Last weekend I headed back to my hometown to attend a wake. My brother-in-law’s mother had passed away and my aunt Sheila was kind enough to pick me up. We both had my grandmother on our minds who had died over 10 years ago.
I have to say Sheila is hands down my favorite among my mom’s five sisters. She’s fun to hang out with, and each time we get an extended period of time alone together, she’ll offer up some dirt from the past if I’m in the mood. I think I have white-washed a few of my childhood memories, and I can count on Sheila to set the record straight.
On Sunday, Sheila was telling me how she used to babysit me and my sister (brother Chad hadn’t come along yet) when my single mom went out on the town.
“Yeah, your mom, and Laurie, Rita (other aunts) and grandma used to go to Al Murdochs.”
“Wait a minute, grandma used to barhop?”
“Yeah,” Sheila said, looking at me like I was the dumbest person on earth. “How do you think she met her boyfriends?”
Boyfriends? Holy shit! I was stunned. I was too small to remember Leo Sloane, Ralph Cummings, Walter Kiefel, and Ray Whatshisnameski, she said.
When I got my mom alone later that night, I wanted to confirm Sheila’s story.
“Uh, Sheila says Grandma Marilyn was a barfly.”
My mom, unlike her sister, doesn’t share much about the past. Probably because she was a central character in many of these adventures. “All I’m going to say is that your grandmother was no June Cleaver.”
So it turns out that my twice-divorced Grandma had quite a social life up until the late 70s. She was an attractive, tall red head who could fill out a sweater. And she was single, so why not I guess?
The grandma I remember, the one I liked before she got a little too bitter for my tastes, let me drink coffee at like age 7, turned me on to PBS and current events, was smart, artistic, bitchy in a funny way, and hated Republicans. When I use to kick her ass at gin rummy she would throw her cards down on the table and yell, “GOD DAMMIT ANGIE!” and storm away from the table. Or she would mock my little-girl voice and say, "geeeeeeinnnnn!" I used to think she was just a shitty card player and a poor sport. But now I guess she was just hungover.
Maybe I’ll contact the History Detectives from PBS to see if they can find out more about this mystery woman.
I can see it now. They’ll come knocking at my door, and tell me:
“We unearthed this 1971 bar tab of your grandmothers,” they’ll say excitedly. “We think, it’s not conclusive however, that she drank all of this by herself. She might have been that rockstar you think she was.”