WORDS: GABE GORDON, CONTRIBUTOR
IMAGES: ELIJAH STEVENS, PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR
Paradise reminded him of Gaba’s back yard.
His grandmother refused to tell him if the realm that greened and thickened her property was the world’s wildest garden or the world’s smallest jungle. She died before he was four feet tall, old enough to peek above the tangle of growth and domestic freedom. He could only remember looking up. Above his head, the stems and weeds extended and through the wild he and his brother blazed trails with imaginary machetes. Just hands and souls of their feet in and out of Velcro strap on sandals.
The secret of the garden died the day of the funeral when Aunt Lisa enacted her back-yard-beautiful project, a simplification of her mother’s grounds. And almost every other summer afternoon of the proceeding years she called on him to mulch, a task, which demanded he look down, helped him pocket money.
They buried Gaba in the cemetery next to her husband. But the labor she exuded in her bones rests beneath the soil on Laurel Road. What used to be jungle, now tomato patch.
A heavenly pause.
Bob ran his own lumber business several floors above a Chinese restaurant in Cleveland Heights where he was a regular. The day the kitchen chose to insert cashews into his lunch special was the day he chose to take the stairs back to the office.
He died between the second and third floor landing, alone in anaphylactic shock. Cursed by the nature of time herself and defeated by his body.
He traces his lineage in may contain traces ofs.
He inherited, among other things, his coordination and stature from his dad’s dad
who played football as an excuse to run laps around the cheerleading squad.
Homecoming 1948. Poppy was watching his future wife rally the crowd’s school spirit, lost in the pleats of her ankle length skirt when the coach yanked by the collarbone and told him this is your shot, Gordon. Peterson, the running back, broke his leg, and was on the sideline receiving medical attention, so you’re getting game time.
Zero yards later, it was unanimously agreed upon that it would be in the entire town’s best interest for Peterson to return to the field. Grammy never confirmed the validity of this story, an attempt at concealing her loving embarrassment for his husband. It wasn’t an athlete she fell in love with, he was good at other things.
Two generations later, upon seeing his grandson’s premature lack of enthusiasm toward organized sports, Poppy wasted no time ushering the boy inside to teach him music. Alternating between the piano, clarinet, hammered dulcimer and trumpet, they played as a team.
As the Angel of Fire, he would have tried to rescue her from the furnace, but instead he carries the mail.
The year before she killed herself, Francey played Helen Keller in her high school’s production of “The Miracle Worker.” The scene, the one with the water, brought a full house to a teary-eyed standing ovation.
Grammy found her youngest daughter in the garage and it didn’t make sense. She was full of like and glowing, gorgeous, more than alive. It took losing a child to give his grandmother faith in dying. She decided to live her life fully, and wrote letters to Francey that would be delivered one January morning, when she slipped away from the care of her remaining children and into the postal service of cosmic souls.