Monday, January 25, 2010


If you read Robert Fulghum's second book, IT WAS ON FIRE WHEN I LAY DOWN ON IT, he was so blown over by a tabloid newspaper article about a man rescued from a burning bed that he named his book after it. The disconcerting part was in the answer the man gave to "'How did this happen?'" He replied, "''I don't know. It was on fire when I lay down on it.'" Robert Fulghum spent some time doing some mental head scratching over that one, so much so that he named his own book after it. I read said book in 1990 and still find myself thinking about it twenty years later. It was on fire when I lay down it??? Seriously?

My paternal grandmother, nanny, as all her grandchildren called her was a free spirit in her youth. And she said and did pretty much whatever she felt like later in life, too. I imagine she got a lot of that confidence from her mother. Now, her mother (my great grandmother) was divorced five times. She didn't let anyone tell her what she could and couldn't do. I didn't really know her but I think she was probably formidable. I know her family disowned her. You just didn't do that back then. She did.

One of the last conversations that nanny and I had before nanny's mind started to go was on her front porch when she confided that my grandfather (who died long before I was born) was the only man she ever truly loved. I didn't say anything because all of my questions would have seemed insensitive and I didn't doubt her sincerity. She'd had a lot of time to think about it. After all, he'd been dead longer than I'd been alive so there was no chance of them reuniting. Nothing she said to me would change the outcome for her. So we sat and rocked and I think we both felt melancholy for damaged relationships.

Unfortunately, my nanny's divorce from my grandfather fell under the sordid heading and details were never all that forthcoming (it wasn't a story told at Christmas around the dinner table) so the details, to this day, are somewhat unclear for me. But there was cheating (possibly on both sides/probably on both sides) that led to marriage on his side to another woman that was true love. I think that was the real sticking point for nanny and maybe the cause for her cheating. She may have employed the cheating to make you jealous device and it backfired. Who knows? Not me, because no one talks about it. More to the point, maybe nanny didn't know. She saw her husband falling in love with someone else and she just started doing crazy things. Her choices don't make sense. Had there been a camera crew and a reporter standing by asking questions, her answer would have made just about as much sense as this... It was on fire when I lay down on it. She knows she burned her house down and she paid the price. She lived out the rest of her life loving a man who loved someone else and then loving a man who was gone. It was on fire when I lay down on it. Seriously.

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