Saturday, January 14, 2012


When I was a freshman in high school, this duck got me into trouble. Actually, not this particular one.
This one.

See the crudely repaired head.  My skills as an art restorer in 1960's were limited.  It sat in the basement of the suburban home I'd just moved into after my grandfather died of a heart attack.  Long story, short, is that my mother created this duck when she was a little tyke.  My grandmother prized the art piece, but not enough to move it out of the basement laundry room. In the laundry room there was a wooden table, an old copper boiler, shelves under the east  window, two cement tubs for the washer and hand washing of clothes and a clothes chute. I still have both washboards. Back then it was a half century old.  Now, it's over 100 years old.

I wanted to examine it more closely, so I climbed on the creaky wooden wash table to grab it from the high shelf under the basement window.  When I did,  the beak fell off the aging wooden duck.Crap.  Basically, I was an honest kid, so I showed it to Grandma. She went ballistic. Grandma, I would learn a few years later was in a pre-dementia stage.  She was full blown by the time I became a senior in high school.  She could curse like a sailor.  Really foul mouthed.  So bad, the neighbors would call the police. The summer of my senior year, I took a brief trip to northern Minnesota.  While I'm in Minnesota, I get a visit from the Sheriff of St.Louis County saying, " Go home immediately." No explanation. I found out later Grandma was hanging on a tree in my old neighborhood across from my foster folks' home.  My mother must have driven her there to assuage her fears that her grandson hadn't flown the coop. It was a eleven hour drive back in the days before the expressways.

Remember a recent post about irony?  I created a copy of the duck for my granddaughter.  The copy was pasted onto a blackboard I made.  In 2007, it was a teaching tool for the kid.  No mention was ever made of the history of the duck.  I cringe every time I see the duck.  It makes me think of times I was dumb enough to drive home with a girlfriend in my 1960 Ford Sunliner convertible, run inside the house to get condoms or whatever hugely important thing I'd forgotten only to find Grandma berating Susie or Bonnie, calling her a beaaach who should leave her grandson alone.  Every time I see the effing thing I remember her shouting at the TV, or cursing Harry Truman because, "He had a foul mouth."  Ha. 

Poor soul.  She was an incredible old-time German cook.  As I grew older and had my own family, my children lived in fear of her because she had only one front tooth.  When I was a kid and she accompanied my mother on weekly visits to the foster home, she always slipped me a half dollar. Later ,when she was still fairly under control of her faculties, she'd slip me a twenty.  Inflationary times.  It never scarred my psyche or turned me into a closet weirdo.  Mostly, it made me sad about getting old.  I should have been more tolerant, instead of holding beer parties in the basement rec room when I graduated from high school.  Bringing home drunken friends from the beer bars outside of town sure didn't help.

Sorry Grandma.


T. Roger Thomas said...

As always, your writing is clear and compelling enough to make me want to read to the end.

Gavrillo said...

As I went back and reread the piece, I found some confusing moments, especially in trying to remember why I titled it , "Incongruous." In my defense, I've been under siege from laryngitis since Friday. When I open my mouth, this awful scrawwk comes out. You're too kind, TRT. I will do better.