My grandmother was a ‘skimmer’.
Not of books, she read those in detail, but of negative stuff.
Now, negative stuff for Nana ran the gamut from bad language – ‘damn it!’ was uncalled for, “Jesus!” would have required rosary beads – to bad behavior.
My cousin, Billy, was infamous for what he could get Nana to endure and still love him. He once did a whole, impromptu comedy routine based on wearing her down so she’d allow him to swing on a chandelier.
Totally would have happened in real life, if she’d had a chandelier.
Nana just knew where to put her energy, and where not to.
When I was 11, a movie called The Goodbye Girl had just come out and my wicked cool Aunt P. agreed to take me and my cousins even though it was rated PG (very exciting). And Nana came along.
In the movie, a young actress named Quinn Cummings (I still remember because ohmyGawd the child got to swear) is sassy and saucy and I remember having coronary symptoms when she uttered her first ‘unsayable’ word and looking right at my Grandmother, certain she would have fainted (or at least be in the process of it).
She was totally fine.
Looked at me and smiled.
At the second swear word, I was certain Nana would be nervously rounding her precious grandchildren up and taking us directly to St. Joseph’s Church, conveniently located right down the street from her house.
She patted my hand and smiled at me… again.
What the … (and if I had been old enough I would have added, “fluck”).
Well, the movie was a riot and a love story and paved the way for my future adoration of When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail and Notting Hill and Silence of the Lambs.
What? You didn’t laugh at the “I’m having an old friend for dinner.” quote? I’m sure Dr. Lecter was just trying to get Clarice to laugh. She was far too serious. There was love there I think…
Later that day, when we got home, I was sitting with Nana and asked her if she was offended by the movie.
She said she wasn’t.
I asked her how that was possible, and she explained.
She said that, though she herself did not believe in swearing or in children being disrespectful to adults, this was just a movie. And then she said, “Instead of letting the words or ideas bother me, I just gloss over them. It’s like skimming a book with a bad scene in it. I just pay attention to the good parts.”
Even then I realized that Nana had a rather excellent natural talent.
She didn’t really even have to think about it, she just did it.
If someone shouted “damn!” on the street – and it wasn’t, you know, me – she just didn’t hear it.
She had a natural filter for things like that. Things that would have offended others, Nana just took in stride. They didn’t ruin her minute, her day…
Or her life.
And she passed it on, I think, to me.
Which is called genetics.
Nana was aware of the world around her. We would talk about a lot of tough stuff – poverty, war.
We would even talk about the environment. I was very concerned that the habitats of the gorillas and other African animals were being taken over, or destroyed. I had no altruistic aspirations relative to this at that time. I was, I’m sure, a totally self-centered pre-teen. I just wanted to make sure I could see these animals in their natural habitats at some point in my life. I’m better now and way more magnanimous. I know this because I am now totally happy if you want to see them there too.
Anyway, we did talk about the world around us. Nana supported church causes as well as the March of Dimes and American Cancer Society (I got to lick the stamps for the envelopes). She comforted and cried when people were sick, or died (or divorced).
She wasn’t purposefully dodging or ignoring the problems or sorrows of the world, or life. Not at all.
She was just naturally very, very good at not letting the smaller stuff get to her, of allowing the insignificant to become significant in her life, and weigh on her.
I tend to do that too. Like, all the time.
The other day, Mac and I were driving and merged into multiple lanes of traffic, in an area I have merged into on many a previous occasion. A horn blared. I looked in my rearview mirror.
I didn’t think I’d done anything wrong, but the woman who chose to rocket up beside me did. And she very loudly told me so and used some pretty rockin’ hand signals to express her dismay.
Mac, my kid? She wished the wildly gesticulating woman a nice day.
But it clearly bothered Mac for a while, and I get that. The woman’s poopy energy was practically contagious.
I said I was pretty sure I didn’t do anything wrong and, if I could have, I would have caught up to the nutso woman and asked her what had her in such a tizzy. I really did want to know.
But her pissed-off-ed-ness wasn’t mine. Her reaction was her business.
I didn’t have to think about how I felt, or why I felt it, or what I wanted to let go or what I didn’t, or delve deep into my psyche to therapy-ize my reaction.
A great lesson, and example, from long ago.
From a lady of positivity, propriety, and really great popsicles.
Thanks, Nan. (a lot)
And thank you for readin’.
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