Grandma Beck was a multi-talented, independent, hard working old lady. Even as an old lady, she was very active and passionate about one thing: working. She was by far the strongest person I had ever met. She had to support herself; she lived alone after my grandfather passed away (Which was ironically on my birthday July 15th, 1978). She slept with a loaded handgun in her bedside table and a police club shoved into the side of her waterbed. I was lucky to spend nine years getting to know her as my grandma.
In 1984 we move from Maine into my grandmas house at 319 Filmore Avenue, Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was one block from the Atlantic Ocean; we went to the beach all the time. She let me sleep on her heated waterbed with her; I remember watching “The Golden Girls” late at night with her. I would make waves on the waterbed and she would pretend to be riding them. I loved getting to know her; she was a very special part of my childhood memories and she was nice to let us live with her until we found a place to live.
Grandma Beck worked at the NCO (Officers club) at Patrick Air Force Base, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. She was a waitress and she bussed tables to support herself, she worked everyday until she was eighty years old. I can remember her crisp white dress and her big dangly gold hoop earrings that she wore to work, her ruby red lipstick that she always had placed way beyond her lip line. My grandma was very hip; she wore nice clothes, not the polyester garb that my other grandma wears. She would do her roots every week with Clairol jet-black hair dye to cover her gray hair, which is why her hair had a blue tinge to it. She smelled like Foille, a topical cream that she used for her dry arms, it smell just like bag balm. Only weighing about a hundred pounds she reminded me of Olive Oile, Popeye’s wife. And I’m quite positive that she was the oldest lady I had ever seen wearing a two-piece bikini. She drove an old Datsun car; it was the most hideous car I had ever seen.
I never understood why she drove that old car; she had money for a better car. I think my grandpa bought it for her new before he passed away. Once in its day a “sports car” but its day was over. It had two doors that barely opened; it was blue/green in color with holes and sports of Florida rust throughout. The holes in the seats were the size of my cupped fist; the seats were hard, crusty from being baked in the hot, hot sun. I remember the odor of burnt plastic from the seats when you opened the doors on a sweltering day. The floorboards were thin and wearing, you could see the ground below in some spots. Grandma would keep a jug of water in the back; the washer mechanism wasn’t working, she would always dump water over the window before we set off on our destination. She always parked it under the carport, like it was some special prize. She would give me a dollar to wash it, which was easy because it was so rusty you couldn’t see much of the paint anyways.
Grandma had to pick me up from school everyday. You could hear the beast coming from blocks away; it sounded like a sputtering lawn mower that was ready to conk out at any time, the motor knocking and pinging. It was sure to stall if left to idle so Grandma would keep her foot a little bit on the gas pedal and a little but on the clutch so it would stay running, “Hurry up, get in, what are you waiting for!” she would say. Quickly shoving it into first gear. Jerking violently as we take off. I was so embarrassed; I would jump in and duck until we were off school grounds.
I was always nervous about Grandma’s driving skills, she would drive down the busy A1A, swerving in and out of traffic, passing slow drivers, honking the horn and giving the lucky ones the finger as we drove by. I would always laugh when she changed the gears, with each movement her flabby loose skin hanging from her arm would shake like a turkeys floppy wattle, her head...