Very little comes out of being right. My grandmother was right, for the most part, all of her life and was basically despised. Being right and silent or being right with an ‘I-told-you-so,’ attitude is equally damning. People despise other people who are right.
In the western culture, there are two groups of despised people. Grammarians are despised. Old ladies in church kitchens, who know how to feed large amounts of people are despised. For grammarians there is no hope, old ladies who fed large crowds will have a few who remember them with love.
My grandmother ruled the church basement kitchen with an iron fist when there were church basement kitchens. The kitchen in the church basement was cleaned to her expectations, there was a sign-out sheet and a sign in sheet. China was plain, flatware was kept between blue velvet covers that lined the drawers. Stock pots were scoured and the floors were swept and mopped shiny. That woman could feed 20 to 250 people and never run out of food. She knew the phone numbers of butchers, vegetable markets and she knew how to squeeze out just a little bit extra.
“We have a young girl on a budget and with no church home. I believe all young girls deserve a decent wedding, what can you do for me?” Grandma didn’t believe in just catering to the church family. Everyone was welcomed. In her defense, most of them stayed.
“There’s a new family in the neighborhood, looks like they have 20 children though I know they only have four, they need some help settling in, what can you do for me?” A new neighbor around an old neighborhood church was sure to receive a warm meal, it didn’t matter if they walked down to the Roman Catholic church on Sundays.
“We have a funeral on Wednesday, lots of out of town people, what can you do for me?” Funerals were her specialty.
I can still see that heavy telephone up to her ear, the wire all twisted out of shape. I can see her scrutinizing her checkbook and then calling the Pastor and telling him what she needed. The silence, while she was on the telephone, was intense. Then she’d start with a “yes.” Another,“Yes, I understand.” More silence. Then a “mmmm, hmmm.” That pretty much sealed the fate of the Pastor, the church secretary, the associate pastor or anyone else who happened to pick up the phone before the day and age of caller ID.
“You want me and my volunteers (the word ‘volunteers’ was louder than any other word she spoke) to serve from 100 to 200 people on that budget? Perhaps the Sunday School could do without donuts for the next several Sundays in honor of Mr. Rickenhour’s funeral. It was his money that put the roof on the new Sunday School wing when we were over budget.” She knew all the secrets. She kept all the budgetary tidbits and the kind acts in her head and used them like A-bombs when she needed to get her way.
Then the big one came.
“Well I’m sorry, but I cannot prepare a decent meal for these grief stricken people on that budget and no I refuse to skimp on the portions. That church has grown architecturally to the point that the windows are plain and not decent stained glass and the sanctuary looks like some hut. When I’m dead and gone take me to the old Lutheran Church downtown rather than the post office looking church I have to work with here and now. But if you want me to get you through this funeral then I need the amount I asked for or call Kentucky Fried Chicken. I’m sure the Ladies Missionary Society would rather spend their Wednesday evening sewing for children in need. “
I can go to church online now. There are stage lights and the pulpit has disappeared. The “staff,” are dressed like bums, the music repetitive, the crowds look thick and their faces appear lit up so I know they are on their phones. Funeral dinners are unheard of here.
When my grandmother died, I didn’t shed a tear. Her casket sat in the “hut,” of the sanctuary and the Pastor broke down twice during her eulogy; I think he knew. I did.