That’s right 101
And a half if you’re paying attention.
When Grace Welch was born she could not vote
And the United States was ignorant of World Wars and Financial Crises and the scandals were that women wore skirts above their ankles.
She met my grandfather when they were in high school and he courted her.
She delayed getting married until she was 24
Because women could not be married and teach and it was the depression and Applichia needed teachers.
When my grandfather took a station manager position in Memphis —
Or was it Lexington?
He hired a black program director
No one came to the celebratory party but them.
When he gave Dick Clark his first job in radio,
he was ignored in the pages of history
She lives in this rust belt town about 30 miles from the Canadian border in New York
It’s always funny when I say I’m going to a border town
Because there things are in three languages
And the Canadian Liquor is crazy cheap
And there are still border patrols
Once, a car with my mother and her two older sisters was stopped for no apparent reason
Turns out there was a terrorist threat that night.
This town has a base
That base has a world of its own
So there’s an Old Navy and a Target and Thank Heavens for the WalMart
But the used bookstore closed
And the Woolworth’s
And the guitar repair shop
It seems the largest complex in town
Is where the hospital and the nursing home and the assisted living and the senior living all come together
Because the town is full of aging centenarians who aren’t quite sure when they are
And shell shocked soldiers who aren’t quite sure where.
When I stepped into my Grandmother’s apartment my mother hugged me so tight I thought my shoulders would buckle
The idea that I’d rent a car was heaven to her because she could escape without waiting for a cab to pick her up because she’s been at home with her 101 year old mother.
Can’t understand her
Can’t do anything other than get up and get down and get up again
The cycle of lotion and bathrooms and lotion and meals and dishes and bed is never ending.
So the first night, we made Manhattans.
See, when I was growing up, everything stopped before dinner at my Grandmother’s house
The adults would have Manhattans and the kids Shirley Temples and we’d sit around together and talk
They shared stories
At 16 I had my first sip and at 18 my first full drink and you know what, I couldn’t understand why the adults liked it so much
Trust me, that changed.
And so the first night, we made Manhattans.
And my grandmother shared stories.
Including why she and my grandfather chose Manhattans as their cocktail hour drink
It’s such a strong drink
And you have to care for the other person who drinks it.
You have to care for the other person.
We made Manhattans and my Grandmother shared stories
Of how my grandfather would blow the rent money gambling at house parties. And then win it back the next day.
And when she went to bed, she slept for the longest she’d slept in a long time
If only the rest of the weekend were so easy
But when I came home
My girlfriend and I bought the fixings
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