Skip to main content

My Gummy

Today is the 83rd birthday anniversary of my maternal grandmother, affectionately known to me as "Gummy." This was due, I later found out, to a mis-reading of her handwriting. Originally, it had been her intention that I should know her as "Grammy." She wrote this down once, I looked at it, uttered "Gummy," and the name stuck. It wasn't until years later that I knew her real name was Emma Gene. Gummy suited her better. Grandkids know best about such things.

So, 1997 wasn't a terribly good year. My dad battled pancreatic cancer (first diagnosed in October 1996), and succumbed to it that August. Around Thanksgiving time, 1997, it was discovered that Gummy had inoperable lung cancer. She passed away a few months later in March of 1998. I'm not sure, but I think she may have visited me on the night of her death. But more on that later.

From my earliest memories, Gummy lived in the south Chicago suburb of Homewood. Mom and I would sometimes visit her and her then-husband, Elmer, in their cozy little trailer home. Sometimes, we'd travel into the city for a day of sight-seeing. On occasion, Gummy would take the train down to Champaign and visit us for a few days. I can't fully explain the eager anticipation that filled my every fiber upon the eve of her visits.

We took a trip with my mom and her, and my aunt and uncle Pam and Nicky, and their kids Brandon and Chris, out to Washington DC one year. It was great to visit all of the landmarks around the nation's capitol, but even more enjoyable was the country hotel we stayed at in Virginia. Chris, Brandon and I would play in the barns, take horse rides, and Gummy could be seen taking home videos of the beautiful scenery. She was even able to re-connect with some long lost children of hers.

I spent lots of time with Gummy over the years. Trips to different states, an extremely warm and humid night in Wichita, which I slept through, but was informed of by Gummy and my mom to no end, as they were unable to sleep. There was the occasion when an ice storm knocked-out power to half the town for a week, and I was sent to stay at Gummy's little (but powered) house in Urbana for a few nights. This was after Elmer had passed away suddenly, and she'd moved closer to us. It was during that icy visit that she introduced me to what would become one of my favorite television shows -- Are You Being Served?

Of course, there were the occasional sleepovers, a staple of the grandparent/grandchild relationship. Gummy would make one of my favorites --- macaroni & cheese --- and I'd stand in the kitchen next to her as she put together all of the ingredients. This sometimes led to generational misunderstandings, as she'd asked me to get the "oleo" from the fridge, and I'd be left dumbfounded as to what she meant. Eventually, she'd tell me "just go sit on the davenport until I'm done," which led to even more confusion.

Gummy loved books. Voracious would be an apt description of her reading habits. She especially liked to read 'non-fiction' books about alien abductions, time travel, alien interventions in ancient times, and the Kennedy assassination. She was a wealth of knowledge about such subjects, and her opinions (not that I agreed with all of them) about things like life-after-death and reincarnation used to keep me fascinated for hours.

When she died on a cold day in March, I was sad. That night, I lay on the couch, reading a P.D. James novel. It was late, like, 3AM late. Suddenly, I began to catch a whiff of what can best be described as brewing coffee. This was odd, as I kept no coffee in the house. It reminded me of Gummy, as it was almost always a smell that permeated her house whenever we over to visit, and she'd offer us a cup. I brushed off the sudden aroma, and went back to reading.

And then the smell increased in intensity. Startled, I put the book down and began to look around. I swear, dear reader, I felt a presence in the room with me. I suddenly became very passive, and then, well, there's no other way to describe it, I felt wrapped-up in joy. This sensation lasted for, I don't know, 30 seconds? Certainly no longer than that. And during that time, I just felt this tremendous sense of calm, of peace, and of a direct feeling that Gummy was ok. More than anything, that is what it conveyed to me. And then, like that, it was over. To this day, I do not know what, if anything, really occurred.

There are few days when I don't think of her and miss her. It's not a major sadness, not anymore, but it's there. Grandmothers are special, aren't they? No one loves you quite like a grandmother. And when they're gone, they're irreplaceable. The last time I spoke with Gummy, her voice sounded like Mickey Mouse, due to the cancer, and I told her that she needed to get better because, "I've only got one Gummy."  Unfortunately, this made her cry. "I know, honey," she said. "I know."


Popular posts from this blog


Ok, we're now three-fourths of the way through this year's calendar, so I thought I'd rank the thirty-eight 2017 movies I've seen so far.

Here they are....

1. A Quiet Passion
2. Baby Driver
3. Dunkirk
4. Get Out
5. Kedi
6. A Ghost Story
7. Wonder Woman
8. Columbus
9. Brad's Status
10. Marjorie Prime
11. Maudie
12. Logan
13. Spider-Man: Homecoming
14. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
15. Brigsby Bear
16. Atomic Blonde
17. The Big Sick
18. Split
19. Kong: Skull Island
20. It
21. Wind River
22. A Cure for Wellness
23. The Hitman's Bodyguard
24. Norman
25. Kingsman: The Golden Circle
26. Logan Lucky
27. Alien Covenant
28. Ghost In the Shell
29. War for the Planet of the Apes
30. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
31. Life
32. Annabelle: Creation
33. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
34. My Cousin Rachel
35. Baywatch
36. The Bye Bye Man
37. mother!
38. It Comes at Night

It will be interesting to see what the last three months of the year brin…

If You Could Read My Mind

Dance clubs are a funny thing. They contain within their walls a life force and vibrancy sometimes unmatched anywhere else. When dusk settles and the lights come on, people will flood the dance floors to gyrate to music with hypnotic beats and songs about love, lust and fun at the disco. At gay bars, this sort of scenario usually increases ten-fold. It isn't for everyone, but for many it is a respite from the harsh realities of the real word. It is a place that isn't just a structure, but a sanctuary where folks -- minorities in their own communities -- can take shelter and unwind with abandon, at least for a few nighttime hours.
As someone who benefited greatly from such an aforementioned gay dance club, you can imagine my dismay at news of the closing of Chester Street Bar. In business for over three decades, gay-owned and operated, there was a time when C-Street (as it was known by most) was the only haven for those in the LGBT community, near and far, to enjoy themselves …


"Step out from the mask you stand behind Fearful lost and blind Time to take the time The pressure’s on you Hide away, hide away No tomorrow, just today"
- Brilliant, Ultravox
Today was National Coming Out Day, so of course it gives some pause for reflection on my own coming out story. It was in April 1993, my junior year of high school (go Chargers!). In the six years of writing this blog, I have alluded to how I came out, but never really delved into the intricacies of how it came about. What better day to do so than today?
My first (small) indications of homosexuality manifested in grade school. While in first grade, I thought a fifth grader looked cute. In fifth grade, I would stare, longingly, at a boy in class, until he caught me looking at him. There were some infatuations with boys in middle school, and a first sexual experience during freshman year of high school. Everything up to that point had been, for the most part, based in the physical realm. I liked the way certain…