Tradition

09/26/2016 § Leave a comment

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Me and my grandmother. Not really, only the old lady is anywhere near to being accurate.

Today is my paternal grandmother’s birthday

I’m really sorry I didn’t get to know her better. As well as giving me better insight into my horrible father (even she had some bad words to say about him) she was a complete enigma.

She was born here, in the United States, in Alabama, where she raised my father, amid a miasma of 1930’s racism, jim crow, a fantastic repertoire of Irish and Bluegrass standards, and depression-era common sense.

Let me first describe this bizarre, lovely, and yes, unpleasant, woman.

She claimed to drink a quart of moonshine (plus more, on occasion) a week, moonshine that she made herself, and had made since she was “a weedling”. She smoked a pipe or more a day of Virgina Burley, never that “Turkish Shit”, and chewed the stuff as well. No, I never kissed her, if I could help it. And the south would never die, if she could help it; although she was extremely upset when Dr, King was executed in Memphis in 1968, saying to her deathbed “those no good Tennesseans…” which of course caused no little amount of conversation at family gatherings south of the Mason-Dixon line.

This story was of great confusion to me all my life and to this day as I absolutely recall my father shaking in fury during news casts of the Kent State shootings, yet lecturing me to “watch out” for Negroes.

They’ll take your wallet.” he’d tell me out of the corner of his mouth.

As he lectured me on the darkness that wafted about black people he was kicking my mother’s ass. Physically. Just because that’s what he wanted to do. I guess.

Although of completely average means, appearance, and manner, my grandmother was a fantastic bluegrass musician. She was a virtuoso pianist, violinist, guitarist, banjo virtuoso, and Jew harpist. I mean. fantastic. She was incredible, and could hurl out bluegrass standards with the best of them. Why she never was invited to the Grand Ol Oprey, or any of those other outlets of the time is beyond me. She could recite or play by tune any of the old bluegrass standards, as well as a few Irish ones. Danny Boy was of course a favorite of hers. I was once treated to a live version of Dueling Banjos between her and my high school friend Andrew who was learning guitar at the time. In deliverence style they battled together, doing great justice to that standard, and just like Jon Voight my friend got completely bulldozed by my grandmother and her banjo. She was incredible.

She lived to be 99. How do people do that? Live like lunatics, against all known common sense, and live life to the fullest until they die?

I am led to understand that she was fully able to care for herself until she died of an embolism at 99. I certainly don’t agree with her politics, but I’m not exactly sure I disagree with her means of exiting this world. Not in the slightest.

She wasn’t an evil person, I would disagree with that. But on the other hand, not exactly the most righteous. Where was God in this? Taking a break?

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