A Random Image

Jett Superior laid this on you on || April 30, 2001 || 11:46 pm

I am not the first person to mention Kaycee’s site in a weblog. Nor am I the first person to have gleaned inspiration from something she or her mother has written. Something she said today, though, got me a-thinkin’. Sort of like we were on the same wavelength, but on separate ends of it in our reasoning:

Do the stars have silent voices? They’ve survived the ages and seen everything. And even knowing what they know, they dance.”

Here’s why they dance….I know the trick….

The tale derives it’s roots from my own background. Namely, my grandmother Susie. If ever an angel walked this earth, hers would be the coat I looked beneath for wings. No exaggeration in that, no dreamy, childlike fond rememberances. She was a saint, to coin a tired old phrase.

My grandfather was a real shit to her for most of their nearly-60 years together. From where I sat, I saw a marriage that was held together by rope fashioned of morbid determination, sheer necessity and mislaid conviction. Sounds horrid, but not uncommon in couples forged during or around the time of the Great Depression. There was a real “Make It Work Despite The Miserable Odds In Our Massive Universe Against Us In Particular” mindset.

So Grandad didn’t really deserve her and the Seven Out Of Nine Wonderful People that their union produced. Eventually he came ’round about my Grandmother in the end….

But that’s jumping ahead. We shan’t tell this tale in such a hodge-podge fashion.

My Grandmother, always doing without and doing for others… Always busting ass in that hot, hot kitchen. She never had central air. One of my uncles was gonna put in a system and my Grandmother waved him off, “Ahhh, hadn’t missed it yet, probably won’t ever miss it.”

She was always busy, always moving around and doing something. Her one indulgence was sitting and watching “The Price Is Right ” with a few of us grandkids. (I started to type ‘grandkings’, isn’t that funny??) Even then she was at some task: folding laundry, quilting, shelling peas. We may be watching the best Our Gang reruns ever, but every morning at nine o’ clock on the nose we had the tuner flipped to Channel 7 and Bob Barker ready for her to take a seat, to observe the goings-on.

She was a lot of things to the many of us, but she was unanimously renowned for her cooking skills. Coconut cakes, buttermilk biscuits, cinnamon rolls, gravies and sauces that screamed “SUSIE!” and then giggled in your ear. Her down-home plates could rival any of those five-star fancypants chefs.

All those bodies running around and she still managed to speak to every last one of us, to know our inner workings and see right down into us. She had the gift of knowing. She made every person feel like they were the most special. And looking back from a woman’s (unromanticized, I assure you) perspective, I see now that we WERE the most special, because SHE was. Moreso because we shared in her time, not just because we shared her gene pool.

My Grandfather had this series of heart attacks for like 10 years running. Every year, like clockwork, he produced a heart attack of varying degree. Not to be glib, but we (nine children, thirty-eight grandchildren and eighteen great-grandchildren) expected him to go first. Guess his forged-of-iron heart was just too strong, or maybe just too fucking stubborn. * Ah, yeahhh, THERE’S that eff-word….we knew she’d get around to it eventually.*

So, round about the eleventh year, the thing happened. The thing that brought with it a sense of somnambulence. Susie was standing at the old gas stove, cooking lunch. She stirred a pot of gravy and bent over the oven to pull out the fresh-baked biscuits. As she rose with them, she had a massive stroke coupled with a massive heart attack. As her body went lax, she fell forward into the nothing and the side of her head struck the corner of the stove. Dear God. I am sick with the telling. The temple…it caught her on the right temple.

Everyone scattered willy-nilly toward home, keeping vigil at the hospital where most of the family was born. We did not know what to expect. My mother caught the first flight out. Dad was superb….his own family being immensely shitty, he bore great amounts of love and respect for my mom’s clan. He allowed my sister and I to sleep through the night, then gently guided us in packing. We drove the eight hours back to our hometown in his Jeep Wrangler with the top off. We stopped often; perhaps he was sensing the overwhelming panic and fear that threatened to envelop my sister and I. Perhaps he was delaying his own arrival for whatever reason(s).

No one expected her to live as long as she did. She hated it. She hated every last minute of it. When arrangements were first made, when she was first set up in that hospital bed at home, she would glare at us morosely. You could see the resolve building in her eyes and she would whip the one arm that was still mobile across to her dead arm, trying to rip the I.V. and feeding tube out of her hand. She would speak, gurgle out the angry words: “Let me die!”

In all my life, I’ve never….whew. Big gush of air. I want to go for a walk, but I want to finish this more. I’ve never put it in print. These are some of the things that I carry closest to me. These are the things that make me dance on the edge of hyperventilating.

Three years she was bed ridden. My sister and I would practice songs to sing for her: silly songs and her gospel favorites. My sister would tell the same lame jokes that she had told since she was five (hell, twenty years down the road and she is STILL telling them!). She would act out television commercials. She was a walking T.V. commercial encyclo-fucking-pedia. She had them down verbatim, no shit. Everyone had their own ritual. Some kids would talk, others would read to her, others would just sit and hold her hand. We were horrified at the injustice and we were drawn to her all the more.

So yeah, you knew it was coming. She died. December 4th…my niece’s birthday.

I was at the cusp of quickening, trapped in that sticky place between childhood and teenagerdom. I sought answers for everything, not content to just be. And in this state of mind, this state of nearly-corrupt grace, I surmised that Susie became a star that shone down on me on those still summer nights when I straddled the pasture fence and the weight of all the night sky enveloped me and bore me up. I hold to that belief even now.

So yes, Kaycee, the stars do have voices, but they are not so silent and they are the same voices that exist in you and I and in everything that exists within the realm of our universe. They do not dance in spite of what they know, they dance because of what they know.

Nobody worked it out »

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