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Great-Grandma Sure Knows How To Live

, , , , , , | Related | March 9, 2023

Back in 1988, when I was two years old, Mom had me out at her grandmother’s farmhouse one day because her dad wanted to show off the garden he’d been working on. I was sitting down, and seconds later, I had wandered off.

Mom and Grandpa freaked out trying to find me. They knew I couldn’t have gotten to the street because the entire yard was fenced in, but I could easily have toddled off to the back of the property where a giant pond sits. My grandpa ran off in that direction to find me, while Mom ran inside to get her grandmother and her aunt to help look for me.

The house had a kind of unusual setup, so when Mom ran into the living room, she calmed down for a split second when she saw me in the reflection of a mirror, but then she panicked again when she saw what was happening.

It was nothing nefarious, but my great-grandmother had a pure white quilted blanket that she bought for about $100 back in the 1940s. Having survived the Great Depression, this was a MASSIVE luxury to her. She loved that blanket, and she would throw a fit at anyone who so much as got close enough to breathe on it.

I was sitting on that blanket, and my hands and face were covered in chocolate.

Mom: “[My Name]! No! What are you doing in here?!”

She ran in, only to see my great-grandmother handing me the chocolates. I would stick my finger into the chocolate, and if I didn’t like the filling, she’d set it aside and hand me another to test. If I liked it, I’d eat it, and then she’d give me another.

Mom: “Grandma? What are you doing? Why are you feeding [My Name] chocolate on your quilt?!”

Great-Grandma: “[Mom], I hope when you’re an old lady, no one tries to question you about how you want to spoil your great-grandkids.”

She passed away three years later, and I inherited that same blanket. I no longer eat chocolate on it, though.

It Really Does Take A Village

, , , | Friendly | February 28, 2023

During college, I rented a room in a small town about half an hour from campus. When I say “small”, I mean that it was the kind of town where a new stop sign makes headlines. My landlady’s son graduated from the local school — not high school, school — and his graduating class was him and a set of twins. It was a SMALL town.

The day I moved in, my landlady was going over the house rules and telling me about what was available in town: a general store/gas station and a really small restaurant.

Landlady: “Oh, if Mrs. [Woman] comes up to you, just play along and let me know what she said to you.”

Me: “Who’s Mrs. [Woman]?”

Landlady: “You shouldn’t run into her if you don’t spend a lot of time walking around town. Don’t worry; she’s harmless and really a sweetheart. She’s just confused is all.”

Fast forward a few weeks. One Saturday, I decided to check out the restaurant, and there was no reason to drive when I could just walk.

I had just passed the general store when I heard an older woman call out:

Woman: “[Not My Name]! So wonderful to see you again, darling. How have you been?”

The next thing I knew, a little old lady was giving me a quick hug while I stood like a deer in headlights.

Woman: “It really is wonderful to see you. Can you give me a hand with the groceries if it’s not too much trouble?”

She held out a single shopping bag. Being a Boy Scout, my first response was to take the bag and offer her my arm.

During the half-a-block walk from the general store to her home, Mrs. [Woman] continued to refer to me as [Not My Name]. She asked me about my mother and if she was doing well, she asked if “our James” had written recently from the war. She wanted to know if I had heard about how the [Family] girl had just had twins and what I thought of the names she had picked. She also said that if my little brother wasn’t otherwise employed this weekend, she would like to have her lawn mowed. We got to her door, I said I would ask him, and I bid her farewell.

That night, I told my landlady about our conversation.

Landlady: “Oh, the [Family] twins and the war… She’s in the 1970s again. That’s not bad. I’ll call the preacher after dinner.”

Me: “Okay, so who is she, and what exactly is going on?”

Landlady: “Mrs. [Woman] had a very tragic life. She lost just about everyone in her life — six siblings, her parents, and her husband — and had at least three stillbirths, all before she was twenty-five. That sort of broke the poor thing. She isn’t sure what year it is, and she knows everyone by name but never calls anybody by the same name twice. Her family used to own most of the town, so she was well-known before her break. In the beginning, I think they thought she might come back to her senses someday, but now we don’t have much hope for that.”

Me: “Why isn’t she in a care facility?”

Landlady: “Why should she be? She can take care of herself, and she’s in good health. If she needs something, she asks for it, like today with the lawn care. I’ll let the preacher know, and tomorrow, he’ll ask if anyone wants to go round her place with a mower. She has a cousin in the city managing her trust fund, so all her bills get paid on time. She’s ours. We can take care of her ourselves.”

I think about Mrs. [Woman] a lot now and wonder how she’s doing these days. I’m sure her town still takes care of her if she needs it.

He Was A Very Convincing Rolfe, Apparently

, , , , , , | Learning | January 31, 2023

After my high school performance of “The Sound of Music”, the student actors are mingling with audience members in the lobby. An elderly man is approaching various actors.

To the actor who played the lead role of Maria:

Man: “You were amazing! So talented! I hope you pursue a career in music.”

To the actor who played Gretl, the youngest of the von Trapp children:

Man: “You were fantastic, sweetie! I bet your parents are so proud of you.”

To the actor who played Rolfe, still in a Nazi costume from his final scene in the show:

Man: “The last time I saw a man wearing that uniform, I shot him!”

Never Pick A Fight With An Old Korean Woman

, , , , , , , , , , | Friendly | January 21, 2023

About ten years ago, I worked part-time as an assistant to an old woman in her eighties. The circumstances of how this came to be can be summed up as happenstance and being in the right place at the right time. The details are a bit lost on me nowadays, but I do remember her splitting into a big smile when she realized I was tall enough to reach the top shelf of a grocery aisle.

She was practically a South Korean grandmother stereotype; she was absolutely tiny — she barely reached my chest and I’m 6’0″ — she was very sweet and kind, and English was her third language. I worked full-time nights, so when I was done with my night shift, I went to her house at around 7:00 am, stayed with her for four to five hours per weekday to keep her company, assist her in getting around, drive her to the grocery store sometimes, and help her cook, as the rest of her family had school and work of their own to do. Then, I went home, usually between 11:00 and 12:00 when her daughter came back, to sleep until I needed to wake up again and get ready for work.

Safe to say, I — a big, 260-pound Caucasian man with a red beard — was a fixture of her house for a good few years. I met a lot of her family and even got invited to a couple of their reunions, though everyone seemed to be under the impression that her youngest daughter and I were dating, despite our protests.

I have plenty of stories, but one stands out in particular: the day about a year into working with her that this less-than-five-foot-tall grandmother protected me from potentially getting my butt kicked.

We were in a grocery store, and [Grandma] was holding onto my arm as we walked, with me pushing the cart and her holding the list of essentials she needed for one dinner or another. We’d just started going down the soup aisle when, as I bent over to grab a can, something bumped into my hip. There was a loud crash behind me, and I looked back to see another man, who had evidently dropped a big can of tomato soup when he bumped into me. The can had broken open and splashed his khaki pants up to his knees, as well as his formerly-shiny black dress shoes.

I’m not sure what his financial situation actually was, but his clothes certainly looked fancier than mine.

At that moment, I could see his face growing as red as the tomatoes, and I had a feeling that he wasn’t about to be gracious about it. So, I went full damage control, taking full responsibility and putting my body between the angry man and [Grandma] in case he started throwing stuff.

Me: “Oh, man, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to—”


Me: *Trying to deescalate* “Look, I’ll pay for the damages and your groceries—”

He cut me off, continuing to scream and making a big scene in the middle of a grocery store, while a woman who I could only assume was his wife kept trying to get his attention. His wife certainly looked pained and embarrassed, but also resigned. The man pulled himself away from her, moving toward me threateningly. As I said, I’m a big guy, but I was not looking for a fight, and my main priority would, of course, be to protect [Grandma]. This angry man was a little bit shorter than me but also fairly beefy, and I had no doubt he’d be able to throw his weight around if he made to attack me.

In my efforts to lead him away from [Grandma] so it was less likely for her to get hurt, she’d apparently moved like a ninja, as the next thing I — or the angry man — knew, a tiny hand came up from below and grabbed the man’s ear. As only a very perturbed grandmother of any race or creed can do, she wrenched him down by the ear so hard that I was worried she’d rip it off, and she started yelling point-blank into it.


At that point, she descended into what I could only assume were Korean insults and curses before she let him go, and the angry man stumbled away from the, frankly, quite scary Korean grandmother. I stepped back, as well, to put distance between myself and the formerly angry, now thoroughly dressed-down man, who mumbled something about not worrying about the pants or shoes and shuffled off in shame, his wife following with an apologetic look.

I looked back at [Grandma], who had immediately gone back to sweet old lady, holding up her grocery list, a smile on her face as though nothing happened.

Grandma: “We need soup.”

I did, of course, pay for the damaged soup can, and our shopping trip went on without any further incident, though I did jokingly call her “my bodyguard” when I relayed the story to [Daughter] when we got back home. [Grandma] made pretend martial arts moves when I said that, laughing heartily, obviously quite proud of herself.

I eventually moved on from assisting [Grandma], though I still kept in touch with [Daughter] and her other family members. A few years ago, [Grandma] passed away peacefully in her sleep, and I related this and other stories at her funeral, earning happy, tear-filled chuckles.

Later that day, [Daughter] took me aside.

She explained to me that the day she stood up for me in the grocery store had been the day that I, evidently, had basically become adopted, because [Grandma] had a history of being a bodyguard to her family; between nosy neighbors and angry fellow customers, she met them with just as much aggression and then immediately calmed down when the situation was rectified. 

I’m man enough to admit I cried even more after learning that.

Never Pick A Fight With An Old Scottish Woman

A Little White Fry

, , , , , | Right | January 11, 2023

I work in a small family-owned restaurant. The prices are reasonable as long as you don’t do too many substitutions or add-ons. Chips are included with every meal but the upcharge for fries or a salad instead is $3-4.

An older gentleman comes to order take-out and he’s on the phone with whom I assume is his wife. He orders both their meals and is giving me his complete attention, so I’m not annoyed by the phone call because it isn’t busy and he just wants to make sure her order is correct.

I ask about the sides. He has me repeat the options so he can relay them to his wife.

Customer: On the phone. “Don’t worry about the cost; I’ll get you whatever side you’d like. Do you want the fries?” *To me, after a pause.* “How much for the sweet potato fries?”

Me: “$3.”

Customer: On the phone. “They’re $1.” *Gives me a knowing look.*

I put in the sweet potato fries and finished the transaction. When his order was up he gave me a fist bump and wished me well. I told all my coworkers about the gentleman’s white lie and how nice it was that he wanted to get her what she wanted.