What I Learned Today… black and tan

A story from my grandmother that I had never heard before.

 Every week I try to make it over to my grandmother’s house to visit and perhaps partake in a bite to eat. The usual grub requested is a Whopper Jr with cheese, while I opt for a Veggie Burger or if I have time to swing by, a Turkey sandwich at Subway.

Every visit seems to repeat itself going something like this…

  1. I arrive through the garage door since I still have the remote from living there almost 4 years ago.
  2. “Hi Grandma” I say as the door closed behind me. I hear the TV hushed as she presses mute for her program
  3. I set up tray tables while exchanging more hellos and banter on the weather.
  4. Usually I have to head back to the kitchen since I often forget to grab her a coke (Diet Pepsi) on the way in.
  5. After we get settled to dig into our grub, topics of conversation proceed as follows
    • How Thomas is doing?
    • When was the last time you talked you sister/mother?
    • What exciting things did you do this week?
    • The movie I saw this weekend was horrible, but your sister liked it. They just don’t make movies like they used to.
    • My knee hurts… My comments range from how great she is doing so soon after surgery to today’s comment of how all of the exercise the physical therapist does helps make it better, but working out sometimes hurts. Which then leads to how “I’m not as young as I used to be.” 
  6. The conversation is intermittently hushed as the TV is brought back to life seconds after “something good” happened on her program, The Young and the Restless. “You know, your mother got me into this program…”
  7. After about a half hour, I have to head back to work. I clean up, she hands me a five for the food, I give her a hug and trot off the direction I came in.

Although the conversations remain consistent, I try to throw a wrench in every now and again… and she sometimes throws back. Like today, we ended up talking about skin and how my mother had my grandfather’s skin color (this was after talking about who Thomas looked like). I totally disagreed as my grandfather was pretty pasty, never able to hold much of a tan. A few hours in the sun only made him look more like a large crustacean in a sailor suit. However, my grandmother (and my mother… and me) was just the opposite. Tans seemed to stick to her olive skin.

Agreeing with my sentiments, my grandmother progressed into an unfamiliar story about when my grandfather left to Cuba while she stayed home in Norfolk for the summer. My grandmother took to the beach, sunbathing for entertainment. When my grandfather returned, his mouth dropped exclaiming that she looked like a black person. They both returned to their hometown of Anderson, Indiana where she remembers people staring and whispering to each other as they gazed on the ginger haired boy with his dark skinned, dark locked girl. My grandfather requested that she never sunbathe to that degree again… She never did… to that degree.


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