Grandparents

La Grand Mere. We, in the family, knew no other name for her. Not Grandmother. Not Grandma as in Grandma got run over by a reindeer. Not Granmama. Not Granny. Not Nana. All those names were fine for the grandmothers of other people. It was Le Gran Mere for our grandmother.

You would think she was off-putting with a name like that. She wasn’t. She was the warmest of human beings. When she smiled, that smile could fill a room with its warmth. Now our grandfather, Grumps as we called him, was not like that. He was one sour puss of a human being.

I’m here to tell you that no one knew how those two ended up together. No one. When we asked La Grand Mere, she said, “Ask your grandfather.” When we asked Grumps, he just grunted and returned to what he was doing.

It became a joke in the family. Our parents made up stories. Our grandparents on my mother’s side made up stories. My wife’s stepmother and her stepson had a story. My best friend Jed and his stepfather and his stepbrother offered even more stories. I am here to tell you no one in the family knew the truth of the matter.

But the ones with the best story were our twins. One day they came into the kitchen and said, “We know why La Grand Mere and Grumps are together.” They had mischievous smiles on their faces.

“Why?” my wife asked for me as well as for herself.

They sang, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”

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Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: Little Boy Lost

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Movie is “Lion” (2016):

Trailer for the movie “Lion”.

What if you had gotten separated from your family when you were five years old? That is what happened to Saroo, the hero of “Lion”. Saroo lived in  Khandwa, India with his mother, Kamla Munshi; his older brother, Giddu; and his younger sister, Shekila. They are poor. His mother, abandoned by her husband, works construction to support her three children. Saroo and Giddu steal coal off the trains for extra money for milk and food.

Giddu has work that will take him away from the family for several days. Saroo insists that he be taken to work too. Finally Giddu agrees. The two catch a train to a different town. It is night and Saroo is sleepy. So Giddu leaves him at the station, saying he will return soon. He does not return.

Saroo spends the next few years, wandering, until one day he ends up in an orphanage in Calcutta. He is adopted by an Australian couple, living on the Island of Tasmania.

Twenty-one years later, Saroo has flashbacks of his mother, his brother, his sister. The loss of his family drives him to find them again. Until he finds them, he will continue to be a little boy lost.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: Dad

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. To celebrate this Sunday’s Father’s Day, this week’s Spotlight Movie is “Dad” (1989):

I never knew my father. My mother took me and left my father when I was six months old. She left him because she was working her fingers to the bone and my father would not work. I jokingly accuse my father of being the laziest man in the State of Alabama. So I always carried this burden around with me that he wasn’t there.

Now the story I heard was that my mother wouldn’t let him contact me when I was growing up. Then I became an adult and he could have made the effort. But he did not.

When I was younger, I got angry every time I thought about him. I’ve gotten over that. I have forgiven him. That’s his burden, not mine.

If I had a Dad, what would he have been like? I would hope he was like Jake Tremont (Jack Lemmon) who was a man with a heart as large as the great outdoors. A man who loved his family, and loved them so much he gave his life for his family. He did it with nary a complaint.

Now I know there are a lot worse fathers than a Jake Tremont. But I also know that a boy needs a father and mine was Missing In Action. And, on Father’s Day each year, I find myself missing the man more and more.

There are those who believe that a child doesn’t need a father. To me, that’s a lot of hogwash.

For all of you who had great Dads, I hope you really really appreciate the love they gave you and the role model they were for you. Because I am thinking that there are a lot more great Dads than there are lousy fathers.

For all those great Dads, here is a song to remind you what you mean to your children:

 

 

Uncle Bardie’s Coming to Town

It was the night before Christmas.
All through the house there wasn’t a sound.
Even the baby was not peeping a peep.
For Uncle Bardie was coming to town.
He sped up to the front of the house
In his red fifty-seven Cadillac.
He gave out a shout the size of a roar.
We were under an Uncle Bardie attack.
“I have an offer you cannot refuse.
If you don’t let Uncle Bardie come in,
I’ll huff and puff and blow your house down,”
He said, giving us all his devilish grin.
As we trembled in our booties, on he went,
“I know you were hoping for Santa.
He can’t make it on account of delays
In Chicago, Topeka and Atlanta.”
With that, he gave the front door a big blow.
In he stormed like a blizzard from the north.
To get out of his way, the family walked back
One step, two steps, three steps, and a fourth.
Dad in his pajamas, Mom in her robe,
I in my p.j.s with a cap on my noggin’
Glad Baby was upstairs to miss the horrors
Of Uncle Bardie through the house a-sloggin’.
He hurried over to the tree in the corner
Lit up for Christmas Christmasy and green,
Smashing gifts like Thor with his hammer
Ripping open stockings like the grinchiest fiend.
Mom was all upset and out of her mind
With Uncle Bardie’s grunts and his groans
Though she dared not move even a pinch.
As the house gave off its very deep moans.
Finally her courage rose up from her toes
When U B found the stuff he was going for.
She sprinted across the room ever so fast.
It was quite a sight to see Mom going to war.
She snatched Santa’s cookies out of his hands
Before he stuffed them into his very big mouth.
“No you don’t,” she said with a rage second to none.
Her foot gave him a smash in the very deep south.
As he rolled out of the house and onto the lawn,
She said in a voice that would make the devil shake,
“Those are Santa’s and you’d better leave them alone.”
Uncle Bardie had been hit with an earthquake
He would never forget in all the years to come.
“If that’s the way you feel, I’m gone like a light
There’ll be no gifts from your Uncle Bardie.
So merry Christmas and a very good night.”
Well, the earth it quivered and the snow did too
As he got back into his bright red Cadillac
And he flew off to other parts of the family
Soon to be under an Uncle Bardie attack.

Half breed

I am a half breed and it’s only recently that I realized it. What do I mean ‘halfbreed”? I mean that I have one foot in one world and the other in another world. It was Rick Bragg’s “The Prince of Frogtown” that brought me that revelation, thank you very much.

You see, Rick Bragg hails from the same corner of Northern Alabama that I do. And many of the same kind of kin that make up one world. Blue collar folks who worked in the cotton mills and the steel mills, the garages and in the cotton fields and on the farms of that patch of earth. Hard working, good hearted, quick tempered, hard drinking, plain-speaking, deep-in-the-heart-of-the-South people who would give the shirt off their backs if you needed it.

Folks who are saved by the Blood of Jesus kind of people. People who work with their hands and not their minds. People who dig their hands in the dirt and come up empty way too often and who are without two dimes to rub together way too much. Folks who are as common as dirt and damned proud of it. People who take pride in their great granddaddy and spend much time looking backward into the past as if it was sacred. People who believe the South didn’t lose the War. Appomattox was only a truce. People who are deeply patriotic and won’t allow nobody to say a mean thing about these United States within their ear shot, but don’t believe the government is worth a damn thing. People who are described in the song “I am a Way Faring Pilgrim” and who have a natural poetry about them if you look deep.

It is from this side of the mountain that I take my love of a good story and have a y’all vernacular. It is from these folk that I first came to love the Bible and its stories and its language, much like Eudora Welty describes in her memoir “One Writer’s Beginnings”. It’s from this side of the mountain that I have seen how hard life can be for the least of God’s children. It is from these folks that I acquired my sense of justice. And the belief that if Jesus was around he’d be on the working folk side of things.

Then there’s the other foot that seems to have very little in common with the first foot. It is a world where creativity and the mind matters. Where education matters and where there’s a whole big world out there to love and to see. The future is all filled with hope. It is a world where the government is a part of the solution. It is a world where science matters. It is a world of literature and art and music, not just country and gospel, but jazz and classical and rock and roll, and it’s a world of dance and theater.

Most of my life I have made my best effort to escape the first world and move completely into the second. It’s been a long, hard struggle. But there’s no fighting it. I am beginning to understand that both worlds make up the who I am. Somehow I think that this was much of the struggle D. H. Lawrence went through. He would always have that coal dust in his bones and there was never any getting away from it.

So my job is to bring these two halves together and make them into one whole, unique human being. Can I do it? I don’t think it’s done overnight and who knows the work may never be complete. But here’s to trying.

Have you ever felt you were apart of two different worlds?