Take Your Granddaughter on a Road Trip

When you drive out to the Midwest to see your eldest son and his small family, there is no one to rotate the beers for the nine hours. But on the way back, you will have your 8-year-old granddaughter with you, and she is a good girl.

Put the granddaughter and a big metal cooler full of Schlitz cans and ice in the back seat. Show the girl how to rotate the cans whenever she hands you a fresh beer as you drive. Each can has to be turned and buried deeper in the melting ice so the beer is icy and refreshing whenever you crack open a new one. Her hand reaches up to give you a wet, ice-chilled beer as you chuck the empty out the window. You don’t ask her to open them. Her fingers are too small.

The author and her Pappap

The author and her Pappap

Smoke three Camel non-filtered cigarettes while you drink each beer, flicking the ash out the window, which is left permanently cracked. Light the next Camel off of the last one. Your wife, in the passenger seat, and granddaughter, sing songs while you hum tunelessly along and crack jokes about the road signs.

“Hey, why do you have to watch out for Falling Rock? She was an Indian Princess who ran away from home and her old man is looking for her!”, and laugh your wheezy, boozy laugh when your granddaughter groans that she has heard that one a thousand times.

When she asks, tell the girl all of the stories about all of the tattoos that cover your arms and legs.

“I got ‘em in the Navy. This one is the Fightin’ Irish! This one is your Grandma’s name, because she’s my Irish Rose.” Let the girl rub her fingers up and down your right arm, feeling the ridges of the tattoos.

Ask her for another cold one.


- Beth Dugan's previous essays for Dead Housekeeping are Blue and Grey and Brown, Evergreen, and Everything Can be Used Again. Her website is www.bethdugan.com.


How To Try Everything To Stay Alive

Thais Lynnae Reynolds

When you are young and you have cancer and it’s the 1990s, it’s important to keep your wits. And if you have a lot of wits, all the better. It’s important to be honest about your bald head, especially on an airplane with your brother and especially by sliding your wig backwards ever so slowly until it tips back just almost enough to nearly slide off your head but not quite. It’s important that when you’re taking a break from wig shopping and your friend orders food, but the waiter doesn’t like her at all and “forgets” her fortune cookie that you flip your chair giving chase into the kitchen in protest. It’s important that you have someone smuggle gay male porn into the hospital for you because what good is a flaccid penis? None. It’s important that you try everything to stay alive. Even risky things. Even things that make you die. It’s important that when you are dying you mistake your friend for a cat even though you are on the telephone and cats don’t use telephones, except maybe they do in heaven and you were already halfway there. It’s important that you so make a heart-mark so indelible, your friends place your photograph on the stage occupied by your favorite artist, even though it’s been two decades since you or that artist were either alive or relevant. It’s important that you were here. It’s important that we miss you. It’s important that we love you still. Meow.

- Jennifer Cumby is a contributing editor here at Dead Housekeeping and is the senior Family Ties editor at Maximum Middle Age, which you should check out, here.

Julie Getting Groceries

image by Asha Rajan

image by Asha Rajan

Walk to the grocery store.

Accept a ride from your sister if she offers. Never ask. If she is not available when you plan on going, do not wait for her. Never let her plans dictate yours.


Walk to the good grocery store even though it is two miles away and you are every inch a little old lady. Bypass the overpriced grocery a few blocks from the house. Paying extra for “convenience” is no kind of bargain. Shake your head at the thick men and sallow ladies who speed past you, leaving whirlwinds of hamburger wrappers and soda cups churning in their wake. Never learn to drive a car.


Bring a list, even though the core has been unchanged for two decades at least. Always buy the staples: milk, eggs, butter, bread, bacon, potatoes, grapes, sausage, crackers, ring bologna because Bill likes it, cabbage, cookies, tuna fish, egg noodles. Do not worry that you have most of these things at home already. Staples are staples for a reason, and if expiration dates were as all-fired important as your niece tries to tell you, then why are you nearly 90?

Ignore the pimply Polish boy who asks if he can help carry your bags to your car. Carry the bags yourself, one in each fist. Take a block to acquaint your body with their weight. Relish their gravity as it makes your shoulders burn with that familiar fire that lets you know that you are living, moving, doing. Let the burden become a buoy as you take a deep breath and walk walk walk walk walk walk float


- Ira Brooker is a writer and editor residing in Saint Paul, Minnesota's scenic Midway neighborhood. You can find his writing all over the place, and especially at irabrooker.comhttp://atalentforidleness.blogspot.com and @irabrooker on Twitter.

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