Apr 29, 2007

BRISTOL, CT – My cousin Joel's cooked about 15lbs of stuffed shells. The famiglia hollers around the table. Ostensibly because Grammy's kinda deaf, but mainly – I suspect – because Irish-Italians have little volume control.

A hearing aid rests on the tablecloth. C'e cosa? I crook an eyebrow at the band-aid-beige squiggle.

"I dropped it in the garbage disposal," my grandmother explains.

"Yeah, well, I might too."


Emma, 88, still lives alone in a three-story house full of tchotchkes. My grandfather hoarded his entire life: Norman Rockwell plates, blister-wrapped jam jars, Frank Sinatra albums, china shepherdesses, enough owl art for a whole Audobon museum, and, andandand ...

Now the widow's in purgatory. Out. Get the clutter out. Make it go away. Often, she snuck glass bird figurines into my suitcase. I wised to that tactic, so she mails them with cookies. Crafty ... crafty.

On a three-owl visit, my cugina Jenny and I tried to explain the beauty of gay marriage. Our Catholic grandmother struggled. "Well, they can love whomever they want – look at G. and his doctor friend – but they shouldn't be allowed to wed. Holy matrimony is one man and one woman."

Sweet Jenny, a singer-songwriter, appealed to emotion. "Grammy, what if Grandpa [Jim] had been a woman?"

Silence. Ever-elongating, pungent, poignant silence.

"Too far," I thought. "At this rate, the boho grandkids are gonna wind up sleeping at the Greyhound station or something."

Emma hunched and furrowed her brow. Buttered some toast. "Well," she finally conceded, "I guess he would have helped with the housework more."


Nothing changed, of course. Her church newsletter – prominent on the end table – still advertises recovery clinics for homosexuals.

But Jenny and I agree upon this eternal truth. "Grammy's incredible. She really went there in her head."

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