Be Careful What You Keep
Dedicated to Mamatulip, who cracked me up with her post on porn this morning.
My paternal Grandfather was a porn dealer, among other things. I didn't find this out until the spring of 1996 when he died, suddenly, of progressive lung cancer. I was thirteen, half the age I am now. We weren't very close. My Dad, were he here to argue the fact, might disagree. What little interaction I had with the old man was spread out among cousins. We would gather on holidays, a large Italian mass, to eat fist-sized meatballs and watch Grandpa shoot down the family photos with a Nerf gun.
He had a bar called The Trap. Memory, which cannot be trusted, has blended it with an image of Cheers. Some say it was a front for illegal gambling. My Dad would take me there on Saturday mornings when I was little. I would sit on the bar and serve unwanted Shirley Temples to vagabond customers. But what I really wanted was an excuse to eat maraschino cherries. Dad and Grandpa would migrate to the back at some point, leaving me to dig through a bag of Crane Game stuffed animals. They'd argue and we'd leave... until the next time. I collected so many stuffed animals that way.
After Grandpa died, the family divided his things. I ended up with a gold plated Coke bottle and his Italian horn pendant. The pendant was special, a symbol of hierarchy. I'm not sure about the Coke bottle. Some elderly family member claimed I'd told her that I collected Coke memorabilia. I didn't, collect that is. People shouldn't be held accountable for what they say while waiting for a family member to die. My Uncles got my Grandfather's cars, two mafia-style vehicles with suicide doors.
I'll never forget how the family pawed over those insignificant things. It was like they'd won some lottery with mortality or something. My Dad stood by, quietly and undeserving. He just wanted to stay awhile in that house, to smell his Father's things and to care for the dog. Or maybe I'm being too kind. It wasn't long after the garage was opened and my Uncles had claimed their respective cars that someone suggested opening the trunks. Being old mafia cars, these compartments were rather large, and each was stuffed to capacity with black trash bags.
Being young, I was quick to distraction and didn't witness the opening of the bags. But I heard the "Eep!" one of my aunts let out when it was done. What followed was stunned silence... and then laughter. They laughed until they cried, hugging at their ribs and gasping for air. My cousins and I stared in wonder. We had denied ourselves all morning anything that might be misconstrued as happiness and here were our parents, laughing (!) so soon after death. They ushered us into the house without explanation, eager to get back to the bags.
I waited until that night to ask, once my Dad was sufficiently liquored up. I'll never forget the way his eyes crinkled at the corners as he relived the memory in his head. "What was in the bags, Dad?" "Porn," he said sloppily. "Porn?!" To be honest, I'd expected him to say bodies. "Yup. Porn and dildos." And that was it. I didn't have the guts to ask him to explain. So for several years I lived with that information in my head, with absolutely no explanation. I'd be lying if I said it didn't fuck with me a little.
Later on, about seven years later to be exact, I asked for the full story. Before I was born, my Grandfather owned a lucrative porn store. Its main draw was that you could seat yourself in a private booth onsite and watch X-Rated movies, provided you had the coins to keep feeding the meter. Every minute, the movie would shut off. Which was fine if you were done. But if you weren't, you had to pay another $.50. Once out of the booth, customers could peruse the store for take-home materials.
When the business eventually folded, my Grandfather decided to keep the unsold merchandise in his cars. Who knows why. Maybe he sold it out of the trunk on occasion. Or maybe he passed it out at parties like a dirty old Santa Claus. Either way, it made me realize that there are certain things I DON'T want people to find after I'm gone. Like my diaries... or my old pipe... or that pair of ratty underwear with twelve holes in it. Ew. So tell me, what things have been unearthed posthumously in your family? What would you rather NOT be found after you're gone?