One of the worst things about losing people you love is they are they are no longer there. The painful awareness of their absence will never stop digging at your heart, sometimes with little blunt jabs that only bruise, other times with deep slices that start the bleeding all over again.

My son’s third birthday party was the first kid’s party I planned after losing my brother. My son’s birthday is in March and we lost my brother in October. So..*counts on fingers*.. I guess, it was roughly 5 months after losing John that I was party planning.

I was doing the menu, thinking about food, drinks.. blah blah blah. And I was talking to myself as I often do when I am planning and writing stuff down, and I said something like,”Most people will want soda or water but I’ll have to make sure to have a pot of coffee going too, cause that’s what John will want. He always wants hot coffee when he…oh.”

Now I knew John was dead. I had spoken at his funeral, cried at his wake, cried quite a bit more after that alone and with others who were mourning him, and visited his grave on numerous occasions, sometimes writing in the little memory book that my mother kept there, sometimes not. Point being, I knew, he was dead. But his absence, the permanence of his being gone, still managed to be a painful surprise.

This happened to me again recently. I was watching a Mental Floss video on Youtube at the mention of “grawlix”, I was delighted.

I wanted to call John and share this delight because I knew that he, as a mutual lover of comics and words would be delighted as well. But of course, John has been dead for nearly seven years now, and I can’t call him about this, or anything else, ever again.

Being sad today because of a bunch of things which I will probably be writing/posting about shortly, and missing my baby bro, I have now seized upon grawlix as a kind of memorial, a talisman that acknowledges the pain of John’s absence but also perhaps reminds me that he is around me. I feel him. On days when I am especially sad, and missing him hard, our favorite songs will play back to back to back on whatever device happens to be making music nearby. I’m not saying this in some kind of stupid 6th Sense paranormal activity tip, just saying that I know, that whenever, however, I end this painful, wonderful, maddening, journey we know as life on earth, John is waiting for me in the next. John, if you’re watching, if your reading or following me in some plane, here are some more words for fun. Love you, baby bro.

A grawlix is a sequence of typographical symbols used to represent a non-specific, profane word or phrase. Here’s an example of a typical grawlix:


The term first appeared in a 1964 article called Let’s get down to grawlixes by American cartoonist Mort Walker, who is best known as the creator of the Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois cartoons. Later, in a book called The Lexicon of Comicana, Walker created and named an international set of symbols used in comics around the world. Walker called his system Symbolia.

Here are some examples of other terms in the list:

  • agitrons: wiggly lines indicating that something is shaking
  • briffits: clouds of dust indicating that a character left in a rush
  • emanata: straight lines rising from around a character’s head indicating surprise
  • plewds: drops of sweat indicating that a character is hot or stressed
  • squeans: asterisks with an empty center indicating drunkenness or dizziness
  • waftaroms: wavy lines rising from something indicating a strong smell or heat.

How fun are those! I know he would be delighted to have words for things that are building blocks for the world of comic art that he so dearly loved. I’ve said it again and again. I miss you, brother. I miss you. You  should be here, to laugh about this, to enjoy mundane minutiae with me. To do all sorts of other things so much more important too. I love you.


One thought on “GRAWLIX!!

  1. Hi. I just wanted to let you know that above everything else you are a beautiful writer. You express yourself so clearly on your blog posts and every time you’re down you should remember this about yourself. This post in particular was so beautiful yet sad/relatable to me as recently I’ve also been dealing with my own grief remembering my grandfather’s passing a few years back.

    Please let your light continue shining through your writing, and thank you so much for taking the time to visit my own blog.


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