I can still remember the lipstick stains on the cigarette butts. She was beautiful. Her make-up was always perfect, her hair curled, and her nails were always polished. She was my very feisty, crude, chain-smoking grandmother – my mother’s mother.
There was no stop sign between the thoughts in her head and her tongue. If she thought it, she said it, and let the hair go with the hide. She was the queen of the backhanded compliment.
She’d been through hell in her lifetime, I suppose. Her first husband beat the hell out of her on the regular. She divorced him and later married my granddad. He was a salesman and a fall down drunk. And funny and kind. He let us jump on her couch when she wasn’t there which got us all into trouble.
For some reason, I’m guessing because she loved him, she stayed with him. Or maybe it’s because she’d already been divorced once and didn’t want another under her belt. This was the good old days when such things were shameful. He never laid a hand on her, so maybe she thought that was as good as it got. At least she wasn’t having a near death experience every day.
I can’t remember if he lost his license because of his drinking or if she took his keys so he couldn’t drive drunk. She worked two and sometimes three jobs waitressing to pay the bills. I don’t think she could count on grandpa for that. She worked at a restaurant just down the street from their house and he’d show up on the riding mower, embarrassing her I’m sure, for a cup of joe to sober up.
She never went to church that I know of and I’m not sure of her beliefs. She was pretty cynical about church in general.
When she was in her seventies she was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. My aunt talked her into undergoing chemotherapy treatments to prolong her life a little. She’d already lost her best friend(my mother) and couldn’t bear the thought of losing grandma. So grandma relented and took the treatments. That landed her in the hospital a fair few times with pneumonia and other chemo-related illnesses.
While I was there at the hospital for a visit one day a man of the cloth came by and asked if he could pray with her. I’ll never forget what she said.
“Hell no! You have never darkened the door of my house. You didn’t give a good goddamn about me when I was in good health, don’t come around here when I’m dying wanting to pray with me. Get out! Don’t let the doorknob hit you where the good lord split you!”
He left to the sounds of her murmuring the like. After I picked my jaw up off the floor I asked why the man couldn’t just pray with her.
“God nor him ever did anything for me in this life. I’m for damn sure not expecting anything now!”