Granny was never one to play the stock market, nor did she gamble. Well, every now and then she’d scratch a lottery ticket my uncle would get her and the old gal usually won.
No, she invested her time and energy in something far more valuable.
Not that Granny was the type to tote tales. Nope. She knew tactics that could rival spies, politicians, and Kenny Rogers.
Granny was a pro at gathering information, which she carefully held onto until it was her advantage to share.
How did she do this exactly?
Well, for starters, the Redhead Prime was nosy. If she wanted to know something, she just called someone up and got smack dab in the middle of their business.
She’d ask all the important, pressing things. She could have been an investigative reporter because there was no question she wouldn’t ask; nothing was off-limits or too private.
Often, people called her to tell her things so they could ask her what her thoughts were about the situation.
“I’ll have to think about that,” she would respond. “I may need more information.”
I was maybe 7 before I realized that meant Granny needed to find out if that bit of gossip was true or not, and if so, what the other details were.
Sure, she’d give her opinion, if she felt like it would add value to the conversation. Most of the time, she just took that little nugget of information and held onto it until it may become a necessary currency.
“Do you think it’s right to gossip, Helen?” my grandfather asked one day as she hung the phone’s handset back in the cradle.
He was a brave man, maybe the bravest man I’ve known.
She gave him a sideways glance. “I ain’t gossiping.”
My grandfather frowned at her. “Yes, you are.”
“Pay attention, Bob. I ain’t gossiping. If people want to call me up and tell me stuff, that’s their prerogative. You won’t hear me saying one word.”
Pop wasn’t so sure of that. He had heard plenty over the years.
But truth be told, Granny didn’t spread the gossip, nor did she tote tales.
She was a vault of information though and knew something on probably everybody.
When she did say something, it was normally a fact — and not gossip.
“What are you going to do with all of this knowledge?” I asked her.
“Don’t you worry about it,” she answered.
But I did worry about it. I wondered what all she knew and why people told her.
People love to talk though, as Granny explained.
“Why do you let people tell you stuff about others?” I asked.
“Because, Little ‘Un, let me tell you something. Pay attention to who’s talking to you about other people. That’s one way to know who may be talking about you behind your back. Watch how they treat those people they’re talking about. Are they friends with them to their face? You can learn a lot if you just sit back and watch what people do.”
It sounded like a lot of work to me.
“Why do people have to talk about others?” I was naive and didn’t know how the world worked at that point.
Granny wasn’t one to waste her energy lying or making up stories to soften the cruel, harsh truths of the world. While Mama would try to reframe something with a kinder slant, Granny was more up front.
“Because people can be horrible,” she said.
So here she was, sitting on all of this juicy gossip on all of these horrible people.
She didn’t breathe a word of it either. Not a syllable. But people knew she knew.
For the most part, Granny kept all of her knowledge in her internal vault.
Until one day, when she needed to remind someone what she knew.
The lady who was leading the church youth group — I can’t remember what it was called at this point as I was maybe 11 — was asking us to share what kind of events we’d like to have.
I suggested a dance. Don’t ask me why; I was and remain a horrible dancer.
The woman gasped sharply and then narrowed her eyes at me like I was truly a heathen.
“We don’t dance; we’re Baptist,” she declared, followed by telling me where I was going for even suggesting such a thing.
A kid was going to burn eternally for merely suggesting a dance at church.
I told Granny as soon as I got in the car.
“She told you you were going where?” Granny asked.
I told her, but I spelled it.
Granny nodded, staring straight ahead, but I noticed her jaw tightened and that was one of her tells that she was about to unleash a swarm of locusts.
The following Sunday, Granny made sure she confronted that woman.
She stood in front of her, probably a full 6’ feet tall in her Sunday heels, a smile on her face.
The woman probably foolishly mistook the smile as friendly.
“I heard what you told my granddaughter about where she was going.”
“You know. She suggested a dance for the fall event. You told her she was going to hell. Remember that? That’s a dreadful thing to tell a child, especially when we both know that’s where you’re going. And it ain’t for dancing either.”
The woman’s face went pale.
Granny smiled again. “You heard me. I know all about you, sweetheart. You better not tell any kid in this church that again — especially not my granddaughter — or everyone else may know about your extracurricular activities, too.”
On the way home, I glanced at Granny furtively, wanting answers but scared to ask. Pop was finally the brave one.
“Helen, what did you know about that woman?”
“Don’t you worry about it, Bob. I know what I know. And that’s all that counts.”
Sudie Crouch is an award-winning humor columnist residing in the North Georgia Mountains among the bears, deer, and possibly Sasquatch. You can connect with her on Facebook at Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Humor, and Deep-Fried Wisdom. Her recently published book, ‘Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Wisdom, and Deep-Fried Humor’ is available in paperback and Kindle download on Amazon.