Cursing with Grandma

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.


13 thoughts on “Cursing with Grandma

  1. Beautiful. Love this. And it is fucked. That’s what I like about it. Perfection is so hum drum, superity dupity BORING. I love your grandma too. My grandma spent most of our time together with one eye on the TV set playing her favorite soap opera….she was a horrible cook…and rarely left her house in at least 20 years…but I loved her so much. Grandma’s are the best. Did you ever figure out what she was upset about?

  2. My grandma is gonna live forever because she is pickled from the inside out from her life of whiskey and cigarettes… seriously… she never eats food, weighs about 80lbs and has papery skin so that I can see the markings of every vein in her body but I’ll be damned if the woman doesn’t get a clean bill of health from her doctors at every visit. Sort of makes you want to rethink the whole running/exercise thing and pick up some Jack or Jim, doesn’t it?

  3. I too had a super depressed grandma, we have that in common. Mine never cursed, she just drank a lot and smoked Pal Mals while she gave herself manicures with Perry Mason or Rockford Files on in the background. I’m uncomfortable with how much she and I have in common.

  4. My grandma said “the s word” in 1985 and cried immediately afterward. But she did really love Angela Lansbury. What is it with Grandmas and murder mysteries? Why don’t we have memories of Granny watching comedies or musicals?

    • Oh…I do owe my love of musicals to my grandma, but there was something about the murder mystery – Hart to Hart, Rockford Files, Murder She Wrote…agreed.

  5. I pretty sure I got my sailor mouth from my Grandma. Some of my first phrases at 1-2 years old were “aww, shit and got damn it” Got, not God because my Grandma was classy like that. To this day when something frustrates her or we’re fighting with her to stop trying to move furniture (she’s 87) the foul words that come out of her mouth are endless. It’s why I love her so much, because we’re the same stubborn women that will shout profanities to anyone that gets in our way.

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