My family is one strange clown-car full of oddballs. There’s my cousin Richie, the tinfoil-hat conspiracy libertarian, and my Uncle Bill, whose greatest joy is mowing his large yard. My Aunt Dona has a houseful of Dachshunds she’s fostering. My father chews tobacco and carries a gun (but he bakes such pretty coconut cream pies!). At least two people a few generations back in the family tree have been murdered, including, my mother told me this weekend, a woman who was dismembered by her uncle about a century ago.
We all have our stories, and these folks each have character, but my Grandma Bonnie is our family’s answer to Joe Biden–a perpetually quotable, perpetually foot-in-mouth person who is both easy to love and easy to laugh at, often for the same reasons. Her heart is unmistakably on her sleeve.
She married my grandfather when she was 16, and both of her children were born before her 18th birthday. She cut hair, waited tables, and ran a motel to make ends meet. By the time I was born, she was 37. People often assumed she was my mother, perhaps because she was forever addressing me as you little shit.
Her basement is filled with collectible toys my kids can’t touch and a veritable museum of Aunt Jemima dolls from the pre-civil rights era. (Taking a three year old or Spike Lee downstairs in her house would likely result in violence.) She is a flea market person with a good eye for bargains, quality, and uncomfortable minstrel-era cookie jars.
She has been the victim of identity theft, harassing phone calls, and small town political power-plays. She has met both Hulk Hogan and Ben Vereen. Through it all, she has held steadfastly to her guiding principle that the world holds only two kinds of people–hillbillies and sons-of-bitches. (Grandma is defiantly the former in a world increasingly filled with the latter.)
This weekend, I realized just how important she is in my concept of Home. Usually, when we visit my family, we stay with my grandparents, and I end up watching movies like American History X with Grandma and talking with her until one in the morning. But she winters in Florida, and her absence was apparent within an hour of our arrival when Kristy and I found ourselves sitting alone, playing on our phones and wondering just how the hell we were going to fill this three day weekend without her.
Grandma Bonnie doesn’t read my blog. It disappoints her to see her grandson saying fuck and talking publicly about sex. But, Grandma, on the off chance you did read this, we love you and we want you to come home. The hillbilly/son-of-a-bitch ratio just isn’t right without you.