When I was a child, I went to school to learn — as my grandmother Miz Lena used to say, "'rithmatic and writin' and all that other stuff” — but I learned about life, at somewhat an accelerated …
When I was a child, I went to school to learn — as my grandmother Miz Lena used to say, "'rithmatic and writin' and all that other stuff” — but I learned about life, at somewhat an accelerated pace, from Grandmom.
Some of her teachings were textbook correct. Many, from her self-serving interpretations of the Bible. And, a few that came from her rural superstitions.
Miz Lena, unlike many women of her era, was into politics. She didn't mind making anonymous donations to judges, senators and local candidates. She told me, "I make my picks, accordin' to their business background. How they treat people and what church they go to. That's all you need to know about 'em."
Even though she was a Democrat, Mr. Kennedy just made it over the hump with her. Him being a Catholic and all. I'm still not sure why she felt that way. I remember her saying something like, "They don't even speak American in their church." I'm pretty sure the Latin threw her.
She told me, "Keep how much money ya got and who ya vote for to yoreself. That's private. You'll save yoreself a mess a problems. Sides that, it ain't nobody's bizness. That's why I pay 'em in cash, and on the sly. I don't need nobody walkin' off my job sites, just cuz they heard I supported "Mr. So-and-So."
Once, a little man, at least 50 pounds overweight, in a blue-and-white striped seersucker suit, sweat pouring off his brow and his white, wide-brimmed stetson in his hands, came to the front door to pick up Miz Lena's cash contribution. She pushed open the screen door, clutching her housecoat by the lapels, and glanced left and right, to see if anybody was looking, and then told him, "Run on around to the back breezeway, and I'll meet you at the kitchen door. Let me go get my purse."
As she counted out the money to him, she issued him specific guidelines as to how her hard-earned money should be spent on his campaign. When she closed the door, she said, "Well, he should win, if he don't fall over with a heart attack first."
Miz Lena built homes for a living. Some of the Democratic politicians she supported were "Deep South.” A couple of them were farmers and extremely prejudiced against African Americans. There were stories about how some of those "good ole boys" mistreated their black workers.
At least half of Miz Lena's crew were black men. In that small Middle Tennessee town, black families were acutely aware of those particular candidates' sentiments toward them. Had it been known Grandmom supported them, there would have been a good chance her black workers would have gotten their last pay and never come back. The "movement" was just starting up.
She wrapped up her politics lesson to me by saying, "If yore in bizness, you need to know you some politicians. Ever body needs their back scratched, once in awhile." I thought I understood, then. I definitely do, now.
I only heard my grandmother use what she called "foul language" once. Someone had broken into the house. Standing at the top of the stairs, her 12-gauge shotgun in her arms and me standing behind her, she hollered out to the intruder, "I've got a gun, and I'll blow yore blankety-blank head clean offa yore shoulders, if you don't get yore blankety-blank outta my house." They split.
Miz Lena used to tell me, "It ain't just usin' the Lord's name in vain. They's other words that you kain't say, either." When I asked her what the other words were, she told me, "Don't you be worryin' about all that, right now. They's listed in the Bible, somewheres."
I told my Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Houston, what my grandmother had said about the list, and she seemed flustered. She wasn't quite sure what Miz Lena was referring to. I remember thinking that my Sunday School teacher didn't know her Bible very well.
One of the glorious things about living in the South are the heavy, black-cloud storms that come through. The ones that make a summer day turn dark at three in the afternoon. Thunder and lightning. Jana and I love it. Our dogs, Cowboy and Scout, not so much. The same was the case with Grandmom. Big storms made her uneasy. She took precautionary measures any time a big one poured down.
One of her pet "no-no's" was talking on the phone during a big storm. Miz Lena had a big pillared home, with three kitchens and seven or eight bedrooms, but we all pretty much lived in the den. With all that space, that's where the only TV in the house was. And where, over by the TV and next to the plastic-covered chair, on a little spindled arm table, was one of the only two phones there were.
The TV was tuned to the weather reports, out of Nashville. The den's door to the outside was left ajar. Screen door closed tight. We would sit all the way across the room, on her over-stuffed circular couch and stare out the window. No one was to talk on the phone. If the phone rang, she'd run across the room, pick up the phone receiver, and hang it right back up.
Miz Lena told me, more than one time, "The lightnin'll come right on through them phone lines, out there, and explode in yer ear. That's why yore granddaddy kain't hear so good. Don't let me catch you talkin' on the phone, when it's stormin'." Even as a child, I kinda thought that she was overreacting.
Come to find out, after all these years, that she was right about that. I just saw something on The Weather Channel that corroborates her story. I guess, up until recently, I thought it to be another wives' tale.
So, there's some more about my wonderful little grandmother.
All I needed to know about politics, the Bible and electrical storms, straight from "the world, according to Miz Lena." Through my childhood years, I, more than one time, searched the scriptures for the list of the other bad words, foul language, that God forbade me saying. I never found the words. Of course, the list doesn't exist.
But, she was more than right about politics and the weather. Over the years, I've heard those other bad words being used. Many of them from today's politicians.
Happy Sunday, everybody.
(About the writer: Bill Stamps may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.)
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