Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Saving Grace

“Old age is when former classmates are so gray, wrinkled and bald, they don’t recognize you.”

My high school class reunion is in full swing and here I stand in the middle of the room surrounded by a bunch of people I sat next to in the lunchroom or shared a class with for twelve of my much younger years. Would I recognize any of them if we passed each other on the street? I don’t think so.
For instance, my friend Annie told me that the woman over by the window is none other than Jean Marie Smith. Surely, Annie is mistaken. That woman is way too old and out of shape to be the Beauty Queen we all loved to hate.
My mind is temporarily bogged down on Memory Lane when I feel three sharp taps on my shoulder. Turning quickly, I come face-to-face with an old man way too close to my personal space. He's grinning like he just discovered Viagra. The scary thing is, he looks familiar.
“Hey!” I smile big as you please, pretending I know who he is.
“Don’t you ‘Hey me, girl! I want a big ol’ hug.” His larger than life hands swoop around me and pull me into a Goliath Grip. “I swannie. You look good enough to eat. Yessiree, bobtail.”
Recognition hits me. The old fool hugging the daylights out of me is Jimmy Clyde Lewis. Had there been senior superlatives for Most Un-popular, Most Obnoxious, Most Un-attractive, Least Athletic, Worst Dancer and Least Likely to Succeed, Jimmy Clyde would have be high school history today.
He squeezes me again and it feels like he broke a rib. His nose is almost touching mine.
“Lemme get a good look at you, girl.” I think he ate every deviled egg on the buffet table; his breath smells like a coffin.
“Show me that ring finger,” he commands, sounding way too much like the guy in Fifty Shades of Grey. My wedding ring glares back at him and I’m so glad I remembered to dip it in ammonia before leaving the house. He blanches as though he’s been hexed.
Quickly snatching my hand away, I dazzle him with a ten-karat smile. “That’s right, bubba, so back off.”
And he does.
A giggle sifts its way through the surrounding noise and I turn to find a woman who looks old enough to be her own mother. The genius who invented nametags deserves a Nobel Prize.
“Martha Linn? Is that you?”
She giggles again before stepping forward with her arms outstretched. I respond in kind. It has been fifty something years since we’ve seen each other, and I don’t mean to be cruel, but in all that time I don’t think the word diet has been her ongoing conversational topic. 
She steals the next half hour from me by relating every inconsequential thing her grandchildren have ever done or not done. I remember that Martha Linn as a detail kind of person, but having to listen to the Social Security numbers of all seven of her grands is cruel and unusual punishment. TMI, in Martha Linn’s case is a HUGE understatement.
The minute she stops to catch her breath, I jump in like Esther Williams in a 1955 swim film. “I’ve got nine grandchildren. I call them the Grandkids from Hell.”
No sooner have the words left when my lips when she backs off from me as if I am breathing fire. Hands that only moments ago patted me with warmth and affection have turned into fingers threatening my eyeballs.
“Those children gotta be saved,” she shrieks. “The Rapture is on the way.”
I back away from her as though she has explosives strapped to her sizable waist. Lord, have mercy. The woman thinks I’m serious. “Oh, Martha Linn, you’ve got it all wrong. Let me explain...”
She covers her ears with both hands, squeezes her eyes shut and shakes her head back and forth.
“I cain’t and won’t listen to another blasphemous word from your sinful lips.” Then her voice takes on a whispery tone. “I’ll pray for your little ones.” She opens her eyes. “I’ll pray for the evil to be flushed from their lives. Will you kneel with me and plead for the souls of your little grandchirren?”
Dropping to her knees, she mutters what I assume is a prayer, although I wouldn’t bet on it. She is speaking in tongues. I back away fast trying to get away before she can open her pocketbook and bring out a bunch of snakes.
Could this be the same Martha Linn aka Martha Sinn? She was the only person who knew how to roll a doobie? Holy Herbal Cow!
Pretty soon, I come up on David, another old classmate. By this time, I am in bad need of a double martini very dry, and I don’t care if it harelips every born again Baptist and snake handler in the county.
David was the quietest boy in our class, so shy he was almost invisible. My oh my. How people change. The good looking, hunky face I’m gazing at is graced with large, sympathetic, Omar Shariff molten chocolate eyes. I am torn between staring at him and searching for the martini of my dreams; I decide to do both. My voice is steeped in angst when I say, “Oh, David, am I glad to see you. You look like somebody who takes a drink. Please tell me I’m not wrong.”
Laughing out loud, he nods. “Like a fish. Just ask my wife, Grace Ann. I was chilling out on the porch with a bourbon and branch when she noticed that you appeared to be undergoing baptism by fire courtesy of St. Martha Linn. Grace Ann said I should grab my slingshot and do my David and Goliath act, so here I am.
I glance over his right shoulder looking for Grace Ann so I can blow her a grateful kiss.
“She’s the one holding the martini glass,” he says, grinning.
Like it says in the Bible, “By grace, ye shall be saved.”  PTL!

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