Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Grandma May.......

As one travels through life, one encounters many personalities.  There are parents, grandparents, cousins, nieces, nephews, friends, teachers, business associates, and the list goes on infinitum.  There are thousands and thousands of people who touch our lives---a few very significantly and some just barely.

We can always recall those who touch us in a significant way.  And, now that I really think about it, it is clear that how we are affected by these folks differs from person to person.

Even When Asleep, She Looked Formidable

You take my grandma May for example.  She was unlike anyone I have ever known.  She was unique.  I will not see her kind again. 

Grandma May on Left, Circa 1970.  I am Next to Her.  My First Wife, Catherine, is on Right. You Can See May's Feistiness as She Says "Don't Take My Picture!!!"

May was my dad's mom.  I really got to know her as a teenager, when she came to live with us for a couple of years.  Her husband, my grandfather Jerry, was sick; and May stayed with us during that ordeal.

May is Third Lady From Right, Circa 1950

When May came to live with us, I was excited, because I knew she was what might be referred to as "a character".  This woman had personality and talent to spare.  But, she also was notorious as a "troublemaker"---someone who would purposefully upset the proverbial applecart just to "stir things up" and provide entertainment for herself.

Of course, this trait did not exactly endear her to my mom, who was trying to run an efficient, trouble-free household...but, no matter.  May was May, and if anyone didn't like it, then they could lump it.  Of course I, as a hormone ridden and rebellious young teen, loved her non-conformity.  I also loved the fact that my dad acquiesced to her.  If May had worn a license plate, it would have said "Question Authority".  Yes, May could be a problem, but for me, a most delightful one.

1960 at Jerry's Funeral in Dallas, TX (Restland Cemetery).  L-R Me, My Mom, May, Grandfather Clinton (My Mom's Dad), Grandma Clinton and my Brother David

One of my favorite things was when she would enter a room and say to me in the most professorial tone, "Tell me, doctor (the word "doctor" would roll off her tongue), how was your recent trip to the Congo?"  Or, Tell me about your audience with the Pope..." or some such nonsense.

Early 1970s.  May with Catherine

This was my signal to begin BSing with her on totally made-up phooey about my nonexistent trip to the Congo or audience with the Pope or whatever else she may have presented to me.  Oh, it was grand fun the way we went back and forth---she asking ridiculous questions ("Did you have occasion to eat any cannibals while touring the Dark Continent?"), and me responding accordingly ("Why yes---the best meal I had was stewed Ubange with cabbage").  Our exchanges would continue for hours and it was nearly impossible for anyone hearing this outrageous banter to keep from rolling on the floor in laughter.  When I think back on those times, I can see that it was improvisational comedy at its most inane.

May and My Dad, Circa 1972

Then, of course, there was the time May got me off to the side and told me that if I wanted to learn to smoke cigarettes, she would show me how to do it---and, she counseled, "I won't tell your mom or dad---it'll be our secret."

May had a habit of eating dessert before any other course at dinner.  She said that she did that because she "Didn't want a sweet taste in her mouth after dinner."

Speaking of dinner, May made a point of eating fat that she would carve from meat at the dinner table.  While others would cut off pieces of fat and discard them, May would cut them off and slowly eat them, enjoying the reactions of others at the table.  Her actions at the table emboldened me to the point that I, too, began eating the fat---it was delicious.  Of course, I quickly learned that May did this not so much because she actually liked eating the fat, but more because of the stir it caused among her fellow diners.

Circa 1960.  Brother David, Dad, May, Me
May enjoyed a can of beer each night before bed.  She said it helped her digestion and aided sleep.  It must have worked, because the grand old lady lived to be 92.

In the talent department. May was a sensation on the piano.  She played by ear and let me tell you, the woman could tear up a ragtime number.  Her hands were like magic, tumbling across the keys, her left fingers going one way and her right fingers the other in a blur.  If you named her a song---any song--- she would knock it out if she had heard it before.

But she could also read music, and I loved it when she would buy sheet music of contemporary pop songs and play them for me. 

Looking back, I'm sorry my kids never knew her.  But, I do know that my oldest daughter, Debbie, inherited a lot of her talents.  Her talents were the wild kind---really special but difficult to harness, if you know what I mean.

May did not want her picture taken---ever.  She would make a commotion of the first magnitude if someone tried to take her pic.  That is the reason so few photographs of her exist today.  Thankfully, I did find just a few to share.

Debbie asked me about her today, and it got me to reminiscing.  This old guy got a little teary-eyed thinking about a special grandmother.  I'm so blessed to have known her.


  1. What a sweet and special blog post! I love it! I have heard so much about May, I wish I could have known her, I think we would have gotten along together just fine. You know how I have enjoyed reading some of her old letters to your mother. Eating fat, dessert first and consuming a beer every evening. The very things we are warned about yet May lived to be 92! Maybe we should heed the advice of the so-called health experts as "not what to do" in living long and healthy lives. I hope your family enjoys your remembrance of your Grandmother May. ♥

  2. what a character! she must have driven your mother MAD!

    1. Absolutely. Isn't that what Mothers-In-Law are for?

  3. That is what I was thinking too....what a character. Specially the part with the smoking.

    Thanks for sharing the story, made me thinking of my granny.

    Greetings to you and Cindy

  4. Clint,
    Love the memories of Grandma May. She sounds like what they used to call (where I came from) a "ring-tailed stem winder". That was a compliment. :)

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  6. Hi Clint! This is Ashley (Karolyn's daughter) I wanted to thank you for sharing your memories of May on your blog! My mom's told me some funny stories about May as well and I wish so much that I could have met her. I miss my grandmother, Wynne, so much - she was so funny and I can only imagine got her humor from May. Thanks! :)

  7. Hi Ashley! I'm so happy you read this post and responded. I hope some day we are able to meet. Between your mom and dad and May and Jerry and Wynne, you've got some pretty special genes!

  8. Absolutely loved your recollection of your Grandmother, you sure had me smiling :)

  9. She sounds like someone I would have loved to have known- a really amazing woman! And Clint, I think parts of May still live on in you, too~

  10. I LOVE May, she sure was my kind of lady! I can completely understand why you adored her so much, a real rebel without a cause... good thing she didn't have a Harley! I can see it now.

    Thank you for sharing your amazing Grandma with us, she's still putting smiles on peoples faces. :-)

  11. We have to meet!! I keep telling mom that we need to make a road trip down to see you. You've got to meet my brother too, he's a real trip. I bet we'd have a lot of stories to share!

  12. Man that was the sweetest stories - nowadays kids could care less about their grandparents let alone be excited they are coming to stay for awhile. I don't know her - but I know her and she is MY kind of gal. She really knew how to live and have fun. Glad you loved her so much. sandie

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