That's Grandma. Not the warm and fuzzy type.

Let’s get to know Lorna’s paternal grandmother.

I don’t know much about Grandma because I hardly every saw her; when I did, I avoided her when I was really young because she scared me and because she ticked me off when I was older. TV and fairy tales gave me high expectations about grandmothers. She didn’t even come close. Maybe my expectations were too high.

In my dreams. Maybe if that was the Bible...

The two things I remember most about Grandma are:

  1. She was more religious than the Pope. It was his job to be super-devout; for Grandma, it was an all-volunteer mission. Maybe she was born in love with the Lord or maybe her God-Crush developed when her real-life family didn’t work our so well for her. Either way, she prayed more than any person I ever knew and she knew the Bible better than Peter, Paul and Mary or whoever the Disciples were.
  2. She didn’t believe in self-esteem or plastic. Even though she had 9 children and more grandchildren than any playground monitor could reasonably count, she didn’t seem to enjoy mingling with the younger generations. To keep us depressed quiet entertained she encouraged us to read the Bible or play the one game she allowed in her home: tossing wooden clothes pins into glass milk bottles. Do you know how hard that is to do successfully?  It was the 1960s, not 1860s. Would it have killed her to have a few sets of checkers around?

Grandma believed that all most all fun activities were sinful. She abhorred card games, smoking, alcohol, and too much laughter. The devil was everywhere, just waiting to lure us to his den of iniquity; it was her job to save as many of us as she could. Grandpa was a goner since he was a total lush loved the drink and couldn’t resist a good game of pinochle. My father was a lost cause, too, especially since he was already dead from killing himself (though I didn’t know it for most of my youth). I often wondered if she still prayed for his soul or she just focused her efforts on the souls she thought could be saved…eventually.

Sinners!

In Grandma’s generation, open communication was shunned unpopular. Children were silent unless spoken to and obedient unless they wanted their butts whooped. Grandma wasn’t the “heart-to-heart” type, so I never learned much about her or what she thought about anything. I deduced her God-Crush from her relentless references to Him and the 87 various Crucifixes scattered around her walls and apparel. She was a woman who paid a lot more attention to the Great Here-After than the Regular Here-Now. Only in my adult years, after I stopped being so mad at her, would I understand why.

As a little girl, the woman plain scared me. I knew she was my grandmother because my mother told me she was. I was polite and quiet, behavior I’m sure she appreciated. If she wasn’t preparing or serving a meal, she was doing something religious, but everything about her was serious—even her rare smile. I always loved leaving her home, feeling a sense of relief that I made it out alive, like Gretel in Grimm’s Fairy Tale.

Yeah. That's how I felt.

When I found out about my father’s suicide (which I blamed on his abuse at the hands his father), I got angry at both Grandpa and Grandma: Grandpa for doing the abusing and Grandma for letting her son be abused while she just kept praying. I got really upset at God and religion, too. Grandma kept quiet, and so did all of my father’s siblings, while my Daddy was physically and emotionally abused. I decided Grandma was the one who kept the lock on the family’s Dirty Secret Closet. When I pried the family closet open just a crack, I found alcoholism, child abuse, and my father’s suicide.

My father’s side of the family, I decided in my teen-mind, were wack-a-doodles. By knowing about my Daddy’s abuse and doing nothing about it, they were all equally at fault for his screw-up life, short as it was. Religion was the shield they hid behind to make themselves feel better, but I, being an omniscient teen, saw right through it. If this was my “family,” it was in name only. I didn’t want anything to do with them. Life is so clear when you’re young and you know it all.

Save your breath. I know it all.

As a result of unofficially disinheriting myself from that side of the family, I didn’t get to know any of them well. Mom, Tina and Lisa were friendly with selected relatives and cordial to everyone. I was the only one who, standing on the platform of moral outrage, distanced myself from all them—but remained polite during the annual family reunions.

During those reunions, most of the adults treated us differently, specially.  I don’t mean “special” like royalty; I mean “special” like we had some kind of a fatal disease or developmental disability. Hugs were too tight; smiles were dripping with pity. It was creepy.

Okay. You. Can. Let. Go. Now. ... Please?

Grandma was the only adult who treated us like nearly everyone else: sinners in need of redemption.  Her religion made her edges sharp and her focus myopic:  “Lord, help me save them from Hell.”  I think she had a plaque in her kitchen that said that. If you wanted to find Grandma, and I don’t know why you would, she was likely praying for your burning soul in Hell, so it was best not to disturb her.

After supper, Grandma had a special ritual. It wasn’t sacrificing a lamb, but it was close.

Curious about this “ritual?” Stay tuned.