Sometimes I don't have to try so hard.
My grandparents were very religious people. They attended a small church in town, and had a tight group of friends. As a child, I was taken to that church every Sunday, so I knew most of the church people by sight. Sometimes the "brothers" and "sisters", as it was customary to call the fellow worshipers, would be invited to Sunday lunch at my Grandparents' house. One couple that seemed to be extremely close to the family was Lawrence and Almeda. ( Brother Lawrence and Sister Almeda.....can I get an Amen?...AMEN!)
Well, anyway, this pair really creeped me out. Seriously. Lawrence was a tall thin man who wore brightly colored leisure suits on Sunday and cardigan sweaters the rest of the time. Lawrence didn't wear pants, he wore "slacks". He had the burr haircut of a shop teacher, extremely large and rough hands, and always smelled of tobacco. Lawrence mostly left us kids alone. Almeda, on the other hand....she was a short, round busybody with hairpins always falling out of her sparse curly hair, always wearing knee high stockings and a tattered dress (in church and out of church) She was a cheek pincher, if you know what I mean, and I made it a point to stay as far away as possible. Her nickname was 'MeenieMoe'...god only knows why.
My Grandmother worked at a place called Riverside. I'm sure it had a different name than that (probably Riverside Rehabilitation Facility, or something very clinical like that) When I was growing up, politically correct wasn't even thought of yet, and Riverside was the running gag among the grade-schoolers as the place the retarded kids went. The short bus would load them up every day, and cart the retards off to Riverside to make pretty colored hand prints on craft paper and spend the day smearing themselves with tempera paints and drool.
Sometimes we would visit Brother Lawrence and Sister MeeniMoe at their home. My mother insisted. I suppose she thought it would build character, and looked at it as an enrichment activity. She may have thought it would win her points with my Grandparents...."isn't that nice....Judy took the boys to visit Sue-Belle." I don't know why she did it, and really don't want to know. We always entered the house through the kitchen...that's what friends did...the front door was too formal. Thank God for small favors there....it gave me time to adjust to the climate. I remember the smell of natural gas...not the good cooking smell I recall from Grandma's house, but the oppressive death smell....(honest officer, I never knew there was a leak... I wonder?...) I remember a dusty, forgotten smell of old books and magazines, an oily smell of slick wood floors freshly Lysol'd. I remember entering the living room (gawd...how could they call it that?) "Come on in Davy....Sue Belle wants to say Hello" (sue belle wants to say anything) I didn't want to, but I couldn't go anywhere else. Never mind Lawrence and his dark socks and his vinyl chair and his aluminum tumbler with some very heavy and numbing liquid in it....never mind the black and white tv with the rabbit ears and re-rerun episodes of the Bob Braun show....never mind the slick wood floors and the black furnace grates that seemed to go down forever. never mind the hand-made felt clowns and teddy bears with eyes that were much too large. Never mind the natural gas smell of Auschwitz in Ohio....There was Suebelle to say hello to....
Why in god's name would any sane person put a kid through that? why?