My maternal grandfather was a strange and stubborn chap. Working for the IRS is the only job I’ve ever heard of him having, but I’m sure he started working at an early age. There’s no kid’s lemonade stand for that position (though it is clearly organized in a superior manner to many of our political bodies and branches and stuff that people argue about, which is kind of like arguing about whether you’d rather be bullwhipped with a horsewhip or horsewhipped with a bullwhip.) I am told he was one of the agents that helped put Joe Conforte in prison. He also liked to have a wee nip here and there—like vodka when he woke up (on his days off) through to dinner, followed by Kahlúa, which he inevitably spilled on himself as he nodded off. And stubborn! Oh man! There are drunken boulders with more flexibility.
I spent a good deal of time with my grandparents because my mom was working full-time and finishing her Master’s Degree. My grandfather would let me stay up late and he’d beat me at Chess (sometimes I could pull off a victory if he was cover-one-eye-while-you-drive drunk), or I’d sit and do the things that uncoordinated, awkward only-children do, like draw monsters or read fantasy, while he drank, usually in silence. He’d open up a bit once he was pretty well sauced. He had this catalog of CIA or FBI gadgets, like camera pens and poison napkins, but the real deal, and to a kid, well a boy anyway, that ranks right up there with Chuck Norris (which is awesome—to a kid). I remember him telling me, while I paged through that James Bond SkyMall, never to tell people he was in the IRS. He said everybody hated the IRS, and that I should lie and say he was in the CIA or FBI. At that age (before things like marriage), I didn’t know why anybody would hate anyone not related to them, but I always chuckle a little now when I think about his comment.
In the interest of not filling your time with six pages of details about a person you can’t meet and don’t care about, I’ll illustrate his memorable personality through a quick series of flashbacks:
My mom forced me to take violin lessons, and because my grandpa either thought violins were for sissies or because he was bored, he called my mom every fifteen minutes to tell her to let me quit. Interestingly, my mom didn’t give in, but she did go a little more crazy.
I had a mullet in high school (and a kind of morbidly obese Mohawk later on), and he said he’d call me Jennifer until I cut my long hair. He eventually tired of that name after six months or a year.
I almost punched him in the face once (we were both drunk) because he was chasing me around the house at Christmas with a pair of long scissors, threatening to cut off the suspenders I wore hanging down to my knees, rendering them useless as all high fashion. In retrospect, I should’ve let him.
He was asked by his ultra-religious mother-in-law to say grace at yet another drunken family meal (holidays were a riot, sometimes literally), and in front of twenty or twenty-five people he says something like, “Thanks for the food, Jesus,” but added the F-word to spice up the common noun some. I was young, eight maybe, and although I can barely remember what happened last week, I still recall perfectly the shade of red my great-grandmother (in-law?) produced with her mixture of loathing, disbelief, and indignation before All Mighty God. She might’ve even been a little scared, who knows? No one laughed; it was a gruesomely rude thing to do, almost as rude as expecting someone to suddenly participate in your religion. For the record, I would’ve just said grace, however that goes. I think my uncles all thought it was funny. I know I did.