On Sunday mornings I talk to my parents on the phone. It’s usually 45 minutes to an hour, and then they speak with the boys for a few minutes. It’s a ritual that’s been in place for years. I generally call them once during the week, as well, while driving to work. So, we speak at least twice a week. Is that an acceptable number of conversations?
In any case, yesterday I was talking with my dad, semi-listening to his plans for the day. Then I realized what I was hearing, and said, “Hang on a second. You guys buy bacon at a drug store?” Apparently this is common practice within the seasoned citizen community. The best deals on bacon can reportedly be had at Walgreen’s, CVS, and Rite-Aid. Hell, I wasn’t even aware those places have a meat department.
And I told him a couple of stories from the baseball game Toney and I attended on Saturday night. We saw the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Railriders vs. the Rochester Red Wings. It was a good time. I feel like we should go more often. The stadium is really nice, and AAA baseball is pretty damn good. Plus, a couple of funny things happened…
First, a woman sat beside us with a full-sized batting helmet full of nachos. Here’s a picture, but it doesn’t really do it justice. When she first arrived, it was piled up so high it was defying gravity. By the time I got a decent photo, she’d already laid waste to a good percentage of it. Damn! How much would something like that cost? Thirty bucks? Later, we saw people carrying around batting helmets full of popcorn, too. It’s a tad excessive, in my opinion.
Also, while we were walking into the stadium it started to pour down rain, with almost no warning. It was bizarre. Everybody was strolling along, without a care in the world, until we all found ourselves suddenly sprinting through great sheets of ice-cold water. We took refuge under an awning, near the administrative offices. There were six of us under the small overhang, just standing there waiting for the rain to stop. Or at least let up.
As we waited, a guy on an outsize golf cart came ripping up the hill, and parked by the offices. He jumped off with purpose, and looked like one of those rail-thin freaks who live on nothing but cigarettes and endless pots of coffee. He went into the offices, acting like he had something important to report, and almost immediately came back out.
He jumped into the driver’s seat of his big golf cart with three rows of seats, and went back down the hill at a high rate of speed. And, as he turned the corner he cut the wheel too sharply, and hit the curb. The cart tilted radically to the left, and the dude EJECTED from his seat and went rolling across the pavement. He instantly returned to his feet, and tried to catch up with the cart, which was now careening out of control in a big circle. It finally jumped the curb and came to rest in the middle of a lawn area.
The guy got back behind the wheel, and disappeared, as if nothing had happened. And all six of us, mostly strangers, bonded by laughing our asses off for a good long time.
Dad enjoyed that story, as I knew he would, and we somehow bounced around from subject to subject and ended up talking about his grandmother, on his mother’s side.
I met this woman several times, and it was always an adventure. You know how grandmothers are supposed to be loving and warm, always baking pies and spreading the good will? Well, this grandmother was nothing like that. There was not an ounce of warmth in her, and I always felt slightly uneasy around her. Like she might pull a blade out of her boot, and start cutting people. She chewed tobacco like a man, and didn’t even attempt to hide her hatred of children.
She and her husband Lon lived on a farm so far out in the country there were literally no roads. There was also no running water or electricity. I’m not kidding. They had an outhouse, and used oil lanterns after dark, like it was the freaking 1800s.
We used to go visit them, for some unknown reason, and would drive until the road petered out. Then we’d park and start walking. To get to their farm we had to climb at least two fences, and cross a big field where a nasty-ass bull lived. I remember hiding back in the trees, waiting for the bull to wander away, and then all of us running like hell across that big pasture. It was scary. I also remember one of my less-than-petite aunts getting to the other side, and falling off the fence as she attempted to climb over it. Good times.
The picture at the top of this update is not their farm, but it captures the essence of the place. It was like going back in time. There was a potbelly stove sitting in the middle of the living room, and water was pumped by hand from some sort of apparatus in the side yard. My brother stepped in a pile of cow shit so big there, I think it sucked his shoe off.
The old lady, as I mentioned, was a nasty piece of work. “Wicked” is how my dad described her yesterday. She reportedly walked away from her family when my grandmother was 11 years old to “drink and carry on,” leaving my grandmother and her dad (known as Pop) to raise three younger kids. I don’t know why anyone would have anything to do with her, but we visited her several times during my kidhood.
And Lon was memorable, too. He was much nicer than the old woman, but there was something off about him. My dad said he’d never seen the inside of a school building, and couldn’t read or write. And he had some sort of condition that he self-diagnosed as “the mentals.”
When he walked downhill he turned in circles, for some unknown reason, and was supposedly so dumb and unworldly he didn’t know how to climb into a car. I remember hearing stories about him walking upright into the side of a vehicle and repeatedly bouncing off, because he didn’t know you were supposed to crouch. He was baffled and agitated because other people were now inside the car, and he was still outside. Could that possibly be true? God, how I want it to be…
And I remember us all sitting on their porch one afternoon, when Lon suddenly froze and cocked his head like a dog locking in on the sound of a UPS truck in the distance. Then he tore ass out of there, and ran deep into the cornfield across the way. When he returned, about twenty minutes later, he said he thought he’d heard Jesus calling for him.
There was some strange shit going on out there, and whenever we’d visit I was a nervous wreck the whole time.
Yesterday my dad told me his grandmother came off the farm (a rare occurrence), shortly before she died, to attend a funeral near Charleston. She walked into the church carrying one of her oil lamps, apparently unaware there would be electric lights there. Amazing!
And I’m going to call it a day, my friends.
I’ll see you again soon.