- Stop trying to poke your brother in the eye with a fork.
- Clean that spill up. You think I can’t see it under your father’s paper?
- Wear dark clothing when you play outside. It’s a bitch to get blood out of light colors.
Those words still circle my thoughts once in a while, but the thing that probably left the biggest impression on me was something she said only once, very quietly, with a hard and ugly look in her eyes- “You better get the first aid kit ready. I’m about to stab your grandma.”
The potential victim was her mother-in-law, a woman we rarely saw because she lived overseas. Granny had come to visit because she wanted to connect with her American grandchildren. The original plan was to stay for two weeks. I saw a little twitch in my mom’s eye when my dad first mentioned it, but she didn’t say a word. When Granny extended her trip for four more weeks, I saw a small tear roll down my mom’s cheek. Still, she didn’t say a word.
When Granny criticized my mom’s cooking? Not a wayward glance. When Granny asked my dad if he still thought about that lovely girl from middle school? Not a single peep. When Granny asked my mom when she was going to lose all the baby weight since she hadn’t been pregnant for more than eight years? Not even a frown.
During the sixth week of her visit, Granny decided to borrow my mom’s best loafers, the ones she only wore to church or to a funeral, to take a stroll through the neighborhood. She stepped in a pile of dog shit. Instead of cleaning them, she abandoned them in the garbage can at our curb and yelled for my mom to bring her another pair of shoes so she wouldn’t have to walk through the yard barefoot.
That’s when she threatened to stab Granny. Any in-yard violence was sure to get us kicked off the neighborhood block party roster, but I understood. Shit needed to be settled. Woman to woman. Instead, my mom helped my grandma inside. My mom’s patience and compassion left an impression on me that day. But a knife fight would still have been awesome.
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