Big Grandma
by Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue

Big Grandma, we called her because she was, well, big,
standing there in full waitress regalia.
Ah, that familiar plop of her white Dr. Scholl’s.
Her green Falcon, like some minnow, swimming
across Fannin past the old ice house.

Clank of horseshoes, thrown beer bottles smashed,
Dirty men scratching their loose khaki crotches,
wads of tobacco puffing their red blood-vessel popped cheeks.

While my sisters & I, across the street,
bathed in the sweet choking smell of mimosa,
pink bursts helicoptering through asterisks
of skitters’ body heat in the still azure, circa 1967.

If angry, she'd call us, or try.
“Bobby, Jibber, Sugie,” she'd stammer,
naming her own kids with a grandkid
(always the wrong one) thrown in.

In the nursing home, after her third stroke,
I gave her a brief recital of her life.
“You were born in Georgia. Your brother’s name
was Tobe Peet. Your sons were . . .”
everyday, again and again. Till finally it caught.

Then one night my father clutched me in his arms.
“My mother is dead,” he croaked
Then collapsed in my arms.

The smartass in me wanted to say,
“And this is a surprise?”
But I held him up instead.

Once she held my hand, as we breathed in wafts
of bus-spewed diesel in downtown Houston.
She with red-dyed beehive, me, my blond prone-to-cowlick hair
slicked back with palms-full of Vaseline.

Guiding me below the street, like the anti-Beatrice,
to paradise – a basement cafeteria
with Doric columns, gold-leaf walls, yeasty roll smell,
organ music played by a lady with pink hair
that matched her pink harlequin glasses.
Yes, the closest thing to heaven on earth.

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