14 February, 2014


I love my grandmother, my father's mother, who died more than two decades ago.

She had a file of cards on which she wrote so many terrifying recipes involving awful post-Depression and World War II era processed foods, which my step mother lovingly transcribed posthumously in a binder entitled "Meals With Mildred."

Her first husband, a contrite former strike breaker cum labor activist, was murdered. Her second husband, my grandfather, a trucker cum shipping executive, was active in the labor movement as well.

She loathed Ronald Reagan almost as much as she loathed Satan himself.

She was a Southern gal, and she had many "black friends." And I do believe she did.

Her home in Akron was one of the first test markets for a service we called "cable" (prior to what we now call it, "broadband"). My first exposure to MTV was on her green couch in her modest Akron living room with it's brown carpet. Brown and green and orange, the swatch of ugly 1960s midwestern homes.

My first video: "Hurts So Good" by not John Mellancamp, not John Cougar-Mellancamp, but John Cougar. My second? "Don't Fear the Reaper."

I will always love her mostly for inadvertently steering me away from religion.

She would donate money to a ridiculous huckster called Earnest Angley.

She would hip me to incongruous facts like "some people go to Hell, but children never go to Hell because children are innocent in the eyes of God."

I knew better, having been a child at the time and knowing how cruel children could be - how could God forgive all children when some children could be so evil?

"But the races shouldn't mix," grandma Mildred would continue with all the seriousness of a funeral, "God cannot love the child of a black person and a white person."

At that time I wasn't fully aware that most black people in America were in fact very likely the product of some miscegenation, but I was aware of the conflict between "God loves all children" (which I already had some reservations about) and "God hates mulattos."

Of course I politely inquired more about this "God" person with her, and I even entertained the idea of religion.

Grandma took me to her church, of course, because she worried so about the eternal soul of her grandchildren (who God supposedly loved so much that, as long as I was of pure breed, would not go to Hell).

And so I went to church, and there I solidified at an early age my atheism.

So thank you, grandma. I wish you were in Heaven and could see my words. But you aren't. You're dead and you've been dead for a long time, and the only thing left of you is our memories and your recipes for ambrosia salad featuring candied fruit.

This message was inspired by a Ford commercial that Hulu forced me to watch featuring a clearly bi-racial actor. God might forgive him, but I have my reservations about him shilling for Henry's racist car company.