These Worries, These Songs

The grandmother that won’t stop. The ones that do the impossible. Eyes that light up the room and show you how to get out. A soul that feeds not on your’s but on the radiance that you’ve always hoped you exuded. An eternal soul not afraid of dying. A life so alive that, when speaking, even the traffic stops. Machinery holding out for the next phrase. Sullied storefronts remaining open an extra five minutes in the hopes that they will come. Snowflakes in Northern Hemisphere July and sandstorms on the ocean.

Blood from the dead.

Mom would make me kiss Great Grandma Gussie on the lips every time we went to her house. The huge expanse sat in the middle of Indianapolis, an exciting metropolis for a six-year-old me. I witnessed traffic jams, blacks fighting, crazies cutting their small city lawns with kitchen shears. Truly a wonderful world.

There was the story of Gussie climbing to the top of her house to yell at the roofers smoking and slacking. There was the story of her toppling a display in a grocery store out of disgust for them not accepting her coupons. I only witnessed her broken, lonely, and medicated. In her chair next to the front window, she would pucker as soon as we would walk in. Physical touch was the only thing television couldn’t give her. Entertainment was our shortcoming.

While Annie, my sister, and I would play with a deck of cards and a herd of empty medicine bottles, she would tell stories to my mother. The time that the birthday cake caught fire. When Daddy Ed, my grandfather, got drunk and cussed out Aunt Vy. “Oh, but no one comes around anymore. Except y’all. Bless you.”

I went into the bathroom once and found a spoon on the back of the toilet. I asked my mother what it was for. “Well, when you get older your body doesn’t work as well as it used to. Gussie uses a spoon to help her poop.”

“What do you mean?”

“She scoops it. Like ice cream.”

Then there was her miniature shoe collection. Five shelves packed with small footwear from around the world. “Dougie and Michelle went to Amsterdam and got me this one.” “This one is made of porcelain.” “Don’t touch that one, here…look at this one.”

I was fascinated by the collection. The time that went into it. The love she had for these small replacements of her dead husband, looking on from a multitude of angles – his photo gracing each wall at least twice.

At the funeral I met many people that I’d heard stories about over the years. Cousin Doug with his small ears that became red with embarassment and a button mouth made for a trumpet. Jamie and her infidelity. Distant Uncle Bobby, fresh out of prison for kidnapping his own children from his drug addict ex-wife.

My family.

What did Gussie tell others about our family?

Mother pushed me foward towards the casket. The brass railing mirrored my timidity at approaching. The wood was cold and so was my nose. Her lips were even colder. Gussie’s lips in a pucker. Not an eternal one because it will rot away in about a year. Just for now, asking for a kiss. And I kiss I had to give her. One Last Kiss.

She hadn’t lived long enough to have a story about me, except that I was polite, blonde, and a “darling little boy”. I’m grateful that she left when she did. I would have surely disappointed her later.

The kiss.

Cold. Lifeless. Like a doll. A ninety-six-year-old Barbie. Life-size. Unkissable?


With her teeth stapled shut it was impossible to smile, but a smile is what I felt.

2 Responses to “These Worries, These Songs”
  1. kate says:

    “Not an eternal one because it will rot away in about a year.”

    Classic Lucas

  2. slurredpress says:

    “She scoops it. Like ice cream.”


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