Lower Case Trump

My Dad had his own vocabulary. It was just something funny he did, one of his most lovable quirks. The words he used had specific meanings, and the family all knew what they meant, and even used them ourselves from time to time. He used to call my mother, “Mus”, short for Muscles, because she was really strong. She was not amused because back then women weren’t supposed to be strong, so that was gradually overtaken by Roder Toder or Rode-en-tode. I have no idea where those came from. “Ta-Trim!” was an expression of excitement, good or bad. Like, “Holy Moly!” or “Damn!!!” He rarely, if ever, said “Damn” in front of the family, except maybe my brother, because he was a boy. Sometimes he used a real word to refer to something else. For example, bologna was always called “dog”. I think he picked that up during his time in the Air Force. 

The centerpiece of our father’s unique vocabulary was the word, “trump”. Lower case T. This started maybe 60 years ago and had nothing to do with the Trump you know. There was never a time when trump wasn’t part of the lives of my siblings and me. This word came from a trump in bridge. My parents used to play the game way back when. Here’s how Wikipedia defines the term.

A trump is a playing card which is elevated above its usual rank in trick-taking games. Typically, an entire suit is nominated as a trump suit; these cards then outrank all cards of plain (non-trump) suits.

So, if you play a card in the trump suit, it is a winner over a card that is not in the trump suit. Makes sense these days, doesn’t it?

Dad used the word Trump in situations when he agreed to go along with something, but didn’t particularly want to. For example, if my mother sent him to the store for onions but when he got back she wanted him to go again for milk, he said, “Trump.” If he wanted to work on my car on the weekend at 6am to beat the heat but I had plans to sleep in at my apartment, he said, “Trump, trump.” The word evolved to include surprises like a joke that turned out to be groan worthy.

When Donald J. Trump started his run for office, I found it really annoying that he got to abscond with our family word. I stopped using it. It had been sullied. As long as Trump was just a creepy celebrity it wasn’t a big deal, but when he started running for President it was insulting. (I know he didn’t have that name just to bother me, but there you have it.) My siblings and mother, however, loved it.

In 2016 my mother had her second major stroke and spent lots of time in hospitals, ultimately going to a nursing home. When she began to elope (escape and wander) she had to be moved to a dementia care facility. She hated it, but none of us kids was able to care for her along with our work and families because of her tendency to take off and her increasingly frequent falls.  

Mom’s decline got steeper by autumn. We were all so tired and so depressed. She was miserable. The facility could not give her the medications that had helped stabilize her moods when she still lived with my sister (the state of Texas considers them chemical restraint), so she could not get any relief from her desperation. She was never happy again.

On October 7, 2016, the story broke about Trump’s Access Hollywood tapes with Billy Bush. Infamously, Trump was caught saying to Bush, “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.” Bush lost his job over his handling of this incident. Already in a bad spot emotionally, this brought up memories for me about when I was young and pretty and men did stuff like that to me, and worse. (I was raped.) As an article I read said, ” It wasn’t just Trump’s use of the p-word that was astonishing; it was the fact that he seemed to be saying he sexually assaults women just because he can.” In fact, a whole lot of men sexually assault women just because they can. But this time a man bragged about that, and then we elected him President of the United States. His election, my history of sexual assault, and my mother’s death are knotted together inextricably now.

In early November of 2016, my mother had another stroke. It was catastrophic. She was moved to the same hospice facility where our father had died in 2009. The family gathered and waited. On November 8 someone in the family suggested we watch the election returns in her room on TV. I reeled. I couldn’t speak so I texted my siblings that it was not okay with me. Thankfully the idea was put aside. That night Trump was elected. I went and stood alone outside in the dark night and looked at the moon for a long time.

On November 10, 2016, our mother died. During the afternoon her minister had come by and we sang her a few hymns. When we were alone afterwards some of the physical changes we had been told to expect began to happen. Her breaths grew farther and farther apart, and she was gone.

Mom had been ready to go for a long time. Trump, trump. 


Filipovic, J. (2017). Our President Has Always Degraded Women — And We’ve Always Let Him. https://time.com/5047771/donald-trump-comments-billy-bush/