Thursday, December 13, 2007

On a Happier Note

Eerily enough, Jan is not the only person in Trudy's life to have been murdered while under medical care. My Great Aunt Edna, 88 years young, entered the hospital with only a touch of leukemia, and mysteriously, she passed away there only a short time later. Trudy is certain that Edna died at the hands of her greedy step daughter Fay, who, Trudy determined, smothered Edna with a pillow one night while her uncaring nurses slacked off in the snack room. Evidently, only Edna stood in the way of Fay inheriting some very valuable land, located on the outskirts of Youngstown, Ohio, which had belonged to Fay’s father, Clyde.

I hated Uncle Clyde. Everyone did. Clyde was from Georgia and looked like one of those mean old men in the documentaries they show you in elementary school on MLK day, who stand by nodding proudly while local police hose down civil rights activists. I don’t know what Edna saw in him. She was so gentle and sweet. Perhaps she was limited by her deformity. It must have been difficult for hunchbacked girls to catch a decent man back in the day.

When I was in junior high school, Edna and Clyde drove out to visit us in Clyde's giant, finned Cadillac, which bore vanity plates reading, "BIRD DOG." On the evening of their arrival, Clyde started a little fireside chat in the living room with the query, "Why d’ya think those niggers keep killin' eachutha ova in Atlanta?” We sat in stunned silence until he answered the question himself. “Cuz they're animals, that’s why." John white-knuckled his glass of bourbon, having been admonished by Trudy not to, "get into it," with Clyde. He was company. I, on the other hand, saw this as an excellent opportunity to both behave self-righteously and embarrass Trudy at the same time. I stood up haughtily and announced, "We don't use words like that in this house, Clyde.” Then, I raised my eyebrows and turned up my nose at him, which implied an additional, "You ignorant, fucking cracker." Clyde smiled sweetly at me and asked, "What word, honey, nigger?" John then stood, winked at me, and warned Clyde to, "settle down."

A few years later, Karla called me with good news. “Guess what? Clyde is dead!” The best part is, he could have been saved, if only he had allowed Edna to learn to drive. He was such a controlling bastard that, not only did he regularly open and peruse Edna’s mail before permitting her to read it, he had deemed it unbefitting of a lady to operate an automobile.

The story goes that one night Clyde didn’t feel so hot. Eventually, he realized he was having a heart attack. Alas, instead of calling an ambulance (What if a nigger was driving it and he needed CPR!), he gave frail little Edna the keys to his Caddy. Sitting on phonebooks, she did her best to navigate the darkened streets of Atlanta, but sadly, Edna got lost on the way to the emergency room, and the world lost Clyde.

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