Utne Blogs > Mind and Body

Stories to Remember the Ones We Love

by Carrie Swiggum 


Tags: reconciliation, death, family, Libby Ellis, Oy!Chicago,

Bubba Russakoff

Eulogizing the life of her grandmother, Libby Ellis reconstructs memories both hilarious and heart-breaking, and strives to reconcile her grandmother’s attempted suicide. Here's an excerpt from “The Rumors of Her Death”:

“We drank too much, playing cards and telling old stories. Bubba was, as far as I’m concerned, the best grandmother a kid could have. She was beautiful and wild, she smoked—as my mom explained—using each cigarette like punctuation. She played bridge and golfed, she had affairs with married men and painted her toenails coral, she made me chicken salad, with sliced cucumbers, taught me to play poker and drove all over the state (speeding, with me perched on the armrest) to find the Blueberry Muffin doll I was desperate to have. She smelled like Salem Ultra Lite 100s and Jean Nate. She loved men who were unapologetic cads and told me to keep a list of people I would bite if I ever got rabies. She thought I was the best kid ever—aside from my mom. I loved her unconditionally.

“And there we were in that kitchen without her. Rooting around for a bottle opener, my mom found an old grocery receipt. Bub liked to listen to the radio and write down quotes that appealed to her. In her arthritic scrawl were Mark Twain’s words, ‘The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.’ It was followed by a reminder to herself: ‘Get cigarettes.’”

(Thanks, Oy!Chicago)

Image by Libby Ellis

diane _1
3/28/2009 7:16:53 AM

Hi Libby, Barb often spoke of you with such pride and love. You were so lucky to have had her ,in spite of the tough times. She was one of a kind and not a day goes by that I don't think of her. Every time I hear one of my patients cuss, i think, you don't hold a candle to the Queen of Cuss ! She is missed and there will never be another like her ! This was a wonderful article and a hard copy went into my "Barb" file. Diane