When I'm sick I'd much rather be left alone than pampered. Today's story is inspired by bad childhood memories and attempts made by well meaning, but misguided adults, namely my grandma, to pamper or take care of me.
Get ready for some father and grandmother bashing and exaggerations. Yes. Grandmother. Bashing.
Hold tight, I speak (mostly) the truth!
My mother was always too busy to fuss over me the way that I perceived of other mothers doing. I got what I needed, but she didn't fuss. She worked a full time job, took care of a special needs daughter (my sister) and took care of everything having to do with our household.
My dad, on the other hand, did nothing. Unless you count drink beer, lord over the television and golf. It was a different generation and back then men were only required to earn a paycheck and their household and child rearing responsibilities were considered fulfilled. Dad was basically useless and not to be relied upon for fussing or pampering.
The only time I was ever pampered and fussed over was when my grandma stayed with us and I didn't much like it.
I always had the feeling that she was only being so nice to me so that she could stick it to my mom, as if to say "Watch this, Unworthy Daughter-In-Law - If only you weren't so busy setting the accounting world on fire, you could stay home and take care of this poor, neglected child properly."
Grandma didn't approve of women who had careers.
Grandma never listened to me and always got me all wrong too. Like the time I spilled orange juice down the front of myself as I was rushing out the door for school. I was in the 4th grade. Grandma happened to be on the phone with my mother at the time, who was at work. "Oh Dear God - I've got to hang up!", she yelled, "Lady has just vomited!" Then Grandma grabbed me and ripped off my shirt and told me there was no way I was going to school.
When I told her that I'd only spilled the juice, she thought I was lying and made me stay home.
It might sound like a good gig, but it wasn't. I would rather have gone to school than have stayed home with my grandmother watching game shows and soap operas all day long. She wouldn't let me eat anything all day either for fear that I would throw it back up again and periodically she tried to take my temperature with the old fashioned kind of thermometer.
When my mother got home from work I complained to her that I wasn't sick at all and had been held hostage, starved, tortured with bad TV and subjected to fighting off regular attempts at anal probes. She understood my dilemma, but was unable to do anything about it because apparently nobody ever questioned the wisdom and authority of my grandmother.
I didn't understand the full extent of my family's support and blind loyalty to my grandmother until I was a teenager and my mother went on a week long, ladies only vacation with a couple of my aunts.
Since my father was completely useless in the household and child care department, he took the week off work to stay with my sister and me while my mother was away, because apparently working all day and taking care of children when he got home was way more than he could handle.
It wasn't even like it was summer time - we were in school all day.
So incompetent was he, that merely taking time off work was not enough. He called my grandmother to come and help him out during his time of need. I begged him not to and argued that I was 15 and old enough to take care of all three of us while Mom was away. It was no use.
It was one of the most miserable weeks of my life which started off with a lecture from my dad in which he basically said, "Do everything your grandmother tells you to do - AND NO LIP!"
The madness began almost immediately when my sister asked for macaroni and cheese for dinner. My sister had some pretty significant speech problems and my grandmother never seemed to understand what she was saying. My frustrated sister went to the pantry, grabbed a box of Mac & Cheese and handed it to my grandmother.
Grandma correctly took this to mean that my sister was hungry, but refused to make food from a box as requested by a child, so my sister watched in horror as Grandma threw the Mac & Cheese in the trash and made instead something from scratch that our dad liked called SOS. AKA "Shit on a Shingle", which is essentially flour gravy with ground beef served on toast.
It is every bit as disgusting as it sounds and my sister and I hated it.
In my grandmother's world men ruled supreme, especially the ones she had given birth to, and children should be seen and not heard. Especially girl children. I hated her.
My sister and I both got in trouble with our dad because we refused to eat the SOS. Apparently not eating it would hurt grandma’s feelings so he forced us to choke it down. Now I hated him too.
My grandmother and I had a complicated relationship. I didn't really hate her. I loved her, but I certainly didn't understand her.
The best way I can put it into perspective is to say that if you've ever seen the movie Coal Miner's Daughter, my father's family lived in the the next holler over from where that movie took place, the rural, coal mining Kentucky of the first half of the 20th century. My grandfather, grandma's first husband, wore overalls with a straw hat, mined coal and in his spare time made corn whiskey in a bathtub still he hid in the woods behind their house. Like the perfect caricature of a hillbilly, he smoked a corn cob pipe.
Grandma didn't understand me either. She was concerned that I wasn't interested enough in boys or getting married and thought I spent way too much time reading. She thought I was "uppity" and warned my parents, when I expressed an interest in going to college that I was "gettin' above my raisin". I never let her find out that I didn't believe in God. It would have killed her.
Anyhoo... let's get back to the week my mom left my sister and me alone for an entire week with my grandmother and my dad, AKA the Hillbilly Mutual Admiration Society.
OK, so we had to eat food we didn't like, and do chores that we didn't normally have to do while Dad and Grandma laid around all day watching soap operas and game shows. Unpleasant yes, but totally survivable.
Then I stepped on a broken Coke bottle in the garage and sliced the bottom of my foot open and my grandmother tried to kill me with my father's blessing.
Why I was barefoot in the garage and how a broken bottle got there I don't remember, but suffice it to say that it was a deep gash of the won't stop bleeding variety. It hurt too.
Still, in hindsight, I probably should have kept my stupid mouth shut, knowing that under the circumstances I was going to be subjected to my grandmother's favorite backwoods remedy and answer to all problems of the open wound variety - Campho Phenique.
Under normal circumstances and had my mother been home I probably would have gone to the hospital and gotten stitches.
Instead, I squeezed my father's hand off while my grandmother doused my deep open wound with liquid camphor. It was all so very World War One in the trenches. I was surprised they didn't just pour moonshine on it and cut my foot off at the knee with a hacksaw while I chewed on a leather strap.
Needless to say the cut didn't heal. Not only didn't it heal, but I developed a fever and my foot swelled to gangrenous and pus-dripping proportions so large that I was not able to put on a shoe - thereby not able to go to school. Meaning I had to stay home all day, tolerating the painful, periodic reapplication of the Campho Phenique and eating left over SOS with the two people at the top of my teenage shit list.
At one point I pulled my dad off to the side and tried to reason with him. "Dad, I think my foot is infected and Grandma just keeps putting Campho Phenique on it. I think I need stitches and a prescription for antibiotics." But he was too far under her spell. "Shhhh! Don't let yer Grandma hear you talkin' like that", he whispered. "That'll hurt her feelings. Besides she raised 15 children to grown. She knows what she's doing."
Of course common sense, reason and penicillin replaced folk wisdom and Civil War era camphor poultices when my mom returned home. I was whisked to the doctor and cared for properly, given stitches and antibiotics.
In yer face batty old woman.
I still have the scar on the bottom of my foot.
So there you go... this big long gripe about my grandmother to explain why I do not like to be fussed over.
I can take care of myself just fine thank you and stay the hell away from me with that Vick's Vapo Rub.