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Grand Ma-Ma
by Michael A. Skrien

“Things could always be worse.” Grandma would say. Then she would sew grandpa to the back of the chair and light the curtains on fire. Smashing glassware, tipping over the lamps and holding her glass eye high above her head, grinning slyly, saying “See? See? SEE!”
 I have such fond memories of Grand Ma-Ma. She is the reason I studied embalming. She taught me most terminal illnesses are psychosomatic. Her skills in taxidermy were legendary. Grandpa – rather, his likeness - is still sewn to the blue and green paisley chairback, eyes and mouth wide open. His likeness as real as his silence.
We never knew whose parent Grand Ma-Ma was. My folks weren’t around much and she never told us. But oh, the joy and bounty she brought to our childhood. My brother and I can still give any house pet a lobotomy without getting blood on the carpet. We owe her that.
Grandpa never could speak without her interrupting. The most he could emit was a syllable or two, his mouth agape, the words forming like a slow and slobbery eviction of orifice. Back in they’d go as Grand Ma-Ma spoke her version of his thoughts. His eyes turned towards the noise. “He said to clean up the kitchen!” We’d follow grandpa’s suggestion and go clean the kitchen. Grandpa was usually so frightened he soiled himself.
She taught me love. There used to be a rabbit that would frequent the garden. He would eat the lettuce and various items Grand Ma Ma had planted. One morning she woke my brother and me up early. She held a Winchester 30-30 deer rifle in her hand and carried it pointing forwards. We tip-toed out the back porch that looked out over the garden. There was the rabbit, munching away, nose twitching, and chewing. As she motioned, I opened the screen door ever so slowly. G-Ma gently raised the gun and took aim. POW!!! She blew a hole just to the left of the rabbit that made it jump 5 feet in the air, after which it ran scared and into the woods. “That’s love.” She said.
She was tough as nails too. Most of the time, she’d walk around with an awl sticking out of the back of each hand, each one having stabbed the other. “He who lives by not caring about stabbing himself in the temple with an awl, shall die by not caring about stabbing himself in the temple with an awl.” Her wise words still ring in my ears. I stayed away from awls after hearing that.
Some days, I sit on the couch and “talk” with grandpa. He’s a good listener. We both yearn for the good ol days with Grand Ma-Ma. Then, per her final instructions, we’ll take a pinch of her out of the urn and sprinkle it in our chartreuse and tequila cocktail and down it. Sometimes grandpa needs help with his. I can still hear her saying “He said drink your shot, boy!”
Ahhhhhh….Grand Ma-Ma. I raise my glass and my eye to thee!