Not long after I separated from my first husband (after the scorpion incident), I moved in with my widowed Grandpa John. Grandma Millie had died years earlier, shortly before I started college. In the intervening years, John’s true character had revealed itself.
He was, without a doubt, a hoarder. Oh, he wasn’t as bad as the ones you see on television – we never found any dead animals buried under piles of rubbish – but he couldn’t seem to stop himself from collecting things. By the time I moved in, he had focused his attention on cameras.
In addition, he loved a good argument. Once, when I was a teenager, he attempted to provoke me into an argument. “There’s no such thing as ‘herstory,’” he pronounced in a loud voice. While I had already developed feminist leanings, I wasn’t stupid – I thought the concept of “herstory” was ridiculous. So, I shrugged and went back to whatever I was reading. Not getting the response he was looking for, he tried again, this time with a grandiose throat clearing. “There’s no such thing as HERSTORY,” he repeated.
“Okay,” I answered.
From the kitchen, Grandma Millie admonished, “John, you leave that child alone!”
Grandpa, chastened but not beaten, set aside the argument for another day.
Emma and rest of my friends came to my rescue when I separated from my first husband; Grandpa John made sure I divorced him. When my ex refused to sign the divorce paperwork, I was left in a difficult position: I had no money to hire a process server. When Grandpa realized that money was what was preventing my divorce from moving forward, he loaned me the money and even made the arrangements for the papers to be served. But then, like Fuzzy and my other grandpa, John didn’t like my ex much, either.
Life with Grandpa was pretty good, except for his occasional public displays of antagonistic racism. At least I can say this for him – he was an equal-opportunity racist. I even heard him badmouth Swedes a few times…and he was Swedish! It didn’t take long for me to come up with a cure for his mouth. “Grandpa,” I said, “the next time you say something insulting in public to anyone, I will apologize for you and tell the injured party that you have Alzheimer’s.”
Grandpa, who was very proud of his intellect, was appalled. “You wouldn’t!”
“Try me,” I said, smiling.
From then on, he was always on his best behavior when we went out. My mom told me later that he had groused a bit about my threat to her, but she could tell that he was actually proud that I had outsmarted him.