The Day Mamie’s Heart Stopped

orangebraids

by Rowan McConnell

The day Mamie’s heart stopped,
she’d just got her hair done.
She always had it done for special occasions –
church, birthdays, funerals –
and she’d been refusing to see her doctor about that
nauseous, gassy feeling in her chest,
because she hadn’t been to the beauty shop in a couple of weeks,
and her hair was just a mess –
like an old worn-out scouring brush.
You can’t go to the doctor looking like that,
especially when you’re over seventy.
They already treat you like a child.
They’ll think you can’t take care of yourself,
and put you in a Home,
and that just won’t do.
They don’t get the good cable channels at the rest home.
So she kept eating Tabasco on her eggs,
and munching on Rolaids,
and scrunching up her face like a constipated baby,
and canceled her next hair appointment because she
didn’t feel well.

On Thursday, it was her birthday,
and Haley,
her granddaughter,
(usually such a surly girl)
had offered to come over and
do up her hair for her.
Teenagers don’t know what
their grandparents want –
and who needs more hankies
and bracelets and pins?
A hairdo – that’s the ticket.
Cutting-edge cosmetology, plus
the joy of spending time
with the favorite granddaughter
(even if she is the black sheep
emo Goth-child of the family,
she’s still the only one who cares
about your pictures from Japan in the ’40s).

Having done her own hair
in three cuts and sixteen colors already,
Haley felt the urge
to make someone else
pretty.
Her teacher at beauty school
had just taught them cornrows,
and this wasn’t easy to do
with your own hair.

They had a nice visit.
They talked about TV,
and how Drew Carey was no Bob Barker,
and Jay Leno was certainly no Johnny Carson.
They talked about steampunk
and compared Sherlock Holmeses.
They ate chocolate Ho-Hos
and drank Dr Peppers.
It was the best birthday ever
until it wasn’t.

She swears
her grandma
picked the color
herself.
Grandma Mamie was always
a huge Tennessee fan
and orange would be
different –
a nice change
from the old-lady blue
that Miss Birch
always used
for her
rinse and set.

Haley will probably never have another customer
gasp in amazement, hands fluttering to her chest,
the way Grandma Mamie did that day
when she looked in the mirror,
but if anyone else ever falls to the floor
with a bloodcurdling shriek,
she’ll remember to call 911 right away.
She’ll know they probably aren’t just excited
about their new ’do.
She’ll remember that the med techs would rather you didn’t
paint an unconscious person’s nails with Blue Rapture #162,
no matter how nervous you feel while you wait
twenty minutes for the ambulance to show up.

Maybe she won’t be such a wreck the next time.
Maybe she’ll be psychopathically calm,
cool and collected, the next time she finds herself
putting the finishing touches on a dead person.
She’ll certainly remember to tell the family
about the radical new hairstyle,
the next time that happens.

But not this time.

No, this time there’ll be
a seventy-four-year-old woman
tarted up like a punk whore,
her close family stunned
to see her laid out like this,
in her sedate pink-lined casket
with the doves and the Bible verse –
something about going home with Jesus,
taking on a whole different slant
with Mamie’s face frozen in a smirk
the mortician couldn’t rearrange.
Maybe next time they’ll find
a verse about not judging.

Then the funeral:
how scandalous!
How quickly they turn
from raging on Haley,
the medics, the death staff,
each person involved with
Miss Mamie’s demise;
how swiftly their anger
disperses into branches
of family less treasured:
the out-of-town relatives,
nieces and nephews,
long distant cousins –
how could they not recognize Grandma Mamie
just because she had orange braids in the casket?
Oh, the thrill of self-righteousness,
the vindictive snark of
griefstricken, worn-down, put-upon family:
“Maybe if you’d visited,
helped out more often,
she wouldn’t look like a stranger
to you!”

 

© Copyright 2015 by Rowan McConnell


Header photo via Morguefile.

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This Week at Gatewood: August 2–8, 2015

Skyline by Bonny Bendix

by Frasier MacKenzie

Hello, and thanks for stopping in!

Here are our features for the week of August 2–8:

Monday:Pigeon Man//Brain Forest,” photography by Matt Wiebe

Tuesday:Hoarding,” poetry by Rowan McConnell

Wednesday:Empty House” artwork by Zengael

Thursday:The Transformation of “I”,” a thought-provoking piece by John Langstaff

Friday:Our True Selves,” photography by P.L. Miller with a quote from writer Anneli Rufus

Remember, the Friday photo can be downloaded for free as a meditation card for your phone, tablet or computer. Share, print, ponder… enjoy!

Be sure to follow @docnicholas on Twitter for daily updates on Journal posts as well as pithy (or pissy) opinions about current events, animal pics and rescues, and all your behind-the-scenes Journal nonsense. It’s kind of like getting all the extras that come with a DVD, only with cat hair.

Did you know you can subscribe to Gatewood Journal and receive a monthly newsletter with all our features for the month? Like a weekly wrap-up, only monthly, so your e-mail box won’t get cluttered. Like a magazine, only digital, because we love trees.

That’s it for the Gatewood Weekend Wrap-Up for the week of August 2–8, 2015. Enjoy your weekend, and visit us again soon!


Header art: “Skyline” by Bonny Bendix via Pixabay.

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Hoarding

bric-a-brac by kevin utting

by Rowan McConnell

Here’s a case of Coca-Cola
in green glass bottles,
fourteen tins of Spam,
a crock with rotted cheesecloth
tied across the top,
six dusty quart jars of canned beans
bearing “1935” handwritten on their lids,
one tin of peas stamped at 19 cents,
and two boxes of Mason jars
ready to be filled with next year’s garden
that never got planted.

This is one shelf in the basement.
There are forty-nine more like it,
dusty, spider-infested,
defended by moldy mouse-traps
still baited with hard orange cheese.
Bites and chunks from the
dried corn and apples
show that the mice have won this war.

You will never be able to identify
most of the paper-wrapped packages
in the freezer.
You may wonder why
your grandfather –
an otherwise sensible, practical man –
filled half the freezer
with loaves of sliced bread
bought five for a dollar
in 1960.

The path upstairs
is an obstacle course of shoes,
plastic flowers in cracked vases,
boxes of unopened Christmas candy,
and stacks of Life magazines
that might be worth something someday.
The handmade rag-doll with the
creepy smiling face
hides dozens of wooden clothespins
in her dress pocket.

Your grandmother’s bedroom is untouched.
It reeks of mothballs and sun-baked plastic
from fifteen years of your grandfather
keeping it as a shrine,
each year offering a new pair of pajamas
or package of socks, given him on his birthday,
to appease her sense of thriftiness.
Waste not, want not.

In the bathroom are twenty-three toothbrushes,
still in plastic wrappers, from the dentist.
A colony of tiny ants feasts on
a burst tube of toothpaste –
mint-flavored, for fresher mandibles.
The cabinet reveals two hundred twenty-one
bars of soap in various brands
stacked with military precision
next to the ten cases of
sharp, shiny razor blades.
The walls are barricaded with
enough packages of toilet paper
to turn the room into a
padded cell.

© Copyright 2015 by Rowan McConnell.


Photo “Bric-a-Brac” by Kevin Utting. Licensed CC BY 2.0.

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This Week at Gatewood: July 5 – 11, 2015

pigeon

by Frasier MacKenzie

Hello, and thanks for stopping in!

We’ve finally done it: added a subscription box to our site! Frankly, I’m a little intimidated by MailChimp, but I held my breath and poked around until I felt we had something usable, and our tests showed it to be in good working order. Our e-pigeons are standing by to bring you your newsletter!

Don’t worry – all the hard part is done on our end. Your part is easy. Just put your e-mail address in the box, click the button, and wait for your confirmation e-mail. Then click the button when your confirmation e-mail arrives. That’s all. (One note: I have noticed that subscriptions managed through MailChimp take a little while to send out the confirmation e-mail. It doesn’t instantly show up in your box. Our tests ranged from 5 to 15 minutes.)

What do you get when you subscribe? Well, currently the plan is to send out a monthly newsletter with all our features for the month. Like a weekly wrap-up, only monthly, because we don’t want to overload your e-mail box. Like a magazine, only digital, because we love trees.

Needless to say, we won’t share your information, and you won’t get a ton of useless stuff or spam from us. We have no relatives in Nigerian royalty, and no one here has the slightest idea what to do if your penis isn’t everything you’d want.

Here are our features for the week of July 5 – 11:

Monday:Corpus Libertas,” photography and digital artwork by K.C. Collins

Tuesday:Thievery,” poetry by Rowan McConnell

Wednesday:Seven Questions on Life & Death” an interview with D.V. Gray from Hunter MacKenzie

Friday:Monsters and Fear,” photography by P.L. Miller with a quote from Mike Carey

Remember, the Friday photo can be downloaded for free as a meditation card for your phone, tablet or computer. Share, print, ponder… enjoy!

Be sure to follow @docnicholas on Twitter for daily updates on Journal posts as well as all sorts of humor, animal pics and rescues, and other tidbits of interest. If you have ideas for things you’d like to see included in the newsletter, or general suggestions, we’d love to hear from you. E-mail us or contact Doc on Twitter with your ideas.

That’s it for the Gatewood Weekend Wrap-Up for the week of July 5 – 11, 2015. Enjoy your weekend, and visit us again soon!


Photo via MorgueFile.

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Thievery

costume jewelry

Photo via MorgueFile.

by Rowan McConnell

Helen has stolen my brooch –
the one with the diamond butterfly.
I know she took it
when she dusted my dresser
last week.

Now, Sue,
you need to stay here with me,
and we’ll hide in the closet,
and catch her at it
when she comes to clean
this week.

She won’t expect that!
She knows nurses are busy
and don’t have time to stick around
after they’re done sticking arms.
So you’ll stay here with me
and we’ll catch her.
You’ll be my witness.

What’s that, Sue?
You found it?
My diamond butterfly brooch?
Where was it?
In the bathroom, you say?
Well, that’s just silly.
I don’t keep it there.
You must have taken it and put it there.

I’m so sorry, Helen.
Obviously,
my nurse was the thief
all along.

 

© Copyright 2015 by Rowan McConnell.

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This Week at Gatewood: June 14-20

coil-710611_1280

Photo via Pixabay.

by Frasier MacKenzie

Hello, and thanks for stopping in! We’ve been doing some tweaks on our site this week, mainly in the Archives section. Everything from that page has now been moved to its home in the appropriate category, and the Archives option has been dropped from the menu. We hope this will make browsing easier and result in fewer Error 404 occurrences, as all pages and posts are now in the new format. If you have trouble finding anything, please do notify us (tweet to our Special Assistant Dr Nicholas, or email me at info (at) gatewoodjournal.org) and we’ll get it sorted.

Also, we’ve made the font size slightly bigger for improved readability. Working with Rowan’s “Alzheimer’s Suite” material this week has made us realize that none of us are getting any younger, and being able to read the Journal more easily without squinting would be good.

Here are our features for the week of June 14-20:

Monday:Electric Spiral,” artwork by Xavier

Tuesday:Alzheimer’s Suite,” poetry by Rowan McConnell

Wednesday:Zen and the Art of Mousing,” humor from Steven Valentine & Patrick Redding

Friday:Eccentricities,” photography by P.L. Miller and quote from David Ogilvy

Remember, the Friday photo can be downloaded for free as a meditation card for your phone, tablet or computer. Share, print, ponder… enjoy!

Be sure to follow our Special Assistant @docnicholas on Twitter for daily updates on Journal posts as well as humor, art and writing tidbits, and other items of interest. Dr Nicholas has asked me to mention that he’s going to try posting Journal links a bit more often. He didn’t want to annoy people by posting the same links incessantly, but since he now has followers in every time zone from U.S. Pacific Time to New Zealand Standard Time and most points in between, I think it’s reasonable to assume that most of his followers aren’t online at the same time and many probably don’t go back to catch up on tweets that are hours old. If I’m wrong about this and it becomes bothersome, let him know and he can have the pleasure of telling me, “I informed you thusly.”

That’s it for the Gatewood Weekend Wrap-Up for the week of June 14-20. Enjoy your weekend, and visit us again soon!

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Alzheimer’s Suite

old couple

Photo via Morguefile.

 

[Editor’s note: “Alzheimer’s Suite” is a work-in-progress by Rowan McConnell; today, we have three shorter pieces from the whole. Not all are specifically about Alzheimer’s Disease; this is a temporary working title for the upcoming collection of poetry about aging. – R.C.]


 

by Rowan McConnell

Tabloid Overload

On the phone
with her cronies,
she argues,
gets confused,
can’t recall
which pop star
got religion
and which one
got divorced.
God and Gay
are so close,
you see.


 

Where’s Wanda?

Where’s Wanda?
We’ve lost her again.
She shouldn’t be hard to find.
She’s not exactly camouflaged
in her pink-striped blouse
and her lime-green capris.
Was she wearing her glasses?
No one knows,
but her straw hat is missing.
Oh look! There she is,
talking to a sunflower
while hummingbirds hover,
drawn by her brightness.
Birds of a feather.


 

Stocking Up

I’ll put these canned peaches up here –
you never know when you might want some.
They aren’t in season long, you know.

I’m saving these blackberries too,
in the freezer. A blackberry pie
will taste good to you when you’ve got a cold
later this winter.

One summer we had so many tomatoes
I couldn’t keep up
Couldn’t stew and can them fast enough
and we had fried tomatoes,
tomato sandwiches,
tomato soup,
tomato salad,
tomato pudding, until your brother
broke out in hives.

Those pickled beets? I put those up
when your dad was overseas,
fighting in Vietnam –
getting high and knocking up Asian girls.

Strawberry preserves never go bad,
unlike family.


 

© Copyright 2015 by Rowan McConnell.

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