Yesterday was my Grandma Kate’s birthday. She would have been 92 years old, and I miss that lady like no one’s business. She was my best friend, my favorite neighbor, and my biggest supporter. She was an educator, a passionate advocate for children, and adored her family. She was also the best wielder of The Grandma Burn than I’ve ever known.
What’s “The Grandma Burn,” you ask? Oh, I’ll tell you readers: the Grandma Burn is when that sweet, precious, pink-haired lady (she claimed it was red) who spoils you like no one else, also drops an insult on so hard, or performs an action of sass so unbelievable, she scars you for life. There is no cure for a Grandma Burn, no salve that time can apply that will lessen the sting. She’s been gone eleven years, and I can recall with perfect clarity her ability to Grandma Burn just about anyone she came in contact with, but no one got burned harder than her family.
Like how she’d slide a burn in out of nowhere, at a totally inappropriate time. I graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College, and my parents brought the whole family and her up for the four days of worth of celebrations, including seeing me give the commencement speech (and thanks to the guy sitting next to me for letting me peek at the program so I knew when to go on). We were heading back after the ceremony, my diploma proudly sitting in the car window as we rehashed the weekend, when a small lull in the conversation hit.
My grandma, having just enjoyed a four-day, all-expenses-paid-by-my-dad trip to Stonewall Resort, including rooms, meals, a floor seat to the graduation ceremony, and a Bo-chauffeured ride back and forth from Stonewall to the very, very wonderful college my dad had written many, many checks to, says from her throne in the back, ever so gently and wistfully: “Oh Bo… just think what you might have been if you had finished college.”
To this day, I’m still not sure how my dad didn’t leave her on the side of I-79, but from then on, whenever my dad would do something great, we’d always say, “But just think of what you could have done if only you had finished college.” He’d go all Bo-eyes on us and go on a cuss-word filled rant about unnecessary college educations and ungrateful mothers, another Grandma Burn victim for the books.
Sometimes, those Grandma Burns were much more elaborate in nature, and required more effort that just a subtle dig. When her driving became too dangerous for the general public, I got the unenviable task of taking her keys to her Buick Le Sabre away. And since Grandma Kate knew I was a stickler for people not getting hit by her Buick Le Sabre, she went around me to get her keys back to the person with the soft touch: my brother, Colton. Colton was once a trusting soul, who took Grandma at her word when she swore up and down, “I promise I won’t drive. I just want to have the keys to my car in my house.”
I think you all know where this is going to go, and it went there, spectacularly. Colton was driving me up the road and lecturing me hard about why he gave Grandma back her keys, that it wasn’t fair that she couldn’t keep her keys in her house, since she promised him, promise him, she wouldn’t drive. And then we passed her house right as her garage door went up, and the Buick shot out and over the cement pad, and headed right for the creek bank, with Grandma at wheel. My brother slammed on the brakes so hard I almost hit the dashboard, jumped out of the truck, hopped the creek and was at Grandma’s window in a flash. All I could see was him red-faced as he spoke animatedly, her wrinkled hands gesturing just as emphatically, and finally those Buick keys hitting his palm as she grumpily got out of the car and headed into her house like a teenager caught after curfew in her best housecoat.
Y’all, right then, watching my brother pull that Buick into the garage, then trudge back to the truck with metaphorical scorch marks all on his face, well, I have never been so right in my life, and I savor it to this day.
But even her favorite grandchild (her words, and I repeat them all the time) was not immune from a completely incinerating Grandma Burn. Grandma Kate had finally decided that it was time for her to move to the Ravenswood Care Center, so I was helping her pack. We’d spent most of the afternoon sniping at each other, because that’s what you do when life realities hit: instead of dealing with how sad you are, you just get mad and get mouthy to avoid crying. And guess who I learned to be mouthy from?
I was just packing up her underclothes, when she called out to me from the dining room that I should “make sure I got her bras, and not Aunt Jug’s.” So I popped my head out of the bedroom to inform Grandma Kate, who was a generously svelte women, that I thought I could very easily tell the difference between her bras and Aunt Jug’s, seeing as how Aunt Jug weighed ninety pounds sopping wet, and by the way, why was Aunt Jug leaving her bras here? What kind of Rummy games were you playing when Aunt Jug visited?
Grandma didn’t answer that last question, just kept loudly insisting that I make sure I got the right bras, until finally I’d had enough and walked out to dining room, and snapped “Grandma, there is no way Aunt Jug has a bigger bra than you! How can you possibly say her chest is bigger than yours?!?” And y’all, that sweet, precious grandma of mine, my best friend, one of my favorite people who ever walked the planet, and the root of Ranson sassiness, looked me dead in the eye and said, “Because my boobs only hang down to my stomach. Your Aunt Jug’s hang down to her knees, and she has to roll them up to get them in her bra.”
I have a confession to make, readers: I actually died that day, and have just been a spirit ever since, roaming this Earth looking for a time machine that will take back to before I made the mistake of getting snippy with Grandma Kate over bra cup sizes. It was my mistake, I will fully admit that, and I got what I deserved. I assembled the kindling, I lit the match, and Grandma Kate burned me, to death.
But in fairness, that’s how its supposed to be. The perk of getting older is that you get to be sassy any time you want, and there’s not a darn thing anyone can do about it. So as another month of COVID ends and you find yourself feeling listless and not enthused about life, just keep reminding yourself that every day you are inching closer to being able to use the Grandma Burn to make a point to your loved ones; that point mostly being that you are still Queen Bee at any stage in your life, and they best not forget it.
And if Grandma Kate were still here, she’d tell you to your face a simple truth: ample retirement funds and the good health insurance are great, but making sure your back-talking granddaughter never questions yours or anyone else’s, packing instructions ever again? Priceless, absolutely priceless.