Unless you’ve been living under a rock or are too
self-involved… News flash, famous television producer Norman Lear died this
week at age 101. Some may say, ‘Who cares?’ But it truly matters. What he
produced and left behind was a legacy and a poignant reminder that we need to
address things publicly that are uncomfortable in our society, to be better educated
and progress forward making the world more tolerable for all to live in.
Many discomforts were addressed in Mr. Lear’s productions. To
name some were: women’s issues, racial divides, war, peace, rights of others regardless
of sexual orientation, economic status, and my most favorite topic, bigotry. Ah yes, bigotry. I understood it since I could
ever remember. I knew what it was. It was and is pure hatred. And I’m not going
to dress it up, I’m calling it out.
You see my maternal grandmother stayed silent most of the
time. However, when it came to bigotry, she would stop you dead in your tracks like
the character Edith Bunker in “All in the Family”. “All in the Family” was a
monumental production by Norman Lear. The show was life altering. Some it
soothed, while others it angered. And some watched with earnest skepticism.
Only to become addicted as to what subject matter Norman Lear’s production would
present week after week. What feathers it would ruffle. And it was my maternal
grandmother’s other religion. Yes. Grandma looked forward to every show of “All
in the Family”.
My maternal grandmother came from Gypsies of Romanian, Hungarian
and Czechoslovakian ethnicities. She had a fifth-grade education and didn’t
drive. Eventually, she became as Catholic as they come. She always worked, she
walked practically everywhere. She scrubbed floors many of her teenaged and
adult years. She worked at a big, unionized supermarket for decades till she
was about 83. Yes, as a cashier on her feet for hours on end.
Grandma would wake up at about quarter past four every
morning and start her day by reading the encyclopedia. When she began to
realize that there was an influx of Spanish speaking people in her town, she
added studying Spanish on her own. Yes, she taught herself Spanish. Then when I
was about age ten, she threw herself ever more deeply into Catholicism and
studied the Bible along with her other studies in the morning, then she became
a Eucharistic Minister.
Once she finished her readings, her studies and self-care,
she would cook and or bake for the week. That was after making her husband’s
lunch for his workday. She would set up dinner plans. Making her own form of
T.V. dinners for her husband if she had to work late. Or go shopping for food
or an upcoming holiday. She went to church most mornings before work between
seven and eight.
She was the complete opposite of her husband. Her husband, a
lazy man, a criminal that some knew yet nearly no one spoke of. Her near
saintly life most times overshadowed his inequities. When he opened his mouth
his lack of education showed, and worse yet his bigotry. He never served in the military and came to
the United States at age five from Germany. He was treated like the royalty he’d
come from, as aunts that cared for him here spoiled him—putting him like a
prince up on a pedestal. Grandma and he remained married nearly sixty years
until his death. She lived another nearly seventeen years afterward.
As Norman Lear’s “All in the Family” played on grandma’s
black and white T.V. when I was a child, my mother couldn’t grasp how her
mother could watch every episode like a religion. I know that the show gave my
grandmother such laughs, although a different genre from her other treasured
female comedian, Lucille Ball’s shows.
As my mother couldn’t understand her mother’s enjoyment of
such a brash, and ballsy show as “All in the Family”, I was curious. What made
my grandmother so enjoy that show? It was an addiction. But not a bad one.
Eventually, I began to understand that the production made
fun of the stupidity of racism and any form of bigotries. Norman Lear’s “All in
the Family” at the time, held one of the only ways to cope with the cruelty of
the backward thinking world Grandma had experienced. The opposite of Love, Patience,
and Peace. In that, my maternal grandmother could have some respite from all of
the wrongs in the world—by realizing someone out there saw the world the way
she did. Then he added a Karmic twist of a saint-like woman calling it out from
seemingly left field.--- Jody-Lynn Reicher