Cheers to Gladys!
written by: Bradley Jean
Gladys was all things you would want in a friend, loads of fun, adventurous, and you never quite knew what was going to roll off her tongue. She was a mystery of a woman. She was a thrill who loved to laugh, and she was my grandmother, Gaga.
My family spent our summers with her in an apartment complex on a lake in Winter Park, FL. We spent our time swimming in her pool lake side and catching fish with cane poles. In the afternoon we would stroll through canopies of weeping willows to shop at the bargain box and grab a curbside hotdog on the way home. She was all the whimsy and pleasure I needed as a child.
But the thing that has stuck out the most of her since she passed away when I was 12, was her refined use of foul language. Maybe it was because it always made me laugh. Maybe it was because I knew most grandmothers didn’t cuss, but she was not anything like most grandmothers. It’s like she knew she was being bad in the eyes of a child, but she really didn’t care, so we might as well enjoy it!
I loved her potty mouth. She was the only woman I ever heard say the words “piss it”. And when I heard her say it for the first time, I quickly swung my red ponytail around in awe that it had come out of her mouth. She just grinned at me like it was some sort of silly game. I remember laughing, knowing I had the funniest and most awesome grandmother in all of the South.
She never aimed her wordy pleasures at other people, unless in sarcasm towards her own grown children. She was a delight to strangers and made fun and easy conversation wherever she went. She loved people, and people loved her.
Her mouth and her ways of life were not like most. She was exactly who she wanted to be and we admired her for her wild and playful ways. She smoked Pall Mall’s in my early years and was a huge fan of cocktails. She was an avid Bridge player and she was a champion at serving us kids condensed chicken noodle soup. It was the tastiest soup I ever ate.
When I found this tee shirt at The Bee and the Fox the first person I thought of Gladys. This tee is the best one I’ve ever seen. A bull on the front breast and on the back “Bull Shirt”. She would have ordered herself one, laughed till the days end and I imagined she would have bought one for my sister and I too. So I decided I wanted her story to continue, and I bought the shirts.
Upon arrival, my sister and I just about died together in hysterical form, talking of times past and how thankful we were for a grandmother who taught us to swear and to swim.
My favorite phrase of hers was always directed at my mother. My mother could say anything and nothing at all and dear old Gladys would come back with “oh, hell Jane.” She must have said it a hundred times every day, and every time we grinned and loved her more.
My Gaga passed away quickly in my pre-teen years, after being diagnosed with cancer. The doctors gave her 30 days and she lived exactly 30 days. We were fortunate to get to see her in the end and spend a week loving her and listening to her pleasantries. Even then, she was enjoying life. She knew it was the closing chapter, as did all of us.
There is one tiny hole I’ve covered up since her passing. I left her side without telling her how much I enjoyed all our silly times together. I was too fearful to cry, too emotional to sit by her side and recall all of our happy stories together. Too young to tell her I adored her and I was going to miss her the rest of my life. I hugged her and then I walked away, speechless.
I often imagine her sitting with me, laughing and in her words “shootin’ the shit.” So this essay is for you Gaga! It is for all the glorious days you gave me when I was young. And If I can go back at your feet, the last day I saw you, this is what I would say…
“You are the most amazing, hysterical human I have ever known. You taught me to float in the Atlantic Ocean and today, floating is the most peaceful place to be. You told me you put the salt in that ocean, and I believe you did. You taught me to always breast my cards when playing a late-night round table of Spades. You saw the good stuff in the thrift stores and we brought it home and enjoyed it for days. You loved to go for a walk and you loved to make people laugh. I still hear your keys hanging from your pocket and I’ve never met anyone else that had a one-eyed pet fish in their lake and had their own Heron that came to visit. Thank you for your perfect mouth. It was full of love and full of life. Cheers to you Gladys! You were the greatest for being You. And today I thank you for teaching me to just be me.”
Thank you to The Bee and the Fox. You have created something timeless to take us back to our favorite yesterdays.