An evening with Grandma H

Yesterday was the wrong day to take a day off for drama. Yacoob and Umberto both told me there'd been a women's rights protest yesterday, with numerous women marching down Telegraph topless (says Yacoob) or naked (says Umberto), demanding their right to practice nudity until they get it right.

I wholeheartedly support that cause, and not merely as a joke. Seriously, if I can take my shirt off on a hot sweaty day, it ain't fair that the ladies can't.

Other than the men talking about yesterday, nothing much happened on Telegraph today. When I packed everything up and came home, though, my grandma was waiting for me.

She's been dead for years, so "waiting for me" only means that she was unexpectedly on my mind. Now she'll be unexpectedly in my zine.

She was my father's mother, Grandma Holland we called her, or Grandma H. She lived with our family all the years I was growing up, and she was the most Christian person I've ever known. Which is not a compliment.

You've heard of hippie Christians, "high on God"? Grandma H overdosed on God, every damned day.

She read the Bible from cover to cover, constantly. Her only interests in life seemed to be prayer, Bible study, watching old westerns on TV, and occasionally baking sugar cookies. Darn good sugar cookies, too, but she only baked them when God told her to, which wasn't often.

Her daily prayers were never quiet, always shouted. Usually she prayed alone in her bedroom, sometimes for hours on end, and if I'd been a bad boy she'd drag me in to pray with her.

When there was a family crisis, she'd take it to the Lord with a method she called "praying through," which meant the same crying and screaming prayers as any other day, only it wouldn't end until she'd heard an answer in the voice of God. To "pray through" sometimes took hours, sometimes days, with her wailing and weeping stopped only overnight while she slept, or for rushed meals or bathroom breaks.

Only once was I deemed a bad enough boy to need to "pray through" with Grandma H, but I'll never forget it. I'd heard her come thundering down the stairs to my basement bedroom, and she blasted my door with three powerful knocks. I said, "Yeah?" and she burst into the room and accused me of masturbating, though of course she didn't use that word. It was "defiling your body, temple of the Lord."

Coincidentally, that's what I'd been in the middle of doing before hearing her loud footsteps approach, and the day before Clay had rebuked me for it, too. He must've told Grandma, because she demanded to "pray through" with me. And after a long afternoon "praying through" with Grandma H, I'd learned my lesson, believe me. I didn't masturbate again for hours.

My grandmother was God's stenographer, receiving direct messages from the great and powerful God, and relaying those messages to the rest of us. Like, Do not defile your temple.

Sometimes, though, God gave her good news, like when she said, "God has told me that your uncle will recover from his illness" — and he did.

Sometimes it was bad news, like, "God has told me that celebrating Christmas is an abomination, so I will not be participating." Usually she baked sugar cookies for Christmas, so that word from God was disappointing.

More often, her messages from God were simply strange. As she got older and her teeth began to chatter, she believed God was using Morse Code to telegraph His commands to her, so she bought a manual and began transcribing the dots and dashes from her mouth.

When the code was decoded to gibberish, she started studying Hebrew, because "That's the language of the Lord." Yeah, she thought God was sending her Morse Code in Hebrew.

In the summer of 1974, when Watergate had been in the headlines for months and months, the news said that President Nixon would resign the next day, but my grandma had a source that said otherwise.

"God has told me," she announced at a commercial in the Walter Cronkite show, "that Nixon will not resign. He will be completely exonerated, and will reveal that he is an archangel sent by God to live among us and lead the world to salvation."

Nobody called her on it when Nixon resigned the next day.

Grandma H never doubted the word of God, but even as a kid, I doubted Grandma H. Always figured either she was crazy, or Jehovah was a hell of a kidder. Growing up around her, I became less and less interested in anything involving faith.

My brother Clay, though, thought Grandma had a direct connection to God, and became more and more Christian as he got older. Now Clay's so Christian I can hardly talk to him, and Grandma H died a few years back.

I loved her, and remember her as a nice old lady, mildly insane, who made the world's finest sugar cookies. She wouldn't share the recipe, though. She said God had told her not to, and then later, as her delusions grew, she said God had told her she'd never die, so there was no need to share the recipe. She took the secret with her when she went, so no sugar cookies for me, ever again.

From Pathetic Life #16
Sunday, September 3, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


  1. Funny how you took the right lesson from all that insanity while Clay found the insanity as something to aspire. Why do religious people feel that anything that makes you feel good must be bad? Never got that. I've never masturbated and wondered if it was wrong. I have wondered why I can't do it even more often. And why women, who have this gift, rarely do? (Or are they not admitting it?) -- Arden

    1. My brother would see it differently -- that I'd made the wrong choice, walked away from God, for which I'll burn in Hell forever and ever amen. If majority rules, then his perspective is right, ours wrong.

      Women do. I've watched, so I can vouch for it.

    2. If you count the dildos in Oklahoma who don't read books (except for you-know-what) a slight majority of Americans believes in god. I strongly doubt that even with all the dildos, a majority of Americans believes in a literal hell. They believe in burning books, but not people. Their ignorance is electing a few theocrats, but this too shall pass in most states. I think you're in the majority, not the minority.

      Of course, god won't appear because people believe in her. Like Tom Sawyer, she'll forever ride the rivers of our minds in fiction.


    3. Are dildos legal in Oklahoma?

      I like what you said, and how you said it. Nothing's more consistently held humanity back than religion. My assessment from years of observation is that Jesus had some good ideas, and most of his followers don't know what they were and aren't interested.

    4. Yes, but only for vaginal insertion.


    5. I meant the dildos, not Jesus. Do what you want with Jesus.


  2. Is everyone in your family nuts?

    1. 'Nuts' is such a broad term, and a completely sane response to living in our insane society. All my favorite people are nuts, and certainly everyone in my family, including me.

    2. Doug, this ain’t my conversation, but l think Amy meant “disfunctional”.


    3. Every family is dysfunctional, or pretnear. Mine isn't especially so. I'm just a complainer, is all.

    4. Doug, I think you write nonfiction. You strike me as peculiarly sane. Your family, for the most part strikes me, in the word of one of my favorite psychologists, as nuts. I don't mean to insult them. I'm glad you love them and, for the most part, get along with them. I wish I had a bigger living family, although I am most grateful for my sister. She's peculiarly sane as well, and helps keep me sane-ish.


    5. Sane-ish is the best we can hope for. My sister is sane-ish, too, as am I on a good day.


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