Moment? Memories? Outgassing?
As Cary Grant said in Arsenic and Old Lace, “Insanity runs in my family … It practically gallops.” Family Traditions lovingly passed down from one generation to the next guarantee that insanity, if unchallenged, will continue to flourish. What I learned at my grandfather’s knee was … insanity for the most part … though excruciatingly mundane … is still mighty lethal.
Dinner at my grandparents began with a short drive over to their apartment. After arriving and pleasantries exchanged my father would lie down on the living room carpet and go to sleep. My mother would volunteer to help out in the kitchen where she and my grandparents would catch up on family news while they finished making the food. Somebody somewhere was always having something removed. Usually a gall bladder.
My two sisters and I were stuck in the living room where there was absolutely nothing to do. We couldn’t turn the television on because that would wake my father. So we sat in overstuffed chairs and waited for dinner. My grandparents subscribed to The Reader’s Digest and kept months and months of back issues neatly stacked under an end table. I’d haul them out and scan through them for jokes in Humor in Uniform and Life in These United States. The humor editor at The Reader’s Digest had only one rule for anyone submitting jokes or anecdotes: the material could not in any way shape or form be actually funny. While flipping through the magazine for nonexistent humor sometimes an article would pique my interest so I’d read “I Am Joe’s Colon” or “I am Joe’s Cirrhotic Liver” while waiting for dinnertime.
Finally it was time to eat so we’d wake up my Dad and go sit down around The Big Table. My grandfather would say grace. My sisters and I were nominally Catholics and we were used to a quick and simple prayer that could be speedily rattled off in under 5 seconds.
“Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
My Grandfather’s grace was more … complicated. It went on for just about ever. By the time he was done God had been thanked for just about everything imaginable and both God The Father and His Son had been invited to take a load off, pull up a chair, and join us in devouring this delicious Easter Ham … which my grandmother would fret throughout the entire meal if it was too salty. If it was Thanksgiving she’d worry that the turkey was too dry.
She was always right. The ham was always too salty and the only reason gravy existed was so we could choke down the turkey without having to rotate around The Big Table giving the Heimlich Maneuver to everyone strangling on desiccated white meat.
After polishing off the pies; pumpkin, apple, or minced meat, we’d stumble back into the living room and my grandfather would turn on the Zenith TV. The biggest black and white television console he could buy had a built in turntable, an AM/FM radio, and huge speakers on each side. It was as big as a coffin.
On Saturday nights we’d be forced to watch The Lawrence Welk Show. The indescribable tedium of watching The Lennon Sisters, Myron Floren, and the flashy footwork of Bobby Burgess was only broken up by commercials for Geritol or Carter’s Little Liver Pills.
Geritol was a surefire pick-me-up for people with “tired blood” whatever the hell that was and who could forget this catchy commercial … “When nature fails, your food may remain undigested, leaving you headachy and irritable. That’s when it’s time to reach for Carter’s Little Liver Pills.”
Years before my grandparents drove down to LA and went to The Lawrence Welk Show. At the end of the program Lawrence Welk would invite the audience members to dance and on that particular night he picked my grandmother as his dancing partner. My grandmother told that story every single time we watched the show. Every. Single. Time.
My grandparents were Republicans to the bone. My grandfather wore an American flag lapel pin before they were made in China. They were stout little people who went to church every Sunday, prayed intensely to their God, and hated black people with a passion. By the time the sixties started heating up they focused most of their hatred on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. because as they (and my mother) said, “He started it all.”
They truly believed that the war in Vietnam was just, Richard Nixon was a great president, and protesters against the war and the government of The United States were traitors who should be shot.
I’m not exaggerating. They were grimly satisfied when the students at Kent State were shot by and killed by the National Guard. They deserved it.
In the 80’s they moved to San Diego and found new groups of people to hate: Anyone from any country South of the state of California who happened to be in San Diego.
My grandmother died during Ronald Reagan’s second term. My grandfather died at the beginning of Clinton’s first term. It’s too bad they both didn’t live to see FOX News. They would have loved it.
If cancer and old age hadn’t killed them off they would’ve been Bush supporters. They would have demanded blood from any Muslim country because of 9/11 and wholeheartedly embraced our illegal wars of aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq. My grandfather would not have cared one whit if a war was fought to steal oil. He was a gas guzzling Buick man who liked to drive fast. He hated Jimmy Carter for telling us to conserve. Let the other chumps conserve … America didn’t get where it deserved to be by putting on the brakes. You stomp on the gas and go!
If they were alive today they would have attended local tea parties and made the trip to Washington DC for the Beck-a-palooza a few weeks ago. In short … my grandparents were of The Dominant Culture of the United States. They were my first and best examples of Crazy Stupid People. They were too stupid to understand they were part of a system dedicated to destroying the planet and crazy enough to believe it was their god-given right to stomp anyone out of existence that got in the way of the Death Cult’s march to extinction.
Their insanity was passed down to my mother the same way my father inherited his.
I am now older than my grandfather was when he and I were watching a basketball game on television years and years ago. I can remember with crystalline clarity the racial epithets he used describing the black ballplayers. Today I can read on The Internets the same words written by Crazy Stupid People to describe the president.
I don’t know what lesson is to be learned from all this except maybe … That’s Progress?
Moment? Memories? Outgassing? September 16, 2010