Joyce Hicks Rothdram

Granny spit blood into her Kleenex, sipped her watered down Scotch on the rocks, and tried to take a drag off her cigarette. She coughed up bloody phlem, and these were her final words to me:

“Everything’s a choice, Jason, and I love you. I keep booze in the house because I’m an alcoholic, and until I can not drink with alcohol in the house, I’ll always be an alcoholic.”

She tried to take another drag, but began coughing so hard that she spit out a few more balls of bloody phlem. She was using a cane, and her body was thin and frail. Her arm was bruised from IV sticks necessary for chemotherapy, and her face was a checkerboard of lines to align her face in front of the radiation treatment for her throat cancer.

She finished coughing, hid the bloody Kleenex in her kangaroo pocket of her bath robe, and reloaded her sleeve with a few new Kleenex’s from the box next to her recliner and bookstand.

“Uncle Bob was right,’ she said, smiling as usual, and with a twinkle in her eye that was reserved for deep, genuine joy.

“You can’t take it with you. You need wheels. I’ll give you $2,000 towards a car. You earned it. Good for you, getting emancipated. Good for you. Fuck ’em and what they have to say about it. Fuck ’em right up the goddamn ass! Shit! Bunch of pussies. You’ll do well, I know you will. I love you, Jason, and I always have. I wish Wendy had been happier, and I wish you happiness. I love you, hon. I’m glad you came into my life. Now, take that $2,000 and buy your self a car or motorcylce or whatever you need to keep going to wrestling practice, because that seems to make you happy. And that Coach Ketelsen seems like a good person. I trust him. He’s good people. I want you to be happy, and all I have left is my IRA. Wendy will get that, and I hope it helps her be happy. But you take this $2,000 and do what you need to do your senior year of high school. And if joining the army and wrestling this Hillary guy is it, then I’d love to help you.”

We chatted about a few books on her bookshelf, and we hugged goodbye. She passed away while I was in AIT (advanced infantry training, just after basic training). She died at age 64, shortly after receiving her first social security check. I spoke with her on the phone on my weekend break between AIT and basic, and she laughed and coughed and joked about her road trip with a few of her girlfriends, all empty nesters, like The Golden Girls, but raging alcoholics who were okay smoking in a packed car, and they had driven Granny’s newly purchased Lincoln Continental across Mexico in an urully debacherous final ending to their stories. Granny died happy, and as a millionaire.

She said Uncle Bob was right, and that she loved me, too; and those were her final words to me. She passed away when I was in basic training. My mother grieved for many years, and never quite got over it. I love them both, and I hope their memory helps others.