Sunday, June 07, 2009

New Silverware

I enjoy old people, in general, but Gma is probably my favorite of the advancing generation. At some point before my birth she came to the conclusion that she genuinely DOES NOT care what you think. Seriously. I appreciate that, but I DO care what Gma thinks - even when she's thinking cloudily (which happens occasionally); but hey - she's old! Give her a break. If she wants to consistently misplace her left flip flop, and call me "George" - fine by me; I've certainly answered to worse.

Just tonight we were all sitting around in the beach house watching "The World's Largest Man" on TV when the following exchange took place:

Gma: Paige, have you noticed that every year the silverware in this house changes? Am I going crazy? Somebody explain to me why the silverware is different.
William: MAMMA PLEASE DONT START THAT AGAIN. We've already talked about it 4 times. I told you - stuff disappears and instead of buying individual pieces each year - they just replace the whole set. Its a rental house.
Paige: William don't be ugly.
Gma: Its different from last year. The silver this year is ugly.
Paige/William: MA!!! PLEASE! HUSH!! They're about to sponge bathe the world's fattest man!!
Robert: Well, I want to see the new silverware. Paige - bring us the silverware drawer and put it right in front of William.
William: AUGH. She's been asking people about it all day! I ALREADY TOLD Y'ALL WHY ITS DIFFERENT!!!
Gma: I liked the old kind better. It had roses.
William: WHO CARES?!?!?!?
Gma: Also, the blinds in front of the kitchen sink are gone this year too. Now the sun shines in my eyes.
Robert: I can fix that for you in a jiffy because I love you more than William does.
William: Robert, you are an idiot.

Robert disappears for a second. We hear rummaging around from one of the bedrooms, then the kitchen. Shortly afterwards we hear hammering, then the bright shaft of sunlight coming from the rear of the house disappears.

William: Robert, THATS THE COMFORTER FROM MY BED!!! You have used the comforter from MY bed to cover the window, and its dragging all in the sink.
Robert: Well, fold it up a bit on the bottom edges! Turn down the air conditioner, you don't need that comforter anyway.
William: I want my comforter. Why didn't you use YOUR comforter?
Robert: Well, I have to have my comforter to protect me from Sherry in the night. You sleep alone.
William: AUGH. Stay out of my room.

An interesting facet of our family interaction is that the old, infirm, and handicapped get treated with not a whit more grace or dignity than anyone else. That might be more noteworthy in other families, but if you walked in and saw us seated for lunch I think the variety would probably preclude accurate judgment of mental capacity anyway. Fifteen years ago you might have thought, for instance, that the long-haired gentleman seated at the southeast end of the table (levis, short button-up shirt, no belt, nike tennis shoes) eating bananas dipped in mayonnaise around a heavily-ashed Benson and Hedges Ultra Light Menthol 100s was retarded; not the demure older woman seated next to my grandmother. You'd be wrong, of course; you've just met Uncle Robert. The older woman in question, Elinor, had Downs Syndrome, lived to be 67 and, unless you had spotted the dinner rolls Elinor hid beneath each armpit at Sunday lunch, you still might not know.

Why she felt the need to hide baked goods on her person, we'll never be quite sure; but just to assure visitors that we didn't have her on unreasonable rations - Gma always leaned in to newcomers at the table and, in a loud stage whisper announced: "she knows she can have whatever she wants in the kitchen!" Elinor herself never had a good explanation, but I think she just wanted the comfort of knowing, without a doubt, where her next meal was coming from. We didn't fault her for taking a little bit of the uncertainty out of life when she could.

Awhile back I was violently accosted by a young woman over my use of the word "retarded" (in a non-pejorative sense) in reference to a person who she had identified as "developmentally challenged." It caught me off guard because I didn't mean it ugly - I promise, but that was apparently not a defense to the crime. Naturally, I never called her again, but I felt bad so I did double-check with my family over Sunday lunch to make sure it was OK to continue using the term "retarded." Uncle William immediately looked up from his butter beans and said "Hey, I shared a bathroom with a middle-aged Downs Syndrome woman for 15 years. I'll say 'retarded' anytime I want, and you got grandfathered in."

I believe thats a point scored for the politically incorrect.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this story. I know that each day there will be more of the same. I will miss all of that this year and I truly look forward to being there for at least part of the week each year. Keep the laptop handy and pass the exploits on to your admiring public.