Mrs. G. has written many times about her grandmother, a loving, funny, loyal, odd bird kind of broad, a second mother, really. She married Mrs G's grandfather on their first date and they were together for 56 years. When he pulled some bullshit way back in the day with another woman, Mrs. G's grandmother leased out their bedroom to a young newlywed couple and forced him to sleep in his car until the six month lease was up.
Mrs. G. has mentioned before that her grandmother was not a proponent of what we now call Western Medicine. Mrs. G’s grandmother was not a proponent of what we now call Alternative Medicine. Mrs. G’s grandmother, a woman of modest means, was a proponent of what we now call Pipe Dream Medicine—the kind that did not cost more than a four ounce tub of Vicks Vaporub or a jar of yellow mustard.
She also believed she was a licensed physician with a medical degree from the University of I Think Doctors Are Full Of Shit.
She was a confident woman and when she told you to do something, you let nothing but fear and common sense stop you from doing it. Fast.
Mrs. G’s grandmother believed in home remedies, and Mrs. G. was her last generation of guinea pig. So Mrs. G. endured the mustard plaster and the onion poultice. She endured arbitrary spoonfuls of cod-liver oil and Phillip’s Milk of the
devil Magnesia. She endured…well, you get the idea, she just endured. The first day of a sore throat demanded round-the-clock gargling with salt water. The second day of a sore throat demanded tonsils being painted with liquid mercury red Mercurochrome. The third day of a sore throat demanded swallowing a substantial dollop of Mentholatum. The fourth day of a sore throat demanded a mild cussing out, because, clearly, you, the afflicted, were at fault and not following her exclusive, unwavering and tirelessly recited Hippocratic Oath: MIND OVER MATTER!
Oh, and just so you know, menstrual cramps are nonexistent and for the weak.
MIND OVER MATTER!
Mrs. G. would persuasively cry and carry on during each of these iron-handed (but mainly innocuous) procedures for survival purposes only, because another of Mrs. G’s grandmother’s medical convictions was that the level of pain was directly proportional to the level of cure. If it didn't hurt, it didn't heal. Hysterics were required.
Mrs. G. begged her mother for orange baby aspirin or grape Robitussun—for First-Do-No-Harm mercy, but Mrs. G’s mother just shrugged it off and told Mrs. G. to count her lucky stars that she had not been forced to endure her grandmother’s chief, front office miracle cure: the enema. Apparently, back in the early days of Mrs. G’s grandmother’s medical residency, also known as Mrs. G’s mother’s childhood, Mrs. G’s grandmother believed an enema was akin to the polio vaccine in its curative properties, and she administered them liberally. Mrs. G’s aunt has confirmed the horror.
Mrs. G's grandmother did not trust telephones, grocery store clerks, or the post office. She despised all politicians besides FDR and Jimmy Carter. She was not friendly to many people outside the family, a nearly impenetrable, private person unless it was your privacy that required penetrating. She was less into Neighborhood Watch and more into Neighborhood Stalk. If anything was going down on West Lakeland Drive, it would not be on her beat. Her two greatest passions were Murder She Wrote and the Memphis State Tigers. Mrs. G's grandmother rarely held her tongue about anything at social gatherings and believed if you consumed alcohol more than zero times a year, you were a full-fledged alcoholic. She was judgmental and sometimes difficult to be around. Her favorite candy was Aplets & Cotletts (which she hid on the top shelf of the linen closet) and if you begged, pleaded and promised to never shave above your knees, she might, might share a piece or two with you.
Mrs. G's grandmother loved Christmas. Let's just say it was her Secret Boyfriend. She spent months sewing felt snowmen and sparkly sequins onto stockings, crocheting red and green toilet paper roll covers and saving her sheets and sheets of green stamps to trade in for a porcelain sheep, camel or surplus Baby Jesus to add to her colossal Nativity Scene.
In 1973, flocked Christmas trees were all the rage. Despite Mrs. G's Grandfather's and Uncle Hugh's urging, no pleading, that she just go and buy one of these trees off the lot, Mrs. G's grandmother insisted that she could flock her own for half the price. So she filled her Electrolux vacuum cleaner canister with white
asbestos chemical snow and switched the vacuum hose around so that rather than sucking in, it blew out. She flocked her tree, for sure, but in her spirited holiday-induced hysteria and her inability to limit the vacuum's lawless spray, she also flocked most of the den. By the time she was finished, it looked like there had been some sort of radioactive fallout of miniature marshmallows and synthetic dandruff. The whole house smelled strangely of Tupperware. It was sensational.
Today marks the 17th year since Mrs. G's grandmother died. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor, given six weeks to live and died in two. She wasn't a procrastinator.
It is not a sad day for Mrs. G, not at all. It's a day centered around memories of a woman Mrs. G. loved with all of her beating heart.
Tired, Mrs. G. hit the sack tonight at 8pm tonight and slept soundly until her eyes popped open at 1:16am. She lay in bed, hoping to drift off but found herself thinking once more of this woman who gave her so much.
Mrs. G. periodically lived months at her grandparents' house, a house that embodied unconditional love, security, respect, clean cotton sheets and three squares a day.
The memory Mrs. G. is sitting with in this wee hour of the night is when her grandmother would crawl into Mrs. G's bed, smelling of Pond's Cold Cream and, her prophylactic antibiotic of choice, Vicks Vaporub, and tell Mrs. G. homemade stories, various riffs on brave, tiny fairies who hid in the oak and magnolia trees in her grandparents' backyard. The fairies wore silky skirts of butterfly wings and bathed in acorn caps. They slept in downy birds' nests and rode fireflies from tree to tree. These were gutsy fairies and not surprisingly, given Mrs. G's grandmother's straight-laced nature, asexual. If there were any boy fairies flitting around the neighborhood, they did not dare cross Mrs. G's grandmother's property line. So the two of them would snuggle up, hold hands and fully inhabit the moment, their moment. When Mrs. G's grandmother slipped out of Mrs. G's bed to go to her own, they would spend a moment or two whispering about possible scenarios of what the fairies would do the next night and the night after that.
Be good to children and they will never forget you.
Remembering you tonight, Mamaw.