This is how bad times are getting: Claudette has taken to crying and Grace Ann has taken up cussing. It’s like living in a science-fiction film. It’s like visiting a foreign country.
I’ve never been a big fan of unwanted change. I resist it.
So when Claudette, tough as nails, broke down and cried and Grace Ann, who never met a Bible study she didn’t memorize, cussed and it both happened in the same week, I was stunned speechless. I walked around in a daze for two days.
“What is happening to the world as I know it?” I mumbled, folding clothes. The end of time must be near, I concluded. After all, strange things are supposed to happen before time concludes. Trust me when I tell you, really strange things are happening around here.
It started with Grace Ann. She’s the epitome of calm and kindness, the one who loves her enemies, prays for those who hurt her and stirs up a casserole at the first hint of an obituary. She refuses to see a movie that is rated R and the strongest word in her vocabulary is “darn.” Spelled out, I might add.
“Oh, d-a-r-n!” she exclaimed one day when she snagged her silk dress with her engagement ring.
“Oh, p-l-e-a-s-e,” I retorted, rolling my eyes. “You don’t have to spell it out.”
One day over lunch, she confessed that the drama in her family was breaking her down. She detailed the sordid tales of relatives and how she often wound up as the punching bag when she was the one who tried so hard to keep peace.
This, I know is true. For more than 20 years I’ve watched as she is the one who always scurries to mend rips and tears in order to keep the family as harmonious as possible.
“Finally, I had just had it,” she said. “I got into my car, locked the doors and I started screaming at the top of lungs.”
Then she told me the word she was screaming.
I blinked. Then I blinked again. “What?” I slapped my right ear, trying to unclog it. “I know something is wrong with my hearing.”
She smiled. Then she laughed. “Nope, you heard correctly.”
The grin grew broader. “And you know what? It felt so good. Something about that word just released all my tension.”
I’m still speechless on that one.
Claudette I have known since I was clothed in cotton dresses while she sported dungarees with striped T-shirts, climbing trees. She played baseball with the boys while I played Barbies. She’s always been tough, stoic in the tradition of the country folks from which she comes.
She is smart, hard-working and goes toe-to-toe with any problem that arises. She never complains. She just dives in and takes care of whatever goes wrong.
But Claudette, like many, has faced enormous challenges over the past few years. The weight of her problems would have long ago brought down a weaker person.
The other day on the phone, she said, “Mom said something to me the other day and I just couldn’t take it. I broke down and started crying.”
“You cried?” I shook my head in astonishment.
“I sure did.”
“First, Grace Ann cusses then you cry,” I said. “Am I living in an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone?’”
Others might judge the state of the world by unemployment numbers, foreclosures and bank failures, but not me. I judge it when sane people start acting crazy and crazy acting people start making sense. I judge it when the strong and the righteous are bending to ways of desperation.
Cussing and crying. That’s how I judge it.