I might have been seven the first time I remember hearing my grandma utter the phrase, “It’s fucked.” I had been playing at her neighbor’s house – they had a son my age. After our brains hurt from developing story lines with a plastic He-Man and tiny cars (PS. I’m convinced this is why I’m gay), I came back to my grandma’s house for what I presumed would be another night of musicals (and there’s another clue). Instead, I opened the door to the saddest sounds I’d ever heard. I prepared myself for what could only be bad news, and tried to determine who might be dead.
Quietly, I followed the sadness into my grandma’s bedroom. There she was, splayed out across her bed, which was pushed into a corner surrounded by windows, overlooking her large backyard. She didn’t notice me. I sat down on the bed. She didn’t even pick up her head. I touched her shoulder. If she hadn’t been crying I would have assumed she was dead. It was as though I didn’t exist. Then, she said it. “It’s fucked.”
My eyes widened. My grandma had just said the “F” word. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I had never heard the word before, but this was my grandma — a lover of the English language who could form beautiful sentences without stuttering or even repeating a word.
She repeated it, “Fucked.”
I smiled and stifled a laugh. I was glad she wasn’t looking at me. I knew now was not the time to laugh. But, come on! My grandma had just said the “f” word! Twice!
“What is?” I asked.
“What’s what?” she countered.
“What’s….” I certainly couldn’t say it, but she didn’t seem to know what I was talking about. “What’s…fucked?” I squinted, bracing myself for a backhand. I had never been hit in my life, but I assumed I had now given just cause.
Without missing a beat she plainly said, “Life.”
Huh? What did that mean? I figured I’d try it again…if only to get away with saying the “f” word one more time, “Life is fucked?”
“Yes. Life’s fucked.”
“Well, hell,” I said without even thinking. “That sucks.”
My eyes widened. I just said “hell” and “sucks” for no good reason. I braced myself for what would come next. Then, she started to laugh. With her head on the bed, she laughed. And, whether it was out of nerves or happiness that she wasn’t mad, I laughed with her. She rolled over, and we laughed and laughed until our sides hurt and our faces needed a break.
In my grandma’s house, where I had been taught early to love Shakespeare and musicals and “Murder, She Wrote,” I grew to love the “f” word and gained an understanding of the complexities of adulthood. Sometimes you would cry for no reason, and that was OK. Sometimes you might cry for reasons known only to you, and that was OK. Sometimes you would cry because it was all “fucked,” and that was OK.
And then…you would laugh…because sometimes that was the only thing to do.