🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩
Reflections on Grandma 👵
Kids & Death 👨👦👦
Don’t Say It 🤫
My grandma died yesterday, four days shy of her 96th birthday. As it goes with people at that age, it wasn’t a surprise. She had been fading for more than a year and, though she still was breathing, that version of alive in her final months isn’t what anyone would want for themselves.
Her death marks the final passing of my grandparents and, collectively, the final passing of the grandparents among Wifey Poo and I. My first grandparent died when I was 12. I will turn 48 later this month.
The thing is, I’m not sure what I am feeling right now as I write this. Obviously, there’s a level of sadness, but there’s also something akin to relief that she isn’t suffering anymore. Perhaps my uncertainty with where I stand this morning is due to the fact that any grief I might have had was felt most strongly when Grandma ceased to really be Grandma as her mind slipped. About two months ago, I wrote her a long, long letter to tell her everything I needed to say, but by the time it arrived in the mail, I’m not sure how much of her was truly left to read and understand it. My hope is that it found her in a lucid moment, but I’ll never know.
People are complex, and Grandma was no exception. I hate how dishonest obituaries are with the whole “he was loved by everyone who knew him” stuff, but maybe that’s because I know how many people who have known me don’t love me. Grandma certainly wasn’t loved by everyone who knew her either, so maybe I come by that honestly, or maybe I’m just looking at life honestly. No one who lived and mattered gets away unscathed.
Grandma was incredibly proud of me, her only grandson, and I never doubted for a second that she thought of me as anything other than the best thing since sliced bread, which you have to admit, is pretty cool.
She taught me how to make scrambled eggs with bacon in them. She taught me how to make French toast. She taught me how to put my own damn laundry away. As the story goes, she was taking care of me and Sister while my parents were on vacation, and she did the laundry while I was in school. When I came home, she showed me where it is and told me to put it away. I evidently said something to the effect of “Grandma, that’s woman’s work,” which, in my defense, is something I’m sure Pops had said in my presence as a joke.
Humor is lost on dumb kids sometimes.
She was the young Grandma, the one in old home movies on the sled on the hill in the backyard that seemed so freaking huge when we were kids but wasn’t so much when I saw it on my last return to New York more then a decade ago. (Two decades, could it be?)
Yet Grandma was far from a saint. She had a tumultuous relationship with my aunt — the younger of her two daughter — and was not a good grandmother to the granddaughter from that marriage. Generationally, it might be hard to understand homosexuality, but that doesn’t make it right to not love and accept another human being for who they are.
She was what could be described as an enabler when it came to my grandfather and his alcoholism, which contributed to some of my own really bad childhood memories.
She had on again, off again relationships with her friends and family members, something that is a disturbing part of the female line in our family.
These admissions are perhaps the most honest thing to come out of the darker side of my family and I write them understanding the risk of causing a blowup. But frankly, I’ve reached the point in my life in which I’m sick of the whitewashed version of any history, including my own. Truth is sometimes ugly, and, as with anything I write, this is solely my perspective.
My grandmother was born into a crappy situation. My great-grandmother was a kind old woman who taught me how to play checkers and whose personal belief was that you don’t just let kids win. She was hilarious and uproariously blunt at times.
But that was who she was when I came on the scene.
When Grandma came on the scene, her mother was what you would call a flapper from the 1920s. I’m sure she scandalously showed some ankle from time to time, to say the least. She also dumped Grandma off at a relative’s for several years when Grandma was, like, 5, and this was after they and Grandma’s brother suffered horrific abuse at the hands of a great-grandfather I never knew.
Grandma survived. Great-grandmother got her shit together and ended up providing some stability later in life for her, but to think there wasn’t damage done by that point is to have your head stuck in the sand. For example, I know very little of Grandma’s brother, but what I do know was that he suffered through some extremely unpleasant mental illnesses.
In the wake of Grandma’s death, I’ve been thinking a lot about how impermanent we all are. I have done considerable genealogy work to piece together our family tree, and pretty much anyone who came before my great-grandparents is a mere name and a few dates. There’s precious little about who they were and how they lived.
It would be foolish to say great-grandma woke up one morning and decided to be a crappy parent. Something surely was going on with the people who lived the lives behind those names and dates on the family tree, and the damage inflicted then spiraled down through the decades toward me. Where it started is, at this point, anyone’s guess, but the female line from that branch of the tree is filled with stories of women who did a really poor job of controlling their hands, mouths and emotions and who repeatedly embraced drama like a new lover. In their wake is a battlefield of jagged scars and battered or broken relationships, and it’d be really stupid to think that isn’t continuing today.
Yet my own mother’s life was better than her mother’s, and our lives were better than hers’ when it comes to the worst of the wretched abuses. So in that, Grandma did something good. She broke the worst part of that cycle of extreme abuse and violence.
Being the family writer, I was asked to write Grandma’s obituary. I did the best I could to be fair and honest without being unnecessarily caustic. As I said, I loathe dishonest obituaries that paint a person’s life as a field of a daisies. If such as life has ever happened, I’ve never met the person who led it. So I tried to leave the impression that Grandma saw some shit and did the best she could given the hand she was dealt, and that turned out to be pretty good.
Her life was pocked by the same kind of sludge that seems to stick to all of us by the time we get to and through middle age. But she did a lot of really good things, and one of them was how she loved her grandson.
One of the sucky things about parenting is having to talk to your children about death. Whether it’s the first time a goldfish dies or if it’s a classmate who dies, that chore sucks more than cleaning up their vomit.
Boy The Elder, at 20, could see many of the same things I saw, that Grandma’s death was merciful and that she had done her time here on earth.
Boy The Younger, a newly minted teenager, simply felt the loss. He was with friends most of the day and so didn’t hear the news until around 9 p.m. I was surprised to have him come into my office, where I was quietly pecking away at the keyboard trying to put my thoughts together. BTY is filled past capacity with compassion, so his visit started out as a hug for Dad. It turned into a hug from Dad and a lengthy talk about how we keep people alive even after they’ve gone … by remembering their stories and sharing them with the next generation and impressing upon that next generation how important it is to keep doing the same.
I’m a storyteller. Always have been. I hope BTY will be the same.
Don’t do it. Don’t think it. And certainly don’t say it. I do not want to hear “See, it happens there too!” from one person in the wake of the assassination of the former Japanese prime minister. Of course people shoot people in Japan. They just do it far, far less than people in Amuricah.
- Here, there were 12.1 firearm-related deaths per 100,000 people in 2022, with 4.46 of them being homicide and 7.32 being suicide.
- In Japan, that rate is 0.06 firearm-related deaths per 100,000 people in 2022, with 0.02 of them being homicide and 0.04 of them being suicide.
- In raw numbers, the United States had 40,175 total gun-related deaths in 2022. Japan had 76.
So if you’re even thinking about saying something about gun violence in other countries, please know that you’re an idiot and that the United States is the country with the second most gun deaths for the latest year with data, 2019, behind only Brazil.
Gun control is not the only solution. The fact that far more Amuricahns kill themselves with guns than they do others is indicative of a society gone wrong. But whatever we’re trying ain’t working.
So let’s look at Japan’s model and, hey, here’s an idea, let’s give it a 20-year trial while we simultaneously start addressing other factors that are leading to mass violence and horrific suicide rates.
To legally own a firearm in Japan, you have to …
- Take a class, pass a written test and submit paperwork with information about your work, family, education and medical history.
- Take a training course that lasts a full day where you learn to shoot at a target.
- Once you’ve finally gotten your permit, you must renew it every three years after taking a refresher course and passing another test.
What’s the harm in that, GOPers?
And for the love of God, don’t try to lean on the Second Amendment. It is a completely idiotic argument to think the citizenry having some guns is going to stop a military power like ours that has, like, missiles and tanks and stealth bombers and attack helicopters and battleships and nukes and stuff. Your AR-15 wouldn’t do squat in an uprising against this …
In Other Writing
Many know the one that ended in a famous statue, but there’s more Bobbi Jo Wright is famous in certain circles for being the girl in the statute, the one who was lifted up and held by the Shriner. But sometimes, there’s another memory that jumps past the event that led to the sculpture that…Keep reading
Today’s Reasons to Keep Living
- Gotta stick around to write more family obits.
- The weekend is almost here and I’m taking my mother-in-law to the casino tomorrow.
- This nasty-ass heat wave is supposed to break for a day tomorrow.
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🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩 Death Cometh Sooner 💀Twitter Security 🔓Game Over 🌑 Average life expectancy in the United States dropped in 2020 by almost two years in 2020, the biggest decline since World War II. Every state and the District of Columbia saw a drop. Guess it was a little bit more than that…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Worm brain 🧠Chicken Big Mac 🐔Eye Twitch 👁️ Caenorhabditis elegans is probably too elegant of a name for something that is really just a disgusting little worm about a millimeter long and most easily found in rotting fruit. It is more commonly known as a lab roundworm and was the first…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩The Agliata Homeschool Academy 🚌Hypnosis 😳Sunburn 🌞🔥 When you tell people you homeschool your children, you typically receive one of three responses: An enthusiastic: “Oh, that’s so cool!” An I’d-rather-be-dipped-in-acid: “Oh wow! I could never do that!” A you’re-one-of-those-weirdos: “Oh… really… homeschooling, huh?” The percentage for each has changed in the…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Indycar 🏎️Best Friends 😎Baseball Irony ⚾ There are certain people who look at car racing as an endless series of left turns. These people are idiots on whom nuance is lost. Boy The Elder and I crossed the border yesterday late-morning to head just past the fine city of East St.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Swine Inflation 🐖Swamp Thing 🎥Phone Calls 📱 Life was different when I went to college in Iowa after growing up in suburban New York City. This isn’t to suggest I was a city kid. I wasn’t. The city was a place we went to a few times a year, and where…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Triple-Threat 🖥️🖥️🖥️Tasmanian Tiger 🐅Video Work 📹 Humans were not meant to stare at laptop screens. At least, humans of a certain age were not meant to stare at laptop screens. I say this after successfully lobbying for a second monitor at work, which effectively turned my laptop screen into a third…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Look Before Brewing ☕Hoop Construction 🏀Nuclear War ☢️ If you’d like an indication of how much of a Monday yesterday was for me, know that I ended up with an orange in my coffee. Well, to be fair, it wasn’t a full-blown orange. It was something called a Cutie, which is…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Weird Date 🪦Nature Walk🌳Bulldog Bath 🐶 If you have a date walking around a cemetery, you’re either weird or goth, and neither Wifey Poo nor I were wearing black today, which I guess tells you all you need to know about us. Old cemeteries are something of a fascination for us,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩So Long, Kid 👨👦Steak Celebration🥩Chip & Joanna 🪚 Regular readers of my drivel know that I’m kind of an emotional guy, which is like saying that Jack kind of could have fit on the spacious floating door with Rose in Titanic. So it should come as no surprise when I say…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Cash 4 IRS 💰Cash 4 Workers 💸Sound of Silence 🤫 Be extra careful on your taxes this year. The IRS is expected to receive nearly $80 billion when The Inflation Reduction Act eventually becomes law, and its plan is to hire 87,000 full-time workers. More than half of the $80 billion…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Spoon Nose 🥄👃🏻Dump Truck 🚚Twitter Traitor 🐦 Every night, I strap a mask attached to a long hose to my face so I don’t die. Not satisfied with looking kinda like an idiot, I then wrap a flexible Velco-enabled strap around my chin and fasten it on top of my bald…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Thanks, Yankees ⚾Kitchen Moment 👩🍳McDonald’s Glasses 🥛 Wifey Poo and I were recent college graduates and months away from becoming Married Folk when our relationship nearly faced its greatest test. The New York Yankees were rolling toward their first World Series appearance since I played with Matchbox Cars, and the St.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Mammoth Dilemma🦣Zombie Pigs🧟🐖Stadium Pals⚾ Finding the fossilized remains of a Wooly Mammoth in New Mexico isn’t exactly news. It seems the furry elephants loved to hang out in the land so frequently visited by aliens. What is news is the condition of the fossils from the latest find. Some of the…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Ankle Shot 🦶🏻Teamwork 🤝🏽Talkspace Stupidity 🤪 Over the years, I’ve played catch with Boy The Younger dozens and dozens of times. From those early days of him aimlessly flinging an oversized soft thing a few feet forward, to now when he’s zipping a real baseball the regulation distance from a pitching…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Creative Desert 🎨So Long, Supra 🏎️Taco Truck 🌮 I have absolutely nothing today. On most days — even the really, really bad days — I can push out something creatively worthwhile. A blog post. A flyer. A video. Not today. Today I have jack shit. This is professionally problematic, considering my…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Hungry=Stupid 😋Strategic Planning 📅Bed Sizes 🛏️ Hunger is a strong motivator. This, most of us know. Yet I witnessed this truth at a whole new level this weekend. Wifey Poo and I traveled up to Hannibal, Missourah, for a few days. Hannibal, for you uncultured folks, is the hometown of Mark…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Change 🌀Me, Different 😷Bad Baseball ⚾ I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Most everything in humanity is governed by two intertwined forces. Supply and demand. Scarcity. Whether its the economy or human emotions, everything about us is geared toward responding to these two things. For example, when there…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Double Standards 🦅Birthday Deals 🎁Video Guy 📹 The United States has a problem with hypocrisy. Don’t worry, though; it’s nothing new. It just happens to be glaringly apparent right now. Our revered Founding Fathers got things off on a really bad foot when they penned the lofty statement that all men…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Revolution 🌍Rain 🌧️Refund 💰 By this time tomorrow, I will have completed 48 trips around the sun. Or is it 47 and I’ll be starting my 48th? Whatever. I’ll be 48 years old tomorrow. I have to admit, I’m feeling kinda blah about it. Looking back, this past revolution was busy…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Bitchy Mother Nature 🌧️⚡Tech Woes 🖥️Maturation 👦 Overnight storms made for a restless night, as waves of rain and thunder rolled through our section of Missourah. Flash flood warnings pinged my phone sometime in the middle of the night, and by the time I left for my drive to work, eastbound…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Rollercoasters 🎢Sad Puppy 🐶News Roundup 🤖 It’s possible to think a lot of thoughts while plummeting 90 feet at a 90-degree angle while staring up at the sun. This I learned yesterday while at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missourah, with the Core Four, Div, Wifey Poo’s baby sister and baby…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Date Day 🤟🏽Prison Justice 👊Universe Questions 🚀 Wifey Poo and I ended up having more than 12 hours to ourselves yesterday here in the Midwest Redneck Mecca of Branson, Missourah. Boys The Elder and Younger, along with BTE’s lovely girlfriend of nearly three years, and Wifey Poo’s baby sister and family…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩WFH WTF? 🧑💼Rebel Ball ⚾Psych Myth 🧠 As a writer/columnist/blogger/thought-spewer, I always enjoy when I get something out there before anyone else. I dug that when I was a newspaper journalist, and I dig it now. That’s why I’m happy to be hearing national publications and sites like Business Insider starting…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Fahrenheit 🌡️Blindingly White ⬜Alone Time 👴 Muricah is very much a reactionary nation. Much of what we do and who we are is because we were pissed off about the way someone else did things. Monarchy? We’ll have a democracy, thank you very much. The metric system? We’ll measure stuff our…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Tryouts ⚾BBQ Sauce🍖TMNT🐢 There is cause for celebration in the Core Four: Boy The Younger has been drafted. Sadly, we’re not talking about the ongoing Major League Baseball draft. Rather, we’re talking about the sick modern world of Little League baseball. Not to get too “Get off my lawn!” on you,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Growth 💗Dreams 💤Redecorating 🛋️ There are moments in a dad’s life in which he can see the growth of his sons quite clearly. Sometimes that growth is physical. One day, Boy The Elder was a short, stocky little boy and then, boom, he came home from his high school job at…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Burn Pit🔥Alaska Ass🍑Nose Hair🐽 Having a plan is a far different thing from having a plan work out. I’m really good at the former, yet the latter seems to be extremely elusive. Yesterday, my plan was to take the huge pile of chopped-down cedar-tree limbs that have been in my backyard…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Jewel💎First Kiss💋Slow Ahead🐢 Wifey Poo and I are headed out into the sweltering hell that is Missourah this evening to see the woman who, should she knock on my door and say “let’s go,” I am fully empowered to join in the next part of life’s journey. I jest. Sort of.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Parenthood 🚓Alexa 📋Quick-Hitters 👋 Just about every statistic imaginable tells us we shouldn’t have kids — at least, not if we’re concerned about our own happiness, mental health, marriage, career, finances, time or ability to buy a really boss car instead of a freaking minivan. Yet here we are, still a…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Lawrence Pfaff Sr. Sucks 🚓Engagement Talk 🌯Quick-Hitters 👋 From what I know of Lawrence H. Pfaff Sr. of Belmont, NY, he was kind of a douche. The 81-year-old man died on June 27. I never met him. Never even heard of him. Until I read his obit. And about that obit?…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Travelling Companion🚓Free Beans 🌯Unfollowed 👋 Brandy Bottone is either stupid or brilliant. Whichever it is, she’s also right. The Texas woman was traveling in the HOV lane — which, for the country folk out there, stands for High Occupancy Vehicle and is reserved for cars with two or more people to…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Slots 🎰Dude Perfect ⚽Bye Bye Facebook? 👋 My mother-in-law (AKA The Judester) is nearly 81 years old and has knee problems that keep her from getting around too well these days. Watching her stand up from a chair is to feel pain yourself. Yet when I walked into the Ameristar casino…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Sleepwalking 🧨DnD Gang 🎲Gas Idiots 🛢️ If there were a day-by-day measure of the collective output of workers in these here United States of Amuricah (and for all I know, there is), I would venture to guess that July 5 ain’t our most productive day. I base this on my observations…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Stupid Parade 🧨Math Matters ➗What Amazon Reveals 🚚 Not being a hugely patriotic person at this point in my life, I made no plans to go to any Fourth of July parade this year. It seems mighty foolish to be celebrating freedoms that are eroding right before our eyes, though I…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Alone Time, Girl Time 👩👧Picture Hanger🔨What Amazon Reveals 🚚 Wifey Poo and I found ourselves in an interesting position at home today for a little bit: Alone. Boy The Elder took off for Six Flags with his buds, and Boy The Younger left with a friend and his family (Chicken Owner,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Oil Change 👨🔧Goose Lover🛦Church & State⛪ Based on my history, the last place anyone should ever look for me is underneath a car. Yet that’s where I found myself late this morning, side-by-side with Boy The Elder as he showed me exactly how stupid I’ve been all my life. I’m not…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Media Bias 📰Rudy’s Sandals 🩴Lack of Faith ⚖️ I’ve watched with interest the blowback against newspaper tyrant Gannett following its reminder to its journalists in the wake of the Supreme Court’s undoing of Roe v. Wade that they are not to take sides on social media. “You cannot use social media…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Censorship 🍈🍈Newspaper Talk 📰Toothbrush 🦷 I did my first actual “work” thing at my new job yesterday. The first two-plus days have been filled with meeting new people and learning about the kazillion awesome products we sell so I can talk somewhat intelligently about what we do. But then Nu Bossman…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Hitler Talk ⚖️Chicken Postscript 🐣Green Seats ⚾ I wonder when the average German in the 1930s/1940s said something akin to “Oh shit.” There has to be a point when the rational, sane sauerkraut-lover realized that perhaps his or her vote for a certain mustachioed politician was a really bad idea. For…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Take Me Away🛀Period Tracker🩸Choose Wisely💒 Arriving for the first day at a new job is kind of like showing up in a new town after throwing away your old identity. It’s a blank slate, and you can be anyone you’d like to be. Want to go by a different name? Go…Keep reading