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Tales of a Post-Grad Nothing

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Yesterday was my grandmother's 85th birthday, which I wouldn't even mention if she wasn't the kind of lady who could get away with signing the phrase "total badass" after her name. My grandmother is hands-down, the greatest storyteller on Earth, mainly because you don't know if the story is going to be absolutely mundane or pure punk rock until the very end. Mama J, as she is known around the family, will spend 40 minutes building up a tale about someone she is convinced you know, only to have it stop without an ending at all or with something shocking like "too bad he later killed his wife with a hammer." (seriously, she once told me a story that started about sewing things for soldiers during WWII and ended with that line.) Blue-balled or dumbfounded, that's just how she leaves you.

Mama J. is a classy mix of southern charm and cold, scathing, Jesus-Christ-on-a-bike-why-did-I-spend-my-weekend-visiting-you honesty. She's not afraid to tell you things like "you used to be attractive" and "it's a good thing you're smart, you'd have a hella time otherwise," in the same breath as she explains what a good person you are deep down...you know, beneath that face of yours that makes amputeed lepers grimace.

The grandmother loves family chats, sweet tea, home cookin, country music, Dairy Queen, Bill O'Reilly, card games, Kahlua, and talkin trash. She'll even tell you when you've gone and stepped in the No Spin Zone, but she's civilized enough not to cut your mic. If you put on a George Jones record, she'll dance with you in her living room for hours or sit with you at the piano picking out tunes from her childhood. These two things are the best memories I have of her and when I think of her small house in rural VA, the soundtrack of Hank Williams and Conway Twitty inevitably come to my ears.

She's old and wrinkled and like everything else, she wears these things with pride and grace. Here's to you Mama J. May we all be so lucky.


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