For the purposes of this week’s story, I’m simply going to state that although she was a well-meaning very nice woman, my Grandma Sara was a bit of an odd bird. I mean… I certainly could elaborate and list a few dozen examples that would illustrate she was loopier than a mountain road, nuttier than a Planters processing plant and wackier than a Laugh-In rerun. But I guess now that I have said all that, it would be a bit like beating a dead horse.
Oh… Sorry… I was not meaning to in any way, shape or form imply that my dear departed Grandmother was equine-like nor was I saying she was of flying feathered endothermic vertebrate decent like an incessant parrot. No that would be distasteful and arguably not quite accurate. Now I did, in fact, use the word ‘was’ on purpose to not so subtly say that she currently is a ‘was’. Meaning that she is in fact, dead, passed on, no more, ceased to be, gone to meet her maker, bereft of life, kicked the bucket, shuffled off her Mortal coil, bid adieu to life… (Hmmmm, where have I heard that before?)
Please please, please, do not think I am callous or speaking ill of good ole’ Grammy. Again, let me make things as clear as an operatic Viking singing his love for Spam, eccentric Grandma Sara was a very sweet well-meaning soul. Why, after a visit she would always send us little grand-kids home to Mom with a big bag full of special treats like a piece of fruit, cans of salmon and jars of wheat germ (nope, can’t make stuff like that up). She also really liked telling us stories. Yes, she had the gift for gab.and we were a trapped audience. She could really talk… and talk… and once she got going it was quite hard to stop her. She used to lecture us for hours about things like why we should wash our hands a couple a thousand times a day or why we should only watch Channel 13 Public Broadcasting.
In New York during the mid 1970’s, channel 13 not only showed Masterpiece Theatre and Sesame Street but was also the only place you could see Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which my siblings and I watched fairly religiously (certainly more religiously than we followed religion). To this day we still hide packages of Spam (but not Vikings) in each other’s houses as loose gag even more loosely based on the Monty Python Spam song. As a little kid, Python made quite the obvious impression on me; I had never before seen such edgy tasteless humor like the Dead Parrot Sketch about a pet shop that sold a less than living bird nailed to its perch or the Undertaker Skit about a crass funeral home worker that suggests cannibalism.
One night while we were watching Monty Python my Grandmother called in a tizzy to make sure we were NOT following her directions and were NOT looking at PBS because they were showing the “strangest things” that she could not even describe. The image of our staid, old-fashioned slightly confused Grandma Sara watching her precious PBS expecting something docile and instead seeing the outrageous bawdiness of the Pythons is still an image that makes me laugh now as much as it did when it happened 45 years ago. Grandma has been gone for decades (crackle crackle crackle) but I still think of her pretty much every time I see Monty Python… or when I see canned salmon… or wheat germ.
An old friend once told me that even 30 years later, not a day goes by that something does not trigger a memory of her deceased Mother. I am so much of a control freak that I do not even like dreams because I can’t control them. I compartmentalize things in my brain and like to regulate when certain thoughts creep in. Not that it bothers me when a funny thought of Grandma Sara pops in my head while watching a skit about a Dead Parrot, but it always seems to catch me off guard.
This past week I went to a little club to see a concert with John Sebastian, the now rather old (but definitely not yet as dead as the Python parrot or the sacked Mother in the Undertaker Skit) leader of the 1960s folk/rock band The Loving Spoonful. Even though I was about 7 years old when that band broke up, I was still a fan. I purchased their greatest hits album with allowance money when I was in Junior High School not long after I moved to Miami.
At the show, I unexpectedly kept thinking of my brother Neil. I had forgotten that I first got hooked on the band from listening to his album. I sat there clearly remembering the record cover and the inside gate-fold pictures from Neil’s Loving Spoonful record even though its been many decades since I last saw it. I really wanted to tell Neil about the show but that might be hard since unfortunately his ashes are currently just a few inches away from Grandma Sara’s in a cemetery columbarium.
At his funeral a couple of years ago, through the obvious sorrow, my siblings and I exchanged a few morbid gallows humor Monty Python-like tasteless jokes. I guess that’s what we’ve always done. Back at the concert, during one of the songs that I’ve known by heart since I was a little boy, I held my beverage up to toast no one in particular and thanked Neil. Then my mind wandered farther than I expected. I wondered if it was too inappropriate to leave a can of Spam at the cemetery… and maybe also can of salmon… and some wheat germ.