I've been reading that book, the book born of a blog, that seems to occupy every front table in Barnes & Noble, Borders, those big wooden tables we so-called literary people secretly hope to occupy.
Sh*t My Dad Says.
And it's great. Deadpan. Hilarious. That kind of hilarious-without-trying-too-hard thing that some people are so good at.
So, as I'm reading the book in the here-and-there parts of your life that the book seems tailored to (waiting rooms, after-school pick-up, brief moments in the car, the throne), I've been thinking about how I've wanted to try blogging and had that usual sort of scorn that literary people tend to have toward such things (we are a bunch of sneerers, it's true), and today, in the car, with the book beside me, I thought about Sh-t my grandmother said.
That's what I called her from the time I was about fifteen until she passed away a little over two years ago. Because that's who she was. "The Woman." The Woman To End All Women.
She did try to end a few, too. And she wasn't sorry about it.
No, The Woman--My Woman--was about as ungrandmotherly as you could imagine. No soft, high yeasty smell of baked bread lingering on her apron. No candies in her housedress pocket. (She did wear a housedress, this is true, but the smell was mostly mothball-ish or the lingering lemon joy of Jean Nate'. In here earlier years, she probably also called up a Pledge scent as well, since she was forever waxing varous surfaces in varying stages of cleaning frenzy.
But the best part of The Woman was the sh*t she said.
To my brothers and me, parched outside on the back lawn in the heat after rounds of wiffel ball at (roughly) ages eleven, nine, and six, when we begged our grandfather to ask her pemission for us to be allowed inside on the over-waxed floors for a drink of water:
(From the open window): "Drink outta the hose!"
(I think we did).
To my mother on her answering machine at 4:04 pm:
"I thought you said you got home at four...ya liar!"
To me, walking in front of her as my father wheeled her back to her room (these were the nursing home days, but she could still dish it), after initially telling me that I--newly pregnant--looked "good" (a high compliment from her):
(As loudly as possible down the hall):
"Ya gained weight in the back, Laurie!"
On her nursing home roommate when I asked--foolishly--"Do you like your roommate, Woman?"
Oh, and the gems just kept on coming....until May 2, 2008.
When she died--and here I give you only a snippet of some of the sh*t she said--and some of the kinder sh*t, frankly--we all gathered at the funeral home for her wake. We'd asked for a deacon because no one could really tell how pious The Woman actually felt--though what she claimed was a different story--and because my uncle, her son, had died only months before and because my father, then so sick, couldn't sit through another Mass.
I can still hear the silence that followed when the deacon said to the group of us--my parents, my aunt, my brothers, my cousins, those of us who had surely known her best--"So, tell me about Catherine."
The silence lasted a good fifteen seconds when my mother finally said, "They broke the mold when they made her."
Never have I felt less envy for any human being than I did for that poor deacon, but he delivered one of the funniest, most honest, and warmest--yes, warmest--eulogies I'd ever heard.
She's gone now, of course, but sometimes, in those little moments when I'm in the car and waiting to pick up one of my kids or I'm driving past the nursing home, or when I'm reading a book, say, like this one, I think about her.
I think about The Woman.
And I think about the sh*t she said.