Tuesday, March 19, 2013

It's Alright Have a Good Time (The Impressions)

Yesterday I found out my grandma, my beloved Nunni, had died. It was a shock, totally unexpected. My grandma was quite diabetic but never listened to doctors. It wasn't because she didn't care. She figured she was eighty-eight and wanted her damn candy. My mother tried to get her to go to doctors appointments and she would just cancel. Hey, there was a sale at the mall and there was an All You Can Eat Senior Special at Ean 'n' Park. My grandmother had other plans. She had raised six kids, lived through World War II and Civil Rights, oh and while we are there my grandmother also worked as a nurse and earned a teaching degree after her kids were grown. She figured she could do what she wanted. Personally, I think she was correct.

When I was a kid my grandmother got into a car accident. She had injured her head and they put her in a mental hospital. My grandfather almost died from a fatal blood clot. The backstory was that my grandmother had been doing her yearly role as the grandmother in the local Nutcracker when they were pulling out of the parking lot, someone wasn't looking and BAM! She was doing well in the hospital until they gave her the test. Due to the accident she had developed amnesia a la soap opera. Anyway she was regaining her memory until they made her do simple math as part of the discharge test. My grandmother failed the math test. They wanted to commit her because of what they viewed as long term brain damage. My mother, at the end of her rope said, "My mother is fine, she has the rest of her memory. Head injury or not, she was always terrible at math." And somehow, they got her discharged.

Yes she was terrible at math. I am too and so is my mother. My grandmother was the worst out of the three of us. Anyway, when my grandmother was trying to earn her bachelors in teaching they made her take a math class. The teacher was mean and nasty and there was no way my grandmother was passing. So she did what any desperate student would do. She started bringing the teacher candy. Well it didn't sway him one bit. Maybe he didn't like M & M's, I dunno. So my grandmother's GPA looked to be in peril and once again my mother had to step in. My mom met with her old college adviser who discovered my grandmother didn't need the math class after all and my grandmother was able to graduate. But still, the guy didn't pass her for all the candy she gave him which means he sucks as a person. Even politicos take bribes.

The thing about my grandmother is that she always had some sort of job. After retiring from nursing, teaching, and having six grown kids she took a job as a security guard at Walmart. Instantly, my grandmother was beloved and talked to just about everyone. My grandmother became so popular that they were making a local television commercial and they stuck her right in it. The actors painstakingly learned their lines but my grandmother stole the show on the merit of her personality. Needless to say, I think everyone was speechless. This lead to her being an extra in several films, one in which we say we could see her head.

But this job enabled my grandmother to make new friends, and instantly after befriending these people she would bring them to familial functions. We used to joke that grandma would say, "This is Bob. He used to be a convict but now he's a fugitive."

During one encounter we were having a Sunday lunch when we heard talking downstairs. Fearful we had burglars, my dad made the motion to get the shotgun he kept in order to protect the family. That is when we heard a voice say, "Annie, Bill, you home?" My dad's jaw dropped open. We had left the garage door open and rather than knock my grandmother just came in through the basement. Seconds later my grandmother and a bushy haired woman emerged.  With her she had some friend she met during her tenure at Walmart that she barely knew. My grandmother announced she met the woman that day and that this was her new friend and something else and apparently she had a birthday gift for my brother. At that moment, despite the fact my dad was probably ready to kill his mother in law, I couldn't help but laugh. The whole thing was pretty funny.

The thing about my grandmother was that she did whatever she wanted to whenever she wanted to. When I was a kid we discovered she could write poetry. My grandmother had written her poems on scraps of paper and left them lying around her house. Much like me she was  a hoarder. Anyway, during one cleaning that my mom did of their home she discovered them. My mother said to Nuni, "You need to publish these Mom." So my grandmother did, and at the age of 75 became a published poet.

I sometimes say my grandparents missed their calling as a comedy duo. They had been married for sixty something odd years. On the 60th wedding anniversary invites my grandmother wrote, "We have been married sixty years. We are one step closer to being dead." Of course my mom, aunts, and uncles were horrified. As usual I thought it was pretty funny.

But here was one memorable exchange my grandparents had.

Nuni: Fred, get up and stop being such an old man.
Pop Pop: Pat, being married to you is worse than life in prison. Because at least with life in prison I get the possibility of parole.

But this was only second to the exchange my grandmother had with my dad. Every year, my dad, who is a tax lawyer, did their taxes. After sixty something years of paying taxes my grandmother was fed up. So this is how the exchange between her and my dad went

Nuni: I am moving to Spain?
Dad: Why Mrs. Wallisch?
Nuni: That way I don't have to pay taxes.
Dad: Well Mrs. Wallisch, as a dual citizen you would have to pay two sets of taxes. So you would be paying twice the taxes.
Nuni: Oh-

Over the years my grandmother said countless prayers and novinas for my career. Not to mention she became the source for countless jokes just cause the punchlines wrote themselves. Throughout the weekend I found myself playing Yenta for not one but two Jewish families and they always tip well for their beloved Buble. But here is the thing, it's because everyone's grandma is somewhat crazy, somewhat whimsical, always adding levity and most of all just cool as hell. Bottom line, grandma rules.

Yesterday as my mother was falling apart I found myself having the day from hell. A job I was supposed to do got moved so I had to cancel my recording. I was also helping my mom write the obit. I don't think recording would have gone as well. But I just found myself at the end of my rope. Then I went to Penn Station and heard a bunch of street performers. They were singing "It's Alright."

At that moment, I looked over and saw a woman who was wearing a hat my grandmother used to own. As I heard the song and saw the hat I think it was my grandmother telling me she was at peace and had gotten successfully to the other side. After all, she gave me a lot of years of great memories and stories that are helluva funny.

And when grandma came, no matter how crazy she was, it was a gentle reminder life wasn't that serious. It was only as complicated as we made it. Hey, it's alright Nuni. I know you are causing some sort of mischief on the other side.

I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl
Paperback available on Amazon and 877-Buy-Book
E-Book available on Kindle and Nook
Audiobook available on itunes and Audible this Spring
Portion of proceeds go to RAINN

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