My grandma, I later learned, went to college in her 70s, learned Spanish, and went on a trip to Spain where she translated for the other tourists. My grandma, raised on a North Dakota farm, passionately against ever farming herself, married a farmer, raised 5 children, but also taught at a local school.
But the first lesson my grandma taught me was about farting.
I was about 8 when Grandma had her first stroke. It left her forgetful, fuzzy, less spicy. The strict grandma who sat with us while we played piano and made us go over that trouble spot seventeen times, disappeared inside someone I secretly associated with Winnie the Pooh – same voice, same comfy shape, same unassuming manner. Grandma’s stroke became the reason I knew about pillboxes. Grandma used toothpaste to hang up our crayon scribbles on her walls. Grandma became somebody who straight-facedly asked of my newborn brother, “So, what are you going to name the little Adam Joseph?”
My siblings loved our grandma, and we also chuckled because we now remembered more, saw more, and thought maybe even we knew a little more.
And one day, on a visit, grandma walked over to see me, farting her way through the living room like a little-engine-that-could-almost-go-no-more. My throat ached and my cheeks nearly burst with concealed laughter at my funny, tooting grandma.
I couldn’t believe the unconcerned, serene look on my grandma’s face.
“Oh, I guess I’m just feeling a little woozy today,” she said, just like one might say, “Oh, I guess we might see a little sun today, maybe.” It was a fact. Farts are facts. The fact of one’s farting is nothing special, nothing to laugh at, nothing to be embarrassed over.
It’s funny how my grandmother’s little 15-foot walk could be one of the memories that emerges in the vastly accumulating archives of a 30-something life.
It reminds me too, of her son, my dad, walking through Cabela’s with me and taking a look at little deer-hunting camoflauge baby outfits for my youngest sister. Miscalculating, he tipped over half the contents of the rack onto the floor. At 15, I felt mortified on his behalf, and waited to see his embarrassed reaction, his profuse apologies or attempts to hide what had just happened.
Instead, Dad calmly bent over, picked up the several garments, and quietly replaced them. No harm done. Farts are facts.
I am still learning how to be more comfortable farting in public.