They Say the Darndest Things!

I’ve decided that I am no fun any more and that I need to take a respite and leave the world to resolve its own problems. So for today, there will be no writing about politics, famines, genocide, bigotry, and the dozens of other horrors that fill the headlines. Instead, I will write about a topic that I haven’t addressed in quite some time–family.

My day began with a wake up call from my mother. No, I didn’t leave a request that she wake me, she just took it upon herself to do so.

Me: “Hello,” (sort of mumbled).

Mama, brightly, “Were you asleep? Did I wake you?”

Before responding, I try to focus my eyes on the bedside clock to determine what time it is. Oops, it’s 11:00 AM. “No, I’m not asleep, I’ve been up for hours.”

“Well you sound as if you’re just waking up.”

“Must be my sinuses,” I say and follow up with a couple of delicate coughs.

As I work on fully rousing myself from slumberland, my mother continues to cheerfully chat about what a beautiful day it is but I don’t really follow what she is saying because I’ve awakened with a full bladder. I have a cordless phone, but it’s in the kitchen and I’m in the bedroom, tethered to my landline phone. I debate whether she will suspect that I really wasn’t awake when she called if I announce that I have to put down the phone for an immediate trip to the bathroom. See, if I had really been awake, would I have been sitting around filled to the brim to the extent that within five minutes of answering the phone I had to go relieve myself? So I squeeze my knees together and try to concentrate on the conversation.

“I just wanted to tell you that Michael N. died this week.”

Michael who? The name is vaguely familiar but I’m not certain why I have a particular reason to care that he’s dead. I mean I hold to John Donne’s “the death of any man diminishes me” philosophy, but I don’t remember this man! Me:”How did he die?”

“I don’t know. His funeral was yesterday.”

Okay, he’s dead, she’s told me, now what?

“I talked to your Aunt Nellie Ruth for more than an hour this morning and she said to tell you hello.”

Morning! It’s still morning, what time do you get up to be having hour long conversations before eleven?

My mother and her sister are both in their seventies. They are entertaining individually but together, they are ready for Saturday Night Live or Def Comedy Jam. My sister often questions my sanity because whenever I visit my parents, I allow my mother to talk me into visiting Aunt Nellie Ruth. I don’t think my sister has forgiven our aunt for having designs on her husband.

A few years ago, we were having Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ home, when my aunt announced that she had dreamed that her deceased husband, Turner, was standing in her bedroom. My father, who should have known better, inquired, “So Nellie, what do you think Turner wanted?”

“He looked like he wanted to,” pause for effect, “have sex.” Without missing a beat my mother responded, “With whom?”

My aunt then proceeded to explain that she was still a fine looking woman and that she could have any man that she wanted. She then gave my brother-in-law the eye, turned to my sister and announced, “I could have your man if I wanted him.” I don’t know what was said after that as I had to leave the dining table to get a cloth to clean up the iced tea that I sputtered all over my plate. Never laugh when you have a beverage in your mouth.

Aunt Nellie Ruth is actually a very proper lady; she never shows her bosom. She always tucks a scarf into the neckline of any dress that she fears may reveal her bosom. Actually, she refers to it in the plural, as in, “my bosoms.” She has a yellow chiffon yard sale find that she wears a t-shirt under so as not to drive men wild with a glimpse of her bosoms.

I witnessed my favorite exchange between my mother and her older sister a couple of summers ago. I accompanied my mother to my aunt’s home where she was sitting on the front porch. It was August; it was hot; and my aunt was sitting on her front porch with a paper fan and a fly swatter. Aunt Nellie Ruth isn’t fond of air conditioning; she says it makes her joints hurt. Mama and I joined her on the porch and we were all making small talk, when a huge old beige Cadillac with shiny tail fins pulled up and parked in front of the apartment next door. The elderly driver took ten minutes to extricate himself from behind the wheel, nodded good day at us, and slowly shuffled into his home.

As soon as he closed the door, my aunt spoke up,”He ought to be shamed of himself, carrying on like that at his age.”

My mother swatted at a fly with a rolled up magazine and gave her sister a puzzled look, “Ruth,” my mother calls her by one name, either Nellie or Ruth, when she feels that it may be necessary to chastise my aunt in some way, “what are you talking about?”

“He’s been ’round to his girlfriend’s house, laying up in there with her all weekend. It’s just acting common; they don’t even try to hide it.”

I paused in my fanning and perked up at this allusion to sex among the elderly. My mother sniffed dismissively, “Ruth that man is over 80 years old and he can’t even stand up straight, let alone have sex with anyone.”

“He could be having oral sex.”

With another emphatic sniff, my mother opined, “He doesn’t have enough breath to have oral sex.”

The water that I was drinking went down the wrong way and I was racked with coughing spasms that were so distracting that my aunt neglected to make a follow up response. I vowed to stop drinking any liquids when I was in her presence.

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2 responses to “They Say the Darndest Things!

  1. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    It’s been a tedious couple of days here at work and I needed the momentary escape that your post brought me. As I read it (twice), there was a parade of images in my head – those evoked by your words, and those of my own elderly relatives. I am grateful for the visit with both. My family included such characters as Aunts Sunshine and Larlou, along with Uncle Homer of the ‘coke bottle’ eyeglasses and Uncle Pete whose outhouse came complete with a dual duty Sears catalog. Then there’s my great-grandmother and her patent medicines and shotgun and Miss Minnie whose voice was forever altered by drinking lye as a jilted young lover, yet who scandalized the neighbors sixty years later by living with a man.

    Childhood memories from the rural South.

    Thank you. And yes. After the first near miss with ‘bosoms’, I put my coffee cup down while reading.

  2. Yeah, sometimes it’s good not to take on all the world’s problems! Hey, thanks for dropping by my site 🙂

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