Things you don’t say to Grandma

There are things I think about when we visit my grandmother.

Her house has always been heavy with two themes, Disney and religion. My grandfather, after getting out of the navy, worked for Disneyland for some amazing amount of time before retiring, fifty years maybe? He had a special plaque commemorating it. "Thanks, Fred! Now you’re in the Disney hall of fame!"

When I was growing up in Orange County, my grandparents lived there too. When we lived in Santa Ana we went to Disneyland and church with them. When we moved to Orange, we went to a different church but still went to Disneyland. Then we moved to Washington state. We would still go to Disneyland with them, sometimes. Sometimes we’d go to church with them too. It was always a thing about visiting my grandparents, that if you were there on Sunday you went to church. They didn’t insist. It was just what we did.

My grandmother now lives in Lewiston, Idaho, the same city as one of my dad’s brothers. She lives in a small apartment attached to a care facility designed for people with severe dementia, of the kind where, left to their own devices, people would have a tendency to wander out into traffic and things like that. She stayed there after my grandfather died. I don’t know why, exactly. Maybe she made friends, or didn’t want to move again. I think it must be the friends. She eats down in the dining room, and the food there is so terrible that companionship is the only reason I can imagine anybody with a choice would eat there.

Sometimes I talk to my grandma about Disney. I try to avoid talking to her
about religion, but sometimes it comes up anyway. I noticed a Disney magazine
on her coffee table and mentioned that I liked that Stitch of Lilo and Stitch
was one of the characters on the cover, had she seen the movie? Or any relatively
recent Disney animation?

She had not. I mentioned that I thought after a few years of getting really off track from the heart of Disney, which I saw as being animation, they had started to put out some really good movies again.

She said something about how you could see how off track they had gone because of having "gay days" in Disneyland. You know, where all the gay people go on one day? She said it with a sour look on her face, and my heart sank.

I wanted to say, "Grandma, who’s been filling your head with this right
wing nonsense? Is it the same person who gave you that repulsive Rush Limbaugh
book that I see on your bookshelf, looking so out of place beside the devotionals
and the different editions of the Protestant Bible and 101 Clean Jokes for
Any Occasion
? You didn’t used to talk about this kind of stuff, what changed?"

I wanted to say, "Grandma, I love you, but I’m really not on your side on this one. I think it’s great that Disney is so tolerant. And I think gay people should be able to get married to each other, and adopt children, and lead Boy Scout troops, and anything else you can think of. I do. That’s what I think."

And I sort of wanted to say, "Grandma, you know I’m not a Christian anymore,
right? I mean, not in the way you would understand it. I left the church when
I was fifteen, largely because the people at that particular church were crazy
anti-feminist idiots. I had a brief backslide into thinking I might believe
in Christianity again, but it was killed flat dead during the Iran-Contra scandal,
when I realized that the Christian church had somehow become a wholly owned
subsidiary of the Republican party. And so when you say some of these things
to me, these us-and-them things, you do realize I’m THEM, not US?"

I didn’t say any of these things. What I said was, "I remember that controversy. It was a while ago, wasn’t it?"

And the conversation moved on. She hadn’t seen the movie, but she did have a Stitch toy that moved and made noise.


  1. I know the feeling. I don’t have to do that with my grandma, who is surprisingly liberal for a Sunday school teacher, haha, but Seamus’ grandma is one of those Things You Don’t Say grandmas: really sweet people who spend more effort being a good person in day to day living than in global thinking. Ah well, it seems like as we move forward in time, there are always more people interested in freedom and equality and less clinging to the Victorian era. ;)

    You reminded me: Have you seen the Venture Brothers episode “Brisbyland”? I didn’t know you grew up in Orange County, but I’m bringing it to Rainforest now because I’m sure we’ll have a spare 25 minutes in which to laugh our asses off, and if not, oh well. :)

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