In one of those bizarre flashbacks triggered by someone’s bad singing, I remembered something amusing about my maternal grandparents yesterday.
During a Cub Scout overnight on the U.S.S. Salem, someone in our group started singing the jingle for The Clapper. You might remember the commercial with old people clapping their hands to turn lights on and off with the song, “Clap on! Clap off! The Clapper!”
I remember Nana and Papa having a Clapper. Whenever Papa got Nana wound up and she started yelling at him, it would set off The Clapper and the lights would flick on and off repeatedly.
Those two always seemed to be fighting, and it was amusing to watch. Papa would say something he knew would wind her up, and she’d let him have it, f-bombs flying. “Fuck you, Louie!” was a popular refrain.
When that response came, he’d usually look at me, twinkle in his eye, and chuckle.
They were madly in love with each other, though I didn’t always see it that way. As a kid I didn’t understand that their arguments were actually a playful banter. He enjoyed setting her off and I think she enjoyed being set off. I enjoyed the spectacles all the same. All of us kids did.
It’s not how Erin and I carry on. It’s not how most couples I know carry on, for that matter. But for them, it worked.
They had been through a lot in their marriage. Papa was on active duty in the military a lot. Children died. Children married and divorced. Children got sick. Later, a grandchild died and others were always sick, myself included.
And my granparents had a lot of health problems. In their final years, they were in and out of the hospital all the time.
You could say they were punch-drunk from all that adversity, and the shouting matches were a way to blow off the steam.
It worked. They loved each other until the very end, and when Papa died in 1996, Nana was devastated. She lived on until 2003, but I don’t think she ever got over it.
There’s something to admire and learn from in that kind of bond.