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  • I used to sing on top of a grand piano at Beth Israel nursing home for a bunch of old people during their entertainment hour. I used to sing there because my Great Grandma Bobby used to live there. Bobby was Russian and supposedly used to dance with Danny K, but when I met her she was ancient. I can’t remember her ever walking, never mind flitting her skirt around in a musical number with a famous redhead.When she started deteriorating, she moved to the Intensive Care Unit, and I went from singing for people who could tap their canes and clap, to singing for people who were drooling out of the sides of their mouths and tracing circles on their thighs with their heads cocked to one side. The smell of the nursing home made me nauseous every time I walked down that sterile hallway to get to the rec room. People slowly and not so slowly deteriorating like compost; pretty faces, brittle bendy bones, and pissed in pants all in one room. I was singing in front of those that were losing themselves, as I was just growing into myself, and it scared me and thrilled me all at once.

  • Grandpa Marvin makes paper piles and builds them all over his apartment. He’s ninety and he dates Molly and they go to the diner around the corner and the movies. He fills his days petitioning to get seat belts on buses, counseling young people on how to start small businesses, and reading the New York Times to blind people on the radio. He likes to swim and doesn’t have time for people who fail to listen to him.

  • Nana Curtis was a graceful beauty with flawless skin who saw the light and came back twice before she actually died. She loved Neil Diamond songs, but she loved my dad’s version of Frank Sinatra’s "My Way" better than all the songs. People mistook her for Nancy Reagan and after her husband died and then her son died, she didn’t seem to have much room for men. They hit on her in the elevator of her Assisted Living Center, but she dismissed them and called them “pathetic.” She lived her life as a caretaker, and after those that needed extra care passed, she could finally care for herself, even if that meant doing nothing. She told me that she used to write dark poetry, that she never showed it to anyone, but if she found it deep in her closet, she would give it all to me.

  • Pop-Pop was a jovial, martini in the recliner while watching really loud game shows kind of a man. He had one of those coughs, those full, face turns red, wheezy, move his recliner from the laying down to the sitting up position to get it all up kind of coughs. His bad habits led him to needing a prosthetic leg which softened him a bit, but not much. He was mean to my dad and yelled down the halls at my Nana, so I don’t have much more room to write about him. Perhaps it's a bit of a fractured root.

  • Grandma Terry collected lion and elephant figurines and kept the small ones in a glass display case in her living room. She liked sweet treats and when she ate them, she said she couldn’t believe she was eating them, and that she never ate stuff like that. She didn’t like being alone, and she couldn’t imagine why anyone would ever want to live out in the country without any neighbors close by. She always smelled good and had amazing breasts. Is that weird to say about your grandmother? It’s true! She rarely showed her skin, but even in a purple turtle neck, they were sturdy and robust. She wrapped everything in multiple plastic baggies and used lots of elastic bands; she was obsessed with keeping everything and everyone safe. I watched her empty out boxes of green tic tac’s and boxes of white tic tac’s onto her dining room table, mix them all up with her palms and fingers, and put them back into their new packs for convenient variety. She wore cappuccino lipstick from CVS, so I bought some in high school. She never looked sloppy. She was regal until the end.

  • What kinds of actions, gestures, traditions, and stories are we constantly injecting into our own lineages? We are all the off-shoot roots for future generations. What bits are we casting off for others to remember?

    Written for Literary Traces "Roots" theme.

    Song: Maginot by Benoit Pioulard

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