By Bradley Robertson
Gladys was all things you would want in a friend, loads of fun, adventurous, a cackling laugh and you never quite knew what was going to roll off her tongue. She was a mystery of a woman. She was a thrill and in 1989, she was my grandmother, Gaga.
My family and I spent our summers with her in a large apartment complex on a lake in Winter Park, Florida. We spent our time swimming in her pool and catching fish with cane poles using cold hot dogs as bait. 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 with me the most, since she passed away when I was 12, was her refined use of foul language. I remember it because it always made me laugh and because I knew most grandmothers didn’t cuss. But Gladys was not like most grandmothers.
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 complete awe. 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 world.
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.
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 I 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.
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 thousand times, and every time we grinned and loved her more.
I once found a tee shirt online that had a bull on the front breast pocket and on the back it read “Bull Shirt.” When I saw it, I broke into laughter and immediately thought of Gaga. She would have loved it, and I imagined she would have bought one for me and my sister too. And for kicks and honor, I bought the shirts.
Upon arrival, we put on our new “Bull Shirts,” took a few fantastic pictures and talked of times past and how thankful we were for a grandmother who taught us to swear and to laugh.
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.
Amongst all her joy however, I have had 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 that I was going to miss her for the rest of my life. I hugged her and walked away, speechless.
Today, I imagine her sitting with me, laughing and playing cards. I think of how a small amount of my lifetime spent with her had such a large and happy impact on me.
So this story 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 also told me you put the salt in that ocean, and I believe you did. I can still hear your keys hanging from your pocket, rattling together as you walked. You taught me to always breast my cards when playing a late-night round of spades. You saw the good stuff in the thrift stores; you bought it for us and we enjoyed it for months. You loved to go for a walk and to make people laugh. 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 Gaga, for I know that it was full of love. Cheers to you Gladys! You were simply the greatest for being You. And today I thank you for teaching me to just be me.”