When I took my first summer vacation home from college, there was an airline strike of some kind — pilots, flight attendants, something.
“We’ll drive,” my mother said.
We packed my stuff and my grandmother into Mom’s 1963 powder blue Lincoln Continental, a magnificent road yacht, and set out from the Tampa Bay area to New York City, with Mom and me sharing the driving.
My grandmother’s life had, for all purposes, come to an end by that time, the fall of 1966. She was born in Dakota territory in 1885, just ten years after Custer’s last stand. Chester A. Arthur was President. She married my grandfather in a house that he and his brothers built, and she lived there for more than fifty years, in a town of fewer than 1,000 souls.
I used to stay with Grammy and Grampa in the summers, for ever-longer stretches of time. “Three weeks!” I remember bragging to one of my pals when I was perhaps eight years old. By the time I was ten, I was spending the entire summers there, living a kind of boyhood that had more in common with Tom Sawyer than with the Mickey Mouse Club.
MY GRANDFATHER DIED IN 1959. Grammy and I sat together in the first pew in church at his funeral, and afterward she told me I was her little man now.
That lasted, I believe, for two summers. Then it became obvious it could not work anymore. I was growing up. She was growing old.
In photos taken in the early 1950s, my grandmother was very fat, probably 190 pounds. When she was diagnosed with diabetes, she was able to control her blood sugar with diet and with pills, and she lost weight, finally ending up about 155.
Old women do not look like this anymore. What exercise she got, she got from hard manual work around the house and garden. She had no real shape, other than that of a wrinkled potato. She had never been good looking. She wore dentures, and her lower jaw jutted awry from an injury I had inflicted on her with my hard head when I was a baby sitting on her lap.
She had a shapeless, pitted nose, and whiskers sprouted from her upper lip and her chin. Every day, she wore a brassiere, a lace-up girdle, large underpants over the girdle, and a slip over the entire ensemble. Stockings fastened to garters on the bottom of the girdle. Over all went a dress of some filmy material, and, often, over the dress, went an apron. She wore chunky shoes with a thick heel.
She walked bow-legged from arthritis, and her fingers were bent and lumpy.
IN JUST SUCH SHAPE, AT THE AGE OF 81, Grammy saw Manhattan. We took a day and a half and toured what we could. I had to lean into her and give her a boost up the tall steep steps of the 42nd Street crosstown bus — I believe we were on our way to the Empire State Building. The bus driver treated us very kindly and took his time.
Mom and Grammy stayed in a hotel on 49th and Lexington. In the attached restaurant, behind a yellow-lit window, the chef made a flamboyant gesture with his knife and greeted us effusively in Spanish.
“Land sakes!” Grammy exclaimed again and again. “My, my!”
She acted as if Spanish were the first foreign language she had ever heard. I know now that’s not true. There were old-timers around Arlington — some of them Grammy’s relatives — who spoke Swedish and Norwegian and German. On the other hand, she had grown up with those languages, and they were not foreign.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online