Friday, October 24, 2014

Take a Chair...

Den of the Beastly Bear

Hi Folks!

Remembering my Wife's Grandmother's passing made me think of one of my favorite stories about my Mother's Mother.

My Grandma Helen.

My family comes from the Thumb area of the state of Michigan. By and large farming communities settled by English, German and French Canadians.

Tight knit communities where everybody knew everybody.

My Grandma lived in Lexington, a small coastal community 25 miles north of the larger port city of Port Huron. An hour and a half drive, North and East of where we lived.

Back in the halcyon days of my childhood. When "Race Relations" meant shaking the winner's hand even though you had lost, and the only sex on my mind was the sex of the friendly dog I'd found. (Cause if it was a girl, there might be puppies!)
I used to spend a week every summer with my Grandma Helen.

A robust woman of good German stock, a devout Catholic and hard worker she brooked no insolence from anyone, let alone a young boy. She still wore 50's style house dresses and aprons, well into the 70's. Her dark hair perfectly coiffed in a short neat style, she was a force to be reckoned with! 

Before we went anywhere I was always admonished to behave myself, as how I acted not only reflected upon my parents but on her as well. She loved me fiercely, but misbehaving brought fierce and swift reprisals.
She would not have me sully her good name.
"You'll be gone and I'll still have to live with these people." she'd say.

She was semi retired at the time, but still cleaned houses for a select group of folks older than her, and would take me along.
She also supplemented her income by taking in lodgers to her modest home, just North of town.

One such lodger was a fellow named Paul. Paul was a tall, lanky string bean of a man, who wore his thinning hair with plenty of Brylcreem plastered to his head. He had a large bulbous nose crisscrossed with the broken blood vessels that marked a penchant for alcohol. He had deep set, rheumy eyes that always looked like he'd just finished a good cry, but a ready smile for all.

I remember Paul well as he lodged with my Grandma for several years. Never married he was always present at holiday dinners as he had nowhere else to go, and Grandma wouldn't hear of him being excluded. Much to my Mother's chagrin.

On a couple of occasions during my summers there, Paul would walk me down to the ice cream shop closer to town for a cone.
He in his navy work shirt and pants (which is all I ever remember seeing him in) and me in shorts and a tee shirt! I always wondered why he just didn't burn up it was so hot.

Paul's one failing, according to my Grandmother was his love of "the hooch". While he paid his bills on time and went to work everyday, he drank up every last dollar he made, and that's why he had never been married. It sometimes "made him belligerent" she confided.

The incident happened on a hot July day...
Grandma kept a sizable garden in her back yard, cucumbers and tomatoes, cabbages and carrots, radishes, strawberries and lettuce.

That day we worked in the garden. While Grandma weeded, it was my job to check the plants for and remove, any insects I found.
We had started early but the was a lot of garden to check and it was well after lunchtime when we finished.

We had sandwiches and split a Fresca, and after cleaning up Grandma had me take a nap on the couch in front of a fan.

Afterwards as the sun moved to the West and the back yard became cloaked in the house's shadow, we went back outside. Grandma set up a couple of old style aluminum lawn chairs, one for her and one for Paul when he got home from work. A little folding table held sweating glasses of fresh lemonade. As she read, I occupied myself with my Tonka trucks and plastic army men...

While I'd napped Grandma had started a roasted chicken, boiled potatoes and left them in the pot to be warmed up when Paul got home.

The time Paul should have been home came and went, and as time ticked by Grandma became more and more agitated. When Paul finally showed up, he staggered down the back porch stairs and weaved his way over to my Grandma.

"Just where have you been?" Grandma snapped.

"I had some stops to make..." Paul slurred, then belched.

"You've been warming a stool down at the beer garden again haven't you? You reek of booze!" I was young, but I recognized that tone!

"Aw Helen...Don't be that way..." Paul whined.

"Don't you 'Aw Helen' me! You take a chair before you fall on your drunken face, you can't even stand still!!! I'll get dinner ready. Maybe some food will sober you up." Grandma said pointing to the vacant lawn chair.

Paul puffed himself up, taking obvious umbrage at being called drunk.

"I am not DRUNK!" Raising his voice and his chin in defiance. "And I ain't taking no Goddamn chair!!!" Paul declared...and promptly pissed himself.

Never before and never since did I see a reaction like what happened next!

In the instant it took Paul to realize he'd just pissed his pants, Grandma was up and out of her chair like a shot! She snatched up the lawn chair intended for Paul and swung it like a baseball bat!

The chair caught Paul across the shoulders, rocking him on his feet and folded up giving Grandma a better grip.

"How DARE you!" She yelled at him "Piss yourself in front of my grandson like a common bum!!! Won't take a chair huh?!? I'll give YOU a chair you son of a bitch!!!"

The beating continued. Paul did his best to protect his head and face, and make his way inside the house but in his state of inebriation he was no match for my enraged Grandmother!

"God dammit Helen...quit!" Paul squealed as he stumbled up the stairs, blows raining down on his head and shoulders. This only intensified the attack! Finally the chair came apart and she threw the pieces at his retreating back. They bounced off and clattered against the screen door and house.

She was in the house right behind him...and I was right behind her, I wasn't gonna miss THIS show!

She snagged him by the scruff of the neck and guided him through the laundry room and kitchen and right into the bathroom. He was half a foot taller than her, but I could have swore she had him up on his tip toes! There she shoved him into the tub, clothes and all and turned on the shower...cold water only! 

"I'll not have you leaking piss all through my house! You get out of those clothes and wash yourself, I'll bring you clean clothes..." She fumed at him. "Just leave those in the tub!"

"Yes Helen..." I heard meekly over the running water.

She fetched him clean clothes and set them on the toilet, closed the door and started dinner. Heating up the potatoes then mashing them with a little butter and cream, reheating the chicken and heating up the peas. Muttering to herself the whole while...

The table was already set. It was a much subdued, wet and sober Paul that emerged, about the time the food was hitting the table. A good sized lump on one side of his head.

This time when Grandma told him to "Take a chair..." with a look, he hurriedly complied!

I don't think I ever saw Paul drunk again... 

Be Well Folks!

Beastly Bear


  1. Either quit drinking or find a new room to let.

    Another great story.

    1. Thank you joeh!!! You always have such kind words, and I want you to know how much I appreciate it.

  2. Geez....this story made me really sad. For one, that was extremely abusive for her to beat on him like that. Makes me wonder if that was the first time or just the only one you saw. No matter how pissed off you are, you shouldn't be wailing on someone like that.

    1. Well JoJo, I didn't write this to out my Grandmother as a "Serial Abuser"...
      But rather because it was such an anomaly in in my life. My stoic, upright, church lady Grandmother losing her shit...just didn't happen! The year was about 1966 and quite simply it was a different time. My Grandmother had told me that drinking made Paul "belligerent"...and all 6'4" of him was well on his way when his bladder let loose. Did it not happen in front of me, things likely would have been very my mother always complained that my Grandma "Coddled" him and "made excuses for him". I hate to say it JoJo, but sometimes it takes a good ass whipping to curb aberrant behavior. Like I said, he was never drunk again any of the times I was there!!!

  3. Your grandma showed much more restraint than I would have had some drunk came stumbling in in front of my grandson.. I agree with Joeh and disagree with JoJo on this one. No abuse here just a drunk who needed some fine tuning and apparently it worked! - Altho, he'd of been gone never to return had it been me.. Just sayin'..

    1. He really was a nice guy MiMi, except for the drinking! And yes, apparently the "Tune up" worked, I never saw him drunk again.

  4. I have to agree with MiMi on this one. Grandma came from the era when most drunks were given some "hard" love (as opposed to tough love) and frankly, even in this day and age I would be using every inch of restraint not to act a bit like Grandma had someone pulled that stunt in front of any child, let alone my grandchild.
    I would think that it was first time offense after a long time of suffering with a drunk. She was probably trying to follow the tenets of her faith by keeping him on as a lodger and just snapped after one incident too many.
    Besides Joe was just relating an incident that happened and his perspective of it; he wasn't asking any of us to pass judgement on his grandma.

    1. Thanks for dropping by CL! He did live at my Grandmothers for years after...
      She tried to help him mother used to have fits over her not kicking him out.
      Had he not pissed himself she'd have probably tried to clam him down and get some food into him. But like you said, Grandma had no sympathy for "Bums". And that was what set her off, saying "like a common bum" was to her, one of the biggest insults she knew!!!

  5. I am glad she cleaned his clock. No one needs to deal with a drunk who pisses himself. He needed to get it together. When you can't even handle making it to the toilet that is taking it way too far!

    1. Intense aversion therapy Kathy! The rest of the time he lived there I never saw him drunk I guess it worked! Lol