Opinion: Grandma’s lesson lives on

By Mike Williscraft

Everybody is so kabobbled these days. Up is down. Left is right –
capricious at best.

There are precious few people who will miss 2020 when the world sees it in its collective rear view mirror.

So let’s look for some grounding.

Raise your hand if you have ever had your mouth washed out with soap?

Yes? No? The memory is blocked from your brain?

I have, twice.

Both courtesy of my grandmother.

It has been years since I have written anything about my grandmother, who passed away at the overripe age of 104, still living in the London, Ont. home she was born in. She definitely went out the way she wanted to.

The topic of “how things used to be” came up in our house last week. I explained to my stepdaughter, Angie, when we were initially talking about social media after I saw The Social Dilemma on Netflix.

That is one expenditure of time in which every single person should invest. The vast majority won’t bat an eye at the utter devastation social media is creating with now multiple generations of young people, but at least they will have some level of understanding why things that are happening are happening.

Clearly, nothing is as it was when it comes to communication. Kids don’t run over to their friend’s house to see if they want to go outside and play. They either text themselves or have their parents text – and that is assuming those kids are even going outside in the first place.

So, before we go down the hell hole of social media – yes, I would have gotten my mouth washed out with soap for saying “hell” – let’s get back to grandma.

My grandmother marched me off to the washroom on two occasions. Honestly, I do not remember why for one of them. The other, she had asked me to do something I didn’t particularly want to do and responded with a, “Geez”.

That was it, off we went.

She gave her victim an option to do it on their own, or she would do it.

You really didn’t want grandma to do it…or so I heard from my big brother.

Doing it yourself meant rubbing the bar of soap against your teeth to ensure you have that lovely, fresh Ivory flavour for hours to come.

The capper, you had to bite into it as well.

If the resulting prints were not sufficient in depth, bite again until you get it right.

The contrast between my grandparents was huge.

My dad’s parents, very straight-laced, never swore, church-going folk. My mom’s parents, hard-living, hard-drinking, lots of swearing folk – both sets equally full of love.

My grandmother always said you should never have to resort to swearing. There were always other words better suited to different situations, or, she noted as a last resort, pick an alternative word.

For her, she used “dash” instead of damn….and I only heard her use that word once or twice in my life. The first time was when one of my grandfather’s hunting dogs got out of its pen and shredded her backyard gardens. One other time was when I got canned by Metroland in 2004, so you’re talking 40 years apart.

I don’t know soap is even in play for parents any more. These days, when nobody wants to keep score at a sporting event so kids don’t feel like they lost anything, people may think washing a kid’s mouth out with soap to be a bad thing.

For me, I told my kids, talk any way you like when you’re not around me, but I don’t want to hear them cursing a blue streak – with the warning that if they do swear around their friends they will fall into that habit and they may slip up…and that is something they did not want to do.

It worked.

I think the image of tiny grandma marching big ol’ dad into the bathroom and making him eat soap was the catalyst.

Love you, Grandma, and miss you every day.

Thanks for the lesson in humility.

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