Grandma, or Meme as she insisted we call her in homage to her French heritage, had a bum finger. The pointer on her right hand was cut off just below the top knuckle. This gave her finger tip the appearance of a thick bone end. It had happened in a silly accident, years before we were born she reached into a lawnmower to remove a piece of wood that was stopping up the blade.
We heard the story of Meme
driving herself to the emergency room with her ghost fingertip dangling
every time we set out to cut the grass, or when we were herded in front
of her on the riding lawnmower, picking up and tossing sticks lest they
get trapped underneath.
"Always make sure it's turned off, girls, never reach into the blades while the lawnmower is still running"
She'd jab me in the shoulder with her phantom finger for good measure.
weekday mornings, that finger represented a fresh horror. Meme lived
across the street, and every day at 6AM she'd come over to guide our
fifteen minutes of piano practice. We'd wake up to Meme banging out the
Battle Hymn of the Republic on the old upright in the foyer at the
bottom of the stairs. Our howls of "Fifteen more minutes please stop
shut up shut up shut up!" were ignored, Meme liked to sing when she
played. She had seeming infinite patience for our impudence, though I
think the truth was more that she was just a bigger bitch than we were.
Alphas like that don't feel threatened by the rudeness of children.
grandma was such an towering person, she's been dead for almost twenty
years and her personality is still the most important guest at every
Back to the piano. Meme chased us around
mercilessly those mornings, insisting that we practice for fifteen
minutes every day. My older sister was better at fighting her off than I
was, or I was kinder than my sister. She'd often escape to a friends
house and I wouldn't see her until we met up at the bus stop before
school. I always spent the last portion of my mornings before school
with my grandma hunched over me from behind beating out whatever song I
was supposed to practice with her stump finger and spitting onto my neck
and hair as she screamed out the lyrics.
I don't know
how to play the piano, despite extensive lessons. I was never able to
master two handed play, or note reading, but I can pick out a tune by
ear and I'm not tone deaf. Meme was tone deaf like a mother fucker but
that didn't stop her from volunteering to play piano every chance she
got through church or assorted senior center events, her stump finger
banging away brutally at the keys. Meme could make anything sound like a
I guess what I'm trying to say is, happy new year!