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Believe it or not, I had a grandmother who used to goof around with her grandkids about the “Girls in France who did the ‘coochie coochie’ dance.” It was all a joke and we kids (me and my sister and cousins) loved it. It was all in fun when we were young. We kids thought it was hilarious, and I guess my grandmother thought she was being funny. She was indeed funny.

It was probably no different than her saying that it was “hotter than hell” or that when she drove her car she had a “lead foot.” Needless to say, my grandmother who lived to 98 years old was pretty hilarious. However, it is one thing to hear her say that she would dye her hair red and smoke mairijuana (her name was Mary Jane after all) on the French Riviera when she got old, and another to have to deal with her blindness and deafness as she got older. What other people thought was amusingly idiosyncratic, we had to hear every time we were with her. My grandmother’s oddity was an other’s “man, you have an interesting grandmother.” It became something you became used to. You weren’t yourself—you were Mary Jane’s grandson.

Her remarks about marijuana and her anti-clericalism became part of her indomitable persona. Upon visiting the St. Louis, Missouri Cathedral (no highlight of religious history), with its enormous mosaics of saints and church fathers, was inevitably a comment regarding couldn’t the church melt some of that gold to pay for the rest of the poor. She was impolitic and we her family had to deal with it. I feel for my father who died before she did. He had to constantly apologize for her impiety. She was indeed a force to be reckoned with, what with her “lead foot” and all.

In frustration, I once made the joke that when she died we could donate her body to the 8th grade science class for middle school experimentation. She didn’t appreciate the joke, but she used to tell us over and over again that when she died she ought to be thrown on the dump. I thought that 8th grade fingers were better than the natural worms of the dump, but I knew in my joke that stupid 8th grade fingers were more disgusting than the nature of worms. It really bugged me that a dumpster was what she thought she was worth, so I said what I said.

She used to say that when she died, she was food for worms, but that nonetheless we ought to have a big party. Indeed, on her death we actually had a big party—with champagne and fine finger foods. I was comforted in the fact that since she died in Mexico, the casket had faux bronze friezes of the Last Supper emblazoned on it. In spite of her impiety, the Mexican culture which she loved so much (i.e., San Cristobal de las Casas) provided a “proper” Christian burial.

Yes, it was a non-religious burial in out of the way Campbell, Texas. But all of the family was there that day. We drank champagne over the grave, and my New Agey cousin lit some sort of root and waved it around in order to make it sacred. I secretly said an “Our Father” and “Hail Mary.” It was a good day, despite all things considered. It was a frozen day with the trees and grass covered in icicles.

My grandmother is buried next to my grandfather with matching tombstones, even if death found them 30 years apart.

I say Ooh La La because poor old grandson will never figure it out by himself. If this is the example of a life worth living in terms of my grandmother than so be it. In her impiety. At the least she showed a serious desire for life as it is lived. It is an unfortunate matronage, but such is life.

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