My Dear found whores everywhere; her everyday world was a sphere bisected by those women who were, “right for that, she was,” and those misfortunate who were “a dirty slut” or just “a whore.”
“She kicked ‘im out,” she would say in dark satisfaction, as some Godly woman, who would later possibly be excoriated for some other failing, kicked her no-good husband to the curb. “She was right for that.”
(Odd that things like spousal justice gave her such satisfaction, she who adored her philandering husband, and never recovered from his death. Odd that she was so fierce in her words, so inflexible in her pronouncements, when she spoiled her sons rotten, doted on her nephews and grandkids. The only ones with whom she was strict were her daughters. Potential hoors, those.)
The world as Kingdom of Whoredom was news to me; I thought I lived in a more benign place. In my understanding, lack of housekeeping skills was a minor sin, a tiny blight, thus the things under the bed were dust bunnies: rolls of dust that had soft ears and wiggling noses. In m’Dear’s iron age of what was right, and what was whorish, they were simply Slut’s Wool, and not to be tolerated by right-thinking Christian women, who knew how Eve fell. She was only out cavorting with that snake because she was neglecting the housekeeping. You know there was slut’s wool on the grass beneath the bower where she and Adam slept.
(Slut’s wool! O, fabulous creation! Can you imagine the scandalous things which one could knit with slut’s wool? Felted things would possibly leak unmentionable fluids. One could not possibly make something as mundane as socks. There is a good chance one can only find it in siren shades of magenta and red. Anything else would somehow be against nature.)
It was, of course, arguably non-Christian for my Dear to be quite so judgmental and name-call-y about Those Women, but if you think I was up to arguing with her, than you are indeed delusional. My grandmother Spoke With God. She began every day with her large-print King James’ Bible, reading aloud, her third-grade vocabulary enriched by the sonorous words. When she finished her devotions, she would cook and clean and Make Pronouncements, possibly some of which she believed were on loan from God Himself. There are some women who are Right for things.
And some women are just whores.
Thus saith Dear.
This all comes to mind as I’ve just been home in Cali for six weeks, and spent time every few days talking to her, and chatting with my sister and aunt as they fed and bathed her, transferred her to bed and wheelchair and lounger, which is now the shrunken orbit of her withered star. I was never easy with this woman, whose only reading consisted of Holy Writ, who never answered my carefully penned letters, full of news of myself, my school mates, and my little concerns. She never answered them, but she kept them in a box, like treasures too good to handle. Only later did I understand how foreign I seemed to her; she who had to leave school in the third grade to take care of her siblings. How could we write? What was there to say to a self-conscious, self-centered little child with not a care in the world?
I’m sure she thought us messy little hellions when we visited her, and I remember being dragged to the tub each time we visited her home, no matter how later — because it was a sin to go to bed dirty. The following morning our towels would be gone from the bathroom — because towels in her house were something you only used once. (Yes, those environmentalists who put out “don’t wash my towels” notes in hotels would run screaming from her.) I was never easy with my grandmother when she was whole, and now after a series of strokes and an aneurysm, I am less easy with her, worrying that I will miss some important pronouncement, concerned that I don’t quite understand the transmissions from the satellite drift of her mind.
These days, my grandmother still speaks with God, but it is only some days that she can read. Nowadays her pronouncements like as not are mumbled and rambling. Only once this past holiday did I unwisely ask her to repeat herself when she directed a comment to me. She snapped, suddenly quite clear and in control of her faculties, “I done said what I had to say.” And would not say it again to the pesky whore who kept bothering her.
I think of her tonight, because the boiler has been broken since we got home, and once again, I have the 32 quart canning pot on the stove full of water, boiling it to lug to the bathroom and perform what our Scottish friends call a “cat-lick bath.” Animals be damned, you know my grandmother says any bath which does not immerse you fully as Jesus was immersed in the River Jordan is a Whore’s Bath. Yes. I have returned to the United Kingdom, and now I am a whore.
Only some days does my grandmother recognize me; most days I’m the minister’s girl (and D’s the minister – cutting a foot off of his hair must’ve helped — I can’t imagine who she thought he was before. The Unwashed Hippie?), or “that girl,” and those days she glares at me from behind eyes clouded with sullen confusion, and suspicion. The day before we left, though, she widened her eyes and me and smiled. “Happy New Year!” she said joyously, and my eyes filled, though God only knows if she has any idea what year it is.
But that matters little, because to those of us who adore her, it is her year. Never mind the Lunar Calendar, 2010 is The Year of the Whore.
Translation: Dear is pronounced “Dee-uh,” it is the Southernism for Mother Dear (say Mutha-Dee-uh, and think of Steel Magnolias), and that is what we call my mother’s mother. Dear’s mother was Big Ma. HER mother didn’t speak English, and so her name was in Caddo, a language of which I sadly know very few words at all. Certainly not the word for “whore,” more’s the pity.