Years ago, my grandma told me my grandfather had accused her of “cursing like a mule-skinner.”
It was clear he meant to shame her, and equally clear she saw it as a complement to the highest degree.
Is it any wonder I like spending time with her?
That’s what I did yesterday, driving six hours round-trip over the mountains for a quick overnight visit with Hot Lips.
Yes, that’s really what I call my grandmother. I’ve done it for so many years that it hardly registers for me anymore that this is not how most people address their grandmothers. When I asked critique partner Cynthia Reese to autograph one of her books for Hot Lips as a Christmas gift a few years ago, you would have thought I’d asked her to smack grandma on the ass and call her a skank.
“I don’t feel right calling someone’s grandmother ‘Hot Lips,’” she told me.
“If you don’t write it that way,” I pointed out, “she won’t know it’s from me.”
Hot Lips will be 80 next year, and though she lives alone quite capably, my mom is always 20 minutes away to look out for her. With my parents traveling for a few months, I decided to visit Hot Lips in case she needed me to take care of anything for her.
It was immediately clear Hot Lips had other ideas. If someone needed to be taken care of, by God, it was the granddaughter.
I tried to take her out to lunch. Hot Lips threatened spankings for a waitress and me if I attempted to pay the bill.
I tried to demonstrate my cautious driving skills when I took her out to run errands. She called another driver a “fart face” for going too slow.
I tried to suggest we cook dinner together in hopes of packing her fridge with nutritious meals for her future enjoyment. She was appalled to discover I had never eaten a hot turkey sandwich slathered in gravy, and smacked my hand with a spatula when I tried to help her make it.
So I’ve just returned home stuffed with mashed potatoes and ice cream and a whole lot of grandmotherly affection. But the best thing she gave me wasn’t the food. It was 24-hour distraction from the business of writing.
My last four weeks have been a whirlwind of blogging and tweeting and a lot of behind-the-scenes marketing tasks that people don’t tend to think of as part of the package when they decide to write a book.
Not that I’m complaining. I just didn’t realize how much I needed a break from it until I spent 24 hours with a woman whose only experience with computers is referring to them as “those sumbitchin’ things everyone’s always farting around with.”
So I’m back home now, and ready to tackle whatever comes next for me in the life of a struggling author. Best of all, I learned some new curse words. That’ll come in handy with the next book.