No, this isn’t about CNN or Fox News. This is about family tales told from the wavy memories of my faulty brain. Many of my family members are now getting this website’s updates in the weekly email blast that we send out. Today I sent out a reflection on Grandma Pearring called Eternal Leap: Death by Cross. I’ve never referred to her as Grandma Annie, until today in that reflection. It just sounded better in the telling of the story. Calling her Grandma Annie is not a lie, or an exaggeration. It’s simply better reporting. Someone called her that, I think. I can’t place the face or the name. Or, maybe, I made it up. Dear me. I’m not really sure.
More importantly, I’m not really sure if Grandma ever referred to her oldest son, Ralph, as Toad. I’m almost sure. At times, I’m positive that she did. And then, I’m not so sure. My Mom and Dad called him Toad, Uncle Toad that is, all the time. So, I could be displacing my folks with my Grandma.
The reason I’m confused about Grandma saying Toad is because I don’t think of her saying Ralph except when she was talking about her husband. I think of Art Carney, who played Edward Norton on the Honeymooners television show instead. Ralph Kramdon was played by Jackie Gleason, the star. The TV show ran when I was a youngster, and sometimes I get my memories mixed up – the old television shows, my laughing father in his chair with his feet up, my mom reading on the couch, my Grandma Annie Pearring holding a cigarette in the air with one hand (or was that my mom), and my Grandpa Ralph Pearring sitting with his hands bunched up on his lap, his mouth open, and his eyes four times their regular size through the coke bottle bottom glasses he wore.
My parents, and dad’s mom and dad, seldom all sat in the same room, and they probably never watched the Honeymooners with me. I can visualize it, though. My siblings and my aunts and my only living uncle could conjure up a reasonable facsimile of the same scene from much better memories than mine.
I never thought of my Uncle Ralph as Uncle Ralph. He was always Uncle Toad. Anyway, when Art Carney said hello to “Ralphie” or “Ralphie Boy” upon his entrances into the Kramden’s apartment, which was a regular event, that memory was implanted into my brain. Alice Kramdon (Audrey Meadows) regularly yelled out from offstage, “Ralph!” in an outburst followed immediately by audience laughter. I have always thought of my Uncle Toad whenever the name Ralph is said, but I can only place television memories to the actual use of his name, Ralph.
What I’m saying is I can’t clearly recall Grandma saying anything but Toad for her oldest son, when surely she must’ve said Ralph, or Ralphie, or little Ralph, or dag-nabbed Ralph. I’m pretty sure she never said Ralph Junior, but I could be wrong.
So, there you have it. I’ve struggled with lying since I was caught lying as a little boy. I’m not a liar anymore, you see, but I struggle with the idea of being a liar. That was an awful experience. Consequently, whenever I say something, I wonder if it’s true, or did I make that up? I think I ended up as a reporter for so many years because God wanted to help me out with checking the facts. It’s better to check the facts first, and say or write it out later. But, the facts are hard to find on memories of Grandma Annie Pearring.
Checking the facts before Google was a nightmare, but I had sources that were pretty good. I had a great advantage over normal folks, having siblings who could remember settings, years, conversations, quotes, calculations, formulas, recipes, historical dates, photographs, and book titles with stunning clarity. I have a wife who can establish the motives and lead up to decisions and directions we’ve made and taken since February 14 of 1970 when I gave her a leaf I picked up off the ground and gave it to her for Valentine’s Day. Or, was it a stick? She’d know. She even remembers me playing basketball at St. John Bosco High School sometime in the mid-sixties against St. Paul High School. I said that must have been when she first fell in love with me. She said, no, that’s when she first saw me. Oh.
In fact, I just got an email from my sister Lindy. She wrote, “Interesting that I receive this today. All your musings about Grandma Pearring. She died 40 years ago today.”
Exaggeration has been another issue for me, because telling stories is a lot of fun, and my mixed up bank of memories makes great concoctions. Sometimes I get sidetracked telling stories when I’m talking to Joanne about the groceries. I begin to explain what I got at the store, and then I’m going on about bar code readers needing to come with scratch and sniff sensors so we know what stuff tastes like.
I’ve been told it’s best not to always say out loud what’s happening in our heads. Unfortunately, that’s the entire point of a blog!
Inevitably, my reflections will lead to parables about my family. When my fear of lying, reporting angst for the truth, and weird story-telling exaggerations all get together, then we get things that come out as Grandma Annie. I apologize to my relatives for any improperly concocted memories that I believe are facts.
The laundry sink recollections are correct. I’m 99% right about that. I just hope the collection of figurines that I remember were actually frogs.