My grandmother, Beatrice Irene Repsher, was born on 18-Aug-1910 in Analomink, Pennsylvania and had a good long life until she passed away on 17-Jul-2010 in Newton, New Jersey. Gram was a woman who would tell you what was on her mind without hesitation. That particular characteristic inspired me to write the following story about her.
Gram Wants Answers
I’m late. I need to pick up some things at Gram Strait’s house where I am living after a breakup with a long-time live-in boyfriend. My newest boyfriend, Shorty, is with me. His real name is Robert but he never goes by that name. He picked up his nickname early in life when he had on a pair of rolled-up blue jeans that were as wide as he was tall. Shorty is a cowboy in every rough and tumble sense of the word. He’s wearing a pair of dusty broken-in cowboy boots, tight jeans and belt with a big silver buckle, button-down shirt and cowboy hat; straw, since it’s summer. His felt one is for winter. Shorty is fearless on a horse even if the horse is bucking and pitching, snorting, biting or stomping. He barrel races at full speed, kicking the horse’s sides with abandon and giving the horse its head so it can do what it’s been trained to do. The crinkles in his face show many long hours spent in the hot sun fixing fences or busting broncos. He doesn’t take guff from anyone, man or horse.
Shorty is behind the wheel of my maroon and white, crew cab Chevy; a beast of a truck that drinks gasoline like an elephant filling up at a watering hole. The green grass of Gram’s front lawn shimmers in the bright sunshine which slices through the still air of June 1987 as we cruise past the single-story, brick-red house. Shorty negotiates the tight turnaround at the dead end of Lincoln Place – an old, narrow street in Newton, New Jersey. We pull up in front of the neatly kept house. The massive blue spruce at the corner of the lawn hides the driveway we don’t pull into. We aren’t supposed to be there that long. I just need to pop in and pop out.
Ten long strides from the street and I am rushing into the house. Gram is in her chair in front of her big picture window. Her latest crocheting project covers her lap.
“Hi, Dear,” she says. “Are you home for dinner?”
“No, I just need to get some things from my room.”
She pushes her owl glasses further up her nose and peers intently out the window.
“Oh, who’s that out there in the truck?”
“That’s just Shorty,” I mumble, not wanting to draw any attention to him.
The next thing I know, Gram’s heading for the side door. The crocheting is on the floor with balls of string bouncing across the green shag carpeting. The metal screen door slaps shut behind her as she marches single-mindedly to the parked truck. I rush to the door to see what’s going to happen, too chicken to actually go outside. I just KNOW what’s coming.
Her nose just meets the bottom of the open truck window. Shorty looks down at her and blinks in surprise as she spouts out, “Why don’t you get out of the truck and come inside?”
That stumps Shorty completely. He blinks again and stammers, “Um, well…. er….”
“You’re seeing my granddaughter, right?”
That’s one he can answer. “Yes, ma’am, yes I am.”
“Well, then, she tells me you don’t have a job. Don’t you know a man is supposed to earn the money and pay for things?”
Another stumper. This lady doesn’t pull her punches!
Shorty looks nervously at me in the safety of the house behind the screen door. I just shrug as if to say, “What can I do about her?” He pulls his hat further over his eyes and hunkers down into the seat. I’ve never seen him squirm like this before.
His attention is drawn back to Gram as she shifts her position to get a better view into the truck interior littered with the remains of our lunch and his empty cigarette packs. He finally comes up with some explanations about how he’s been interviewing at different places for truck driving work. It comes out poorly.
“Well, you’d better find something soon,” she barks out. “An unemployed man is a bum!”
Gram fixes him with her clear blue eyes made even larger by her glasses. She stares at him until she is satisfied that she isn’t going to get anything else useful. She’s made her point. Gram turns and heads back to the house lobbing one more zinger his way.
“Next time you come inside the house when you’re here. It’s rude to stay in that truck.”
Gram brushes past me where I’m still standing in the door. She collects her crocheting, rounds up the errant balls of string, and settles into her over-stuffed chair again. I find what I’ve come to get. I give her a smooch and a big hug and make my way to the door. I’m anxious to see how long it will take Shorty to recover from being steamrolled.
“I love you, Dear,” she calls out in sing-song as I leave. “Don’t be home too late.”