lauderdale?” So we go down to Fort Lauderdale. We get there early. I'm drinking a margarita. I may have had two. My mother doesn't stop me. 

Like it always happens when flights are canceled, everyone who was on those previous flights is now hoping to make it on this other flight. It’s a disaster. Leslie is anxiously watching the clock tick, thinking is she even going to make it to this appointment? Is it a bad look to miss your adoption hearing? She’s… she’s spiraling a little bit.

Leslie: My mother is like, “Snap out of it!” She's like Cher in “Moonstruck.” Snap out of it. So they book us on the flight. We're confirmed for the flight. And we're waiting for the flight. And There's a girl who's trying to get to a friend's 21st birthday party. And she's like, “Oh, my God, I love Emily so much. I want to go to her party.” And I'm like, “Oh, my God, my husband died and my son has to be adopted. We gotta go tomorrow or we'll miss it.” And her father looks to me and he goes, “She won.” I’m like thank you. 

They do win. They get on that flight. And by the time they get to Baltimore, they have enough time to get to their hotel room, sleep about five hours and get out the door to their big appointment.

Leslie: Of course, we're going during rush hour, and we're running a little late. And the social worker calls me and she's like, “Um… hey.” I’m like nooooo! So we get there. There was another family who was waiting, so they just flip them, and they and she goes, “There's a lot of people here for you. A lot of people here.” So we get there, and my mother literally drops me and the baby off on the street like, “Go! Go!”

Nora: Run in. Run in. Yeah.

Leslie: And so I see my friend Melanie. We got to go running in, and we go upstairs and everybody's there. 

She means EVERYBODY! Everybody!

Leslie: My sister’s there. My friends from all around are there. The foster parents who first took Brooks in were there with their new baby. And it was just so beautiful. So my platonic love of my life is my friend Jason Plotkin, who is an Emmy-winning photojournalist. And so he made a video of us walking to the courtroom and all of the people, you know, like my brother-in-law tying Brooks' tie, and he a little fedora on and like... somebody giving him a stuffed monkey. And Brooks is like, what is happening? And I'm trying to explain to him what's going on. So we go to the judge's chambers and she starts, “This child will now be the legally adopted child of Leslie Rae Streeter.” And the fact I did not hear Scott's name after my name just broke me. It broke me. Because it was, the whole…  it had been a year of overwhelming emotion. And so this part was over. But from now on, legally, even though he has Scott’s name — he’s Streeter-Zervitz — he's not legally on this thing. And they tried to put him on the birth certificate, and he wasn't there to sign it, you know. 

Nora: Ohhhh. 

Leslie: I know. I know. 

Nora: Oh. 

Leslie: I know. I know. 

Nora: But can't his friend forge it? 

Leslie: I know. They're like, apparently he died. So gig's up. We know he's not here because that’s the whole thing. So we take all these pictures and we go to a Jewish deli with his aunts and eat kugel... and potato pancakes and drink Manischewitz. And it was really beautiful. And it was just like... even though he had always been mine, I felt he had, even though he really wasn't legally. I felt that. And it was just a new part of being mine, you know, being ours and being part of his family. You know, he's my family anyway. You know, he’s a relative. But it was so wonderful. And I would, I'm that person... when people go, who cares about graduations? I'm like, “I do.” If there is a ceremony of any kind. I am there. Can I get a hat? Can I get a thing? Is there a picture? Is there an official statement? I am going to that thing. Why wouldn't you? They… they're going to be there anyway. 

Nora: Yeah. It's also like,  I think that sometimes we... we sort of minimize these life events that are, like, actually the stuff of life. You know, it's it's.. if the only thing that we celebrate is when somebody comes into this world and comes out of this world, what's the point? 

Leslie: What is the point? 

This is a good place for us to end. With Brooks and Leslie starting their new life together, bittersweetly, without Scott. With a whole bunch of family and friends showing up to welcome Brooks into the fold, to try to close that huge, gaping hole that Scott left when he died. 

But there’s more. There’s always more. Leslie wrote a book about all of this. It’s called Black Widow. It’s so good. We link it in the show notes. And right when her book was about to come out, as she was gearing up to travel the country telling her love story to the masses, COVID-19 canceled all of that. And like many people in media, the paper where she spent 18 years as a columnist went through furloughs…

So she and Brooks are packing up for another new beginning. They’re leaving the state where Brooks took his first steps, and where Scott took his last breath. But they’re not leaving Scott behind. Everyone who has lost someone knows you carry them with you, that memories, yeah they’re stored in places, but also in the people who also loved that person. 

And Brooks and Leslie are going back to where lots of people love Scott, where so many of his memories and stories are set… where he lives in his friends, his family. Where he lives in the memory of Leslie laying eyes on him, with his good hair, over 30 years ago. Leslie and Brooks are heading back to Baltimore.

It’s not as good as having Scott with them physically. Of course it isn’t. But there’s some comfort in knowing that Brooks is going to be surrounded by people who know and love the dad who loved Brooks so, so much. The dad he never got to know. That Leslie doesn’t have to do this on her own.

Leslie: I had a talk with Scott's friend Jason. He bought him his first Ravens jersey since Scott did. And that meant so much to me because he goes, “I know that Scott would want that.” There's a lot of dudes in Baltimore who don't have sons who are very excited about this child moving there. And these are people who loved his father. And he's going to have his own relationship with them. And he's going to have his own relationship with Scott through them. And I don't need to know what they talk about. I don't need to know, you know, what the deal is with that. All I need to know is that I trust them with Scott's memory. And I'm excited about that. 

CREDITS

This has been “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.” And I said that with quite a Minnesota accent. Accent? Then I got Irish. Australian, maybe? Hard to say. Things are getting odd tonight. Our producer, Marcel Malekebu. Just a heckuva guy. Phyllis Fletcher, our editor, truly wonderful angel. Hannah Meacock Ross, our project manager, she does so much production stuff for us. Jeyca Maldonado-Medina, what do I say about her? She’s like a… she’s a young millennial, senior Gen Z. I don’t know. We’re from different generations. I could’ve babysat her, but I won’t. Jordan Turgeon, our digital producer, my generational peer. Our theme music is by Geoffrey Lamar Wilson, also a wonderful man, go buy his music, Geoffrey Lamar Wilson dot com. We’re a production of American Public Media, APM. I recorded this in my closet. It is extremely sweaty. Very sweaty. Not a lot of oxygen gets in here. My husband sealed the door for sound and I was like, “I feel like that was a threat on me.” Like, you sealed it? You just sealed the oxygen off? Okay. Phew. Anyway. Um, well, goodnight everyone. You might not be listening to this at night, but as I record this, 10:13 Pacific Time. Thought you would want to know that. You do not. But that is okay. Um… always have a strong ending. Very important tip from your pal, Nora McInerny.