Category Archives: grandparents
I live in a yard, in a lovely shed with a sliding glass door and one perfect window. It was insulated by a friend who lived there before me. She had fabric hanging from the ceiling because she hadn’t perfected drywall when she did the ceiling and she said looking at it reminded her of constant failure. That sort of thing doesn’t bother me the same way, so their is no fabric hanging from my ceiling. Read the rest of this entry
One of my grandfathers was the sheriff of Tacoma. He was stern, awnry or cruel depending on who you talked to. Folks tried to kill him or at least scare him in a drive-by shooting at his home in the early sixties. My mother was the only person downstairs and to this day won’t sit with her back to a window. My grandpa was not scared or dead.
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I was 13 or 14 and just barely out of the house. I was visiting my grandparents on my Dad’s side. I was taking my niece, who was my brothers’ baby, to meet them for the first time.
I was on the floor in the front room with her while my Dad and his wife sat looking on in the company of my Grandma and Grandpa.
That floor was lovely; I grew up on it sometimes. And those laps, the laps of my Grandma and Grandpa, I grew up on them too. Read the rest of this entry
7 years old.
Bush senior had begun to bomb Iraq for the first time…that time.
My grandmother, my mom’s mom, spent her days watching television evangelists in her crowded trailer. In the early years of their marriage, she almost bankrupted her and her husband by sending money to Pat and the purple haired woman. Her children hated him for cutting her off from the bank accounts. They did not like having one more person to go through if they needed bail money. They also didn’t like how she got a little edgier when she couldn’t guarantee her place in heaven with a cash donation. She also missed receiving cards from (she imagined) them personally, thanking her for her generosity.
They were the only two people in the world that considered her generous. They were the two whom she gifted and never called later to remind them.
It was from these voices of her God that she learned about the prophecies of the bible. When Papa Bush began a public slaughter of the already devastated Iraqi peoples she had it on good authority that it was a definite sign of the end times.
She immediately set about gathering her 6 children and all their children in her trailer. The trailer sat on a nice wooded hill surrounded by her husbands beautiful tomatoes. Whenever I remember him it is on a little riding tractor lawn mower weaving his way through the trees. His work was never done though I was never quite sure what it was he was working on. He was a kind quiet man. My grandma had never stayed put after leaving my grandpa until that overall wearing potbellied sweetie came along.
She gathered them all; myself included and began a prayer meeting. She talked about the hell that was about to be seen on Earth. It was her intention that we all stay there together to await our certain death. It was her contention that a nuclear holocaust could be expected momentarily.
I learned in my adult life that this was the last time all her children ever did anything together to appease her. It was actually the last time that all 6 at once would be willing to be in a room with each other. No one else believed her idea; they just figured they would stay with her a few days until she settle down.
The trouble for me was that none of the adults present told me that it was Grandma and not Western Washington that was exploding. Everyone was playing along so well that I believed, with what capacity I had, everything I heard her saying. Most of my cousins were playing in the woods, beating each other up or trying to have sex or whatever other brutal shit they were learning at home. I was, however, glued to my Mom’s lap crying and shaking for what was years to a child body.
This is a memory of mine that I didn’t have until I was grown up and told about it by a kid who at the time was old enough to remember how devastated I was.
A 7-year-old child can barely understand why people can’t see through them if they block the television. I was trying to understand the end of everything and wrestling with the magnitude of heaven.
15 years old
I was living in a small room on the top floor of a haunted punk house where knives flew offs counters into walls and mice ran choreographed circles in the living room.
I sat rocking facing a wall for months. I felt everything falling from under me, I jumped at any loud noise, and I drank to quiet my nerves. When planes flew overhead I cried. My feelings were so big that they had the same authority as the purple haired woman had for Grandma. The end was upon me.
If I heard a plane noise while I was out I would search the sky desperately until I discovered which kind of plane it was and decided whether it was likely to drop a bomb. If it was likely I would run to the nearest public restroom, lock myself inside. My eyes and jaw and fists would be clenched shut.
When the noise passed I would slowly open one eye to see if I was still alive.
Most kids my age were worried about what to wear to school or whether they would have to be chaperoned at prom. Maybe they had not heard it was the End of the World or maybe they coped with rhinestones and extracurricular activities.
My Dad just recently found out that things are not going so well in the World of Humans. He started to be very worried about food and energy and water and weather and money. He found out from Facebook, who had the same authority for him as the purple haired lady had for Grandma or my fear had for me, that it is likely that the military will rise against Obama, taking over the government and holding the country hostage in a brutal and indefinite marshal law.
He has begun to collect canned food when it’s on sale and inquire with friends about food preservation. He goes fishing more often.
He started growing squash. The first year they were as big as my head, then from those seed, the next year they were as big as my head and shoulders and this year they are as big as my torso. Also this year, zucchini the size of my thigh surround the torso squash. Everything flavorless and everything gigantic. The larger the vegetable the greater comfort he takes.
I have been making zucchini bread and making zucchini bread.
My sweet brother from a different mother has gallons of water in the basement and the main floor of his home. Both, so that if one part of the house is inaccessible She may be retrieved in the other part.
He feels the little earthquakes. The ones that only science tools usually notice. He feels them and he waits. They are calling something bigger.
He raises his sweet baby and loves his sweetest sweetheart and goes to school to learn how to use all his personal experience as a homeless youth to help homeless youth. He sings and grows the only orange cosmos anyone has ever seen. If, by now, you have seen orange cosmos you can be sure they are a direct descendant of the ones in his yard.
He tends to what needs tending as if everything might have a chance to keep going. He does this even and especially as he feels the plates under his feet make little big shifts. Every couple of years he waters the cosmos with the jugs from the basement and the main floor and refills them with fresh water.
My mom keeps a bible on her bedside table and keeps the world at a distance.
Friends run away to the woods and make houses and grow food and keep the world at a distance.
Kids break windows or carry signs.
Today, it is cold outside. The porch was frosty until mid morning. I pray for more snow, especially in the places where the spring waters depend on it. I hear stories and I see them in everything all around me. On the corner a group of young men are having a good time being pissed off at each other. My dog is having a good time letting them know they should keep moving.
I have eaten today and I have drunk. My hands are cold, my shoulder is sore, my piano is longing to be played.
blink. blink. my eyes were slow to open and even slower to focus. It seemed to my very groggy mind that I was being watched by a blue-eyed Cyclops. I pushed my head back what seemed like a mile, but was more likely an inch, and the face of an unknown child of approximately 7 came into view. I startled and fell off the opposite side of the child-sized bed that my mostly adult body had been precariously placed on.
I was very confused. I slowly took in information. Princess sheets, headache, clothes on (thank God) some kind of garage. I could see where this child corner abruptly became a bleak adult bedroom with a queen sized bed and plenty of empty wine bottles. The sheets had rode off one corner of the bed exposing a mattress that was yellow with age.
She eyed me suspiciously. I would have too. I tried to think of something to say to this stranger whose Mom had put me in her bed after fucking my brains out in her own. When we had tumbled into the room it was well past 3 in the morning. The child had been sleeping inside the house with her Grandma and Grandpa. I had been redressed and sent to sleep in the kid-bed because the little one was likely to crawl in with her Mom in the early morning.
It was apparently past early morning and I had nothing to say for myself. Perhaps sensing this, she spoke, “Do you like to play unicorn princess?” She said it in the same tone that surprised adults would use to say, “Who the fuck are you?”
“Yes I do.” What else could I have said? A nervous bead of sweat rolled down my face.
“Well come on then.” She stood and walked towards the door that I assumed led into the house. I absolutely, under no condition, wanted to go in there.
Her Mom was some kind of photographer. Either that or she wore a camera to pick up chicks. Down on her luck, she had moved back in with her parents to get help with her kid and maybe her drinking problem. I searched my mind for her name but it was not there. I had met her in a bar, in a town where I was visiting with the most recent in a string of men I was using for protection, status and a sense of self worth, in other words my “boyfriend”.
I had gone out with his best friends girlfriend for a fun night while the guys watched her kids. We went to a bar that was having a generic fetish party. It was 5 dollars or free in a costume. I tried to convince the door person that young homeless girl was a real turn on for a lot of weird rich men but eventually I had to just take off my pants to get in without paying the cover.
I remember being pretty tossed when she decided to leave and I decided to stay. I had a thing for middle-aged lesbians and I had been exchanging glances with one all night. She had a camera around her neck and a backwards hat. Hot.
What I would find out the next day is that while I was trying to convince my friend that she should stay and we could both find a nice lady to sleep with, the phone in her pocket had accidentally called her house and left the whole conversation as a message on an out loud machine. This was the early years of cell phones and my first experience with their sense of humor.
The next I recall I was sitting on a velvet couch close to the bar taking shots of tequila that seemed to be magically appearing before me, one after the other. It occurred to me that I should investigate this phenomenon. Four shots in, I looked up. To my surprise there was a half circle of butches, fifteen to thirty years my senior, before me. They had decided, as a group, to take turns buying me shots. They were making bets about who was going to take me home.
I told that door person I was a fetish.
Thankfully my favorite, the photographer, was on the couch beside me. I leaned over and declared my preference to the room with a very sloppy kiss. We finished our drinks, tried to order more and found out that the bar was closed.
We went to her little Toyota truck parked across the street. We got in and as she searched for her keys a cop car pulled up behind the truck. The cop waited for our next move. Well, our next move was deciding to walk home. We rolled out of the truck and the cop rolled on.
We took turns puking on our stumble, some 4 miles into the suburbs. When we got back to her house it is a foggy memory of blankets and clothes and hats tossed so many directions that I believe it took longer to get dressed again than it had taken for each of us to get off.
That’s how I ended up in that eensy bed being watched awake by a wild eyed child who was leading me into her grandparents home.
I got the sense that others were home but they kept to the back of the house as the girl poured us each huge bowls of sugar cereal. When they were empty she poured another and then a third. My eyes were about to burst from their sockets. My pupils were like sauce pans from the high fructose corn syrup that had replaced the blood in my veins.
She took down two salt shakers from the top of a stove that held many. She uncorked the bottom of one and handed it to me. “Now,” she said with a great deal of authority, “Now, we are unicorns. We will use this magic invisible fairy unicorn dust powder to leave ourselves trails to follow back home when our journey is complete.”
It was like the cereal, she had a large container of salt and refilled our shakers whenever the emptied. We dumped a good pound or more of salt into that living room carpet before I heard the knock.
Behind the knock was my friends’ boyfriend. I had called on a random kitchen counter cell phone 2 hours earlier. My boyfriend was in the truck and not, as it turns out, in too much of a talking mood. I felt happy, hung over…sure, but happy. I could tell that this irritated both of them. I smelled like tequila and a grocery store cereal aisle and I was talking a hundred miles a minute about the child I had met and wondering aloud what had become of her mother.
The first time I got drunk I lived with my mom. I had been brought home by older friends who were freaked out by my vomiting and loosing consciousness. I have one memory of my Mom waking me up by slapping me across my face and shaking me. She was screaming. She was scared. The next morning I woke up with an awful hangover. I was always jealous of people who said it took years of drinking to start getting hangovers.
Anyways, to punish me she made me go shopping with her all morning. She took me to grocery stores, department stores, the mall. The lights, the sounds, it was terrible. If I hadn’t been an alcoholic, it probably would have scared me into stopping.
The funny thing is that four years later, at 17, these two men did the same thing. They took me shopping for hours. I don’t think they even bought anything but we went to every store between the suburban photographer family home and that couples rural house. The louder and brighter the place, the more business they pretended to have there!
Tonight, I search my mind for the names of that unicorn princess or her desperate mother but they are not there. I remember some things about being small. I remember raising myself. I remember being lonely. I remember everyday being a surprise until it was not surprising anymore. I hope, for all the salt, that that unicorn princess found her way home.
While William and Grandpa Core chased off the hoodlums who were trying to kill half of their cattle, my mothers grandma was hatching a plan a few states away. Her home was humble, it was not in a city and not in the country but rather in the kind of in between place that is common to Western Washington.
The children were growing and so were her tomatoes. More could not really be asked for but that didn’t seem to stop the debt collectors.
She had married as a teen to a man with fiery hair, who everyone called Red. Her parents were gentle storeowners with several daughters. They disapproved of him. His grand children describe him as stern and proud and a great lover. Paulines’ parents described him as cold and cruel and too hard on the children.
He had many rules about how things were to be in his home. His children sat quietly if he was anywhere nearby. His wife wore skirts and dresses only (he preferred the ones that showed off the legs he loved) unless they were camping. And his wife was under no condition to learn to drive or work outside the home. There was plenty of work inside after all.
She would go to bed with him each night, like he wanted, and once he was asleep sneak out of bed to complete her days work. Every member of her family had one set of clothes that needed to be washed and pressed every day. All the cleaning of the house, the making of the food, the preserving of the garden…. she slept less than 3 hours a night for 40 years.
Though Red alone worked for the income, it was Pauline who managed all the money once it got home. It became clear during the hard years of that depression that the ends were drawing farther and farther apart.
She went around the neighborhood one day, after the kids were off to school and he was off to work and found a blueberry bog looking for extra help. So it was from that day on, for as long as they needed it, she would wake up in the middle of the night to prepare for the next day. Then she would crawl back into bed and pretend to wake up with her husband. After she sent everyone off, she herself went to her secret berry-picking job.
She would work as many hours as she could before rushing home to miraculously complete an entire days worth of work in only a couple of hours. It was in this way that she kept her family from ever suspecting that their income was supplemented. Dinner was always on the table, the children never looked as poor as the world thought they were. That is how I know that stories of kidnapped women spinning barns full of golden flax in only one night are true. If she had needed too, my great grandma could have done it.
At 4 am I would stir from the couch in the trailer that Pauline had moved into to be closer to her daughter. This was years after Red and her only son were gone. I could smell the coffee and hear the birds that my mom and her grandmother had been waking up with. In the dim light I could make out the many afghans and crocheted doilies around her house.
When I was seven, my Mom taught me to crochet as Pauline had taught her. When I took the yarn and hook, it came very naturally but looked very different from the way my mother had shown me to hold my hands. She began to cry and said that the only person she had every seen who held the yarn and hook just like I did, was Pauline.
When the federal government implemented a program during the last Great Depression to raise the price of beef by slaughtering half the cattle of every rancher in New Mexico, they did not anticipate the wisdom of everyday people. Those everyday people, including my great grandparents and my great great grandparents, knew for a fact that while you could count on a cow to feed and clothe your children and neighbors, you could not count on the promise of an increase in the price of beef to do the same.
Government officials came to the gate of my great great grandfathers ranch with the paint they intended to use to mark their choice of the cows to be killed. They met two gentlemen who had been warned by their neighbors about the unappreciated company. One was the owner of that ranch and my grandmas’ grandpa William; the other was his son in law, my grandmas’ dad.
They held their guns, not pointed but in plain sight, and calmly explained the situation to their ignorant visitors. These two men, from whom I descend, informed the guests that they had no problem with the government coming through the gate provided it was by falling through it.
The officials were not apparently obliged to consent to that particular arrangement and took their leave. No one on that ranch saw them or their paint again. All the cattle lived on until they laid down, not to increase a national profit, but to feed those who had tended them…
When he yelled at her in front of that stupid ska show, so close to her that his breathe blew her bangs away from her face, he did not notice the scrawny pink haired barely pubescent punk behind her. He did not notice that is, until I puffed up and stepped between them, trying to defend her.
His veins popped and his fists clenched, I was deflated. The power of my sneak attack was short lived. I wondered if we should run before he swung, but then the most beautiful thing happened. She, who had stood in the line of his nasty vodka scented insults for months, came alive in a never before seen way. She scared him, screaming so close to his face that every hair on his head ran away and he is bald to this day…
When I sat pleasantly drunk on the clown bus listening to a moonlight trumpet serenade with my grease paint smeared but not forgotten, I could not have imagined that anyone in the neighborhood was not in love with the night. But there was a man, half a block away, whose pulse was increasing, his pupils were dialating with every brass note. He hated clowns and fun and music but most of all he hated to miss an opportunity to punch someone.
I met him at the bus door and walked around the front with him. I mistook him for a reasonable man who was reasonably irritated and he mistook me for a freak that needed my teeth knocked out. Half way through the first sentence of my admission that we had been a little loud for a school night, his fist caught me so hard in the chin that I flew into the bike rack on the front of the bus. I started to stand up. But just as my oversized shoe souls reconnected with the pavement and my mouth opened to catch my sentence where I had left it, he hit me again so hard that this time bells rang and I was out.
Ten clowns ran off the bus and right into his worst nightmare. He, never having had violence fail to solve a problem before, ran scared into the night with them on his heels. The one who stayed behind was the trumpet player and his song brought me back into the beautiful night.
The house was much cleaner that it had been in recent years. My Dad had found a good deal of time for vacuuming and stacking since his most recent wife had run off to pursue the empty promise of an 18 dollar an hour paycheck in the deep south. The dogs were down to two and he was debating selling his truck. Read the rest of this entry