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April 21, 2013

Might as well laugh.

Sorry guys, but it looks like I’m going to have to step away from the blog for a bit pretty soon.  If you’ve been following for a while, you probably know why.  If you don’t -- and even if you do -- then…well…

Let me tell you a little story.

I know I have a habit of going on and on about hot dogs -- a sort of vicious cycle of mine, I’ve found -- but I don’t think I’ve talked too much about some of the other foods I like.  I really like seafood, for example.  Not that I’ve had too much exposure to it, but if what’s out there tastes anything like catfish, shrimp, or crab, I think I’m in a good place on that front.  I’m guessing that I have Red Lobster to thank for some of my preferences, as well as a deep-rooted addiction to those biscuits of theirs.  Or maybe I have a certain memory to thank for it, too.

I guess I was about eight or nine at the time.  My grandma had offered to take me and my brother out for dinner one night, and we went along with her (and a buddy of ours came with us to visit her, so we made for quite the little trio as usual).  We were laughing it up in the back row of her car as usual, and I was more than satisfied with the meal; I’m guessing I patted my stomach and licked my lips a few times like some fat cat as we headed back to her house.  But somewhere along the way, my brother started to notice that we were being followed.  Not by any secret agents or a deadly stalker.  Just by your average neighborhood policeman.

“Is he after us?” he wondered.

“Maybe we should pull over,” my buddy suggested.

But I tried to shrug it off.  “There’s no way they’re after us,” I said, trying to reassure the group (and hope they didn’t spot me shaking in my shorts).  “We didn’t do anything wrong.”

No, we didn’t do anything wrong.  At least we sure thought so.  But the police car kept following us, and started getting uncomfortably close.  “Okay, now I know they’re after us,” my brother said.

“But we didn’t do anything wrong,” my buddy said.  “Did we?”

I’d like to think that between the three of us, I’m the voice of reason.  The mediator.  That’s not always the case (for obvious reasons), but I’d like to think that there was no greater lapse in composure than there was at that moment…particularly when the police sirens started going off. 

“We’re gonna get arrested!” I yelled.  “We’re gonna get arrested!  We’re going to jail!”

By that point, my grandma couldn’t ignore the police car any longer.  My brother had already brought it to her attention, and I’m pretty sure that even if she was getting a bit long in the tooth, she could tell for herself that the boys in blue were behind her.  She’d probably been willing to let the presence of a policeman slide, but once those lights started going off she couldn’t ignore him any longer.  She pulled over, and the three of us -- or rather the two of them and one shorts-wetter -- watched in near-silence to see what would happen.  What had tipped him off.

He came up to the window and -- rather than hold my grandma at gunpoint -- he offered a friendly greeting.  “Good evening, ma’am.  Did you know that your tail lights aren’t on?”

My grandma -- and the three of us, of course -- was utterly confused.  “Oh, they aren’t?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Huh.  Hmmm.”  She looked around the car for a moment.  “Do you know how to turn them on?”

The policeman tried helping her out, and it wasn’t long before they succeeded.  “All right, ma’am, you just be sure you keep those lights on when you’re driving at night.”  He shot a glance at the backseat, and an arctic chill ran through me.  “You’ve got three little men to take care of back there.  Drive safely.”  And with that, he was off.  No tickets.  No arrests.  No police brutality.

My grandma did indeed get us home safely.  All it cost us was one measly little scare and the imagined threat of spending the night in the slammer.  Not surprisingly, my buddy never came with us to my grandma’s house again…though I’d assume that the fact that we’d arrived there when the power had gone out colored his expectations.

Still, that was a pretty potent memory -- one that engraved Red Lobster into my mind almost irrevocably.  (That and Macaroni Grill, but that’s another, far less entertaining story.)  I don’t know if it was because of the delicious food or the delirious fear, but I think I’ll remember it for a while yet.  Just like I’ll remember a lot of kooky memories like those.

Thinking back, I’d say there are a lot of kooky memories when it comes to me, my family, and the source of it all, my grandma.  There was that time when she and my mom made the exact same movements at the exact same time, making them look like alternate-universe versions of themselves.  There was the time that we drove for a couple of hours around town, searching for the one component that would make our gaming setup complete.  There was that time when she tried to teach me and my brother about what “raconteur” meant, and my brother just kept joking around, making me laugh, and ticking her off.  There was that time she taught me that the key to a Christmas miracle is a healthy helping of alcohol.  There was that time where she conned me into spending a week at a vocational bible school, an experience that nearly turned me off religion forever.  And of course, the word “cabinets” will forever have a unique meaning to me thanks to the fallout it caused.

There is a lot of stuff in my head.  A lot of stuff that I won’t forget anytime soon.  A lot of stuff that I’ve kept buried in my mind until now.  A lot of stuff to think about.  But I think that for now, the important takeaway is this: life is silly.  I doubt there will ever be a greater comedy out there than the one we live through every day.  If you’re going to live, you’d better do so in good humor.  Be willing to look at events, past, present, and future, with an open mind -- and feel free to laugh when appropriate.  If you don’t, you’re doing no one -- least of all the person who helped create those memories -- a disservice.

So that’s what I plan to do one of these days.  One of these days, I’ll be laughing freely all over again.  I pretty much have to.  Because if I don’t, then my teacher -- my guardian -- my grandma -- would be dishonored.  And I intend to do all the living, and laughing, I can.  For her sake, as well as mine.

I’ll keep on moving forward.  You just watch -- and laugh when I fumble and trip.

But that's all right.  I’ll recover.  And I’ll be laughing, too.

In Loving Memory of
Elodia S. Rhem
6/19/1918 -- 4/21/13
To the one who taught us all how to move toward a smile,
Your teachings will live on


  1. 94 years old, huh? Well, at least it was a full life...

    Take as much time as you need to recover. I can't imagine a single person worth listening to would tell you otherwise (unless they wanted you to use the blog as a distraction from mourning).

  2. Cheap Boss AttackApril 21, 2013 at 9:29 AM

    I'm sorry for your loss. As someone who was raised by their grandmother, I can't fathom what you're going through right now. It's always good to go back and remember the good times, though. You'll pull through when you're good and ready.

  3. I'm sorry for your loss, man. Your grandma sounded like an all-around pretty awesome lady. Don't you worry none, dude. We'll be here waiting for you, when you're ready.

    You just pull through man; we'll take care of the rest.

  4. Recover well. *bows*

    We'll be waiting for your return. :)

  5. Don't worry, I'll be back soon enough. There is much to be discussed, after all -- and I'm not about to let myself get slowed down anytime soon.

  6. Yeah, she was pretty awesome -- and pretty wild, too. I wouldn't be surprised if I inherited more traits from her than I would've guessed. They say that the older you get, the more you start to act like your parents...so I guess you can take that logic a step further and apply it to grandparents.

    Anyway, thanks for the kind words -- but rest assured, I'll be back before long. I know if there's one thing I got from my grandma, it's her resilience.

  7. Yeah, good times, bad times, wild times...they're all going to stick with me for a while yet. And I bet they're all bound to start rushing up soon enough. It's a scary thought, but it's one I'm ready for.

    I'll face it, and I'll come back ready to roll. And when I do, I know it'll be because I've had guys like you supporting me.

  8. Full life, indeed. She's lived through virtually every era the last century had to offer -- and even then, she did it with gusto. I can't even begin to imagine what it must have been like; honestly, I can't even imagine living that long, or knowing how many hundreds of people she's changed. It's staggering.

    But what's important right now is the present -- and eventually, the future. So don't you worry about me; I'll get through this. I'll keep pressing on, for the sake of people like you as well as my own. That's just what my grandma would want, after all. And who am I to dishonor her now?

  9. My condolences, Voltech. Your Grandmother sounds like an amazing person, and I'm sure that you can attribute a lot of what you are, even the fact that you wrote this, as being at least in part due to her influence.

    The death of a loved one is never an easy thing to handle, I know, but from what I've read and what I know of you, you're handling it admirably. As I mentioned before, we each deal with such events in our own way, none of which are wrong. We're all here behind you, and we'll all still be here whenever you're ready to return.

  10. My sympathies to you and yours, Voltech. Those sound like good memories of a wonderful person, so take the time you need to cherish them a bit. See you when you get back.

  11. Thanks, man. I think I've done about all the cherishing I can for now. Time for me to start moving forward -- and believe you me, I plan to.

  12. She was blessed, indeed -- and if my guess is right, wherever she is she's going to stay blessed. But I guess there's no sense in dwelling on that for long; right now, I need to get back in the game.

    May the best fighter win and win again
    Battle to the top until his life ends
    But if his life ends and he starts to decay
    May one of us street soldiers can finish things

  13. Well, I guess the whole "raconteur" bit rubbed off on me more than I thought...but in any case, thanks. I'll keep my feelings in mind, but I'll keep my eyes on the goal ahead -- putting smiles on the faces of people like you. That's what a hero would do, after all.

  14. She lived to be 94? So many people don't make it through their 80s so she was very blessed. My deepest apologies. In the words of the Street Fighter III 3rd Strike announcer, we await your return... warrior.